From April 27 to May 6, the town in Victoria’s High Country will come alive with a ten-day celebration of autumn and local seasonal produce, featuring market stalls, music, art, food and much more.
Among the culinary events scheduled is the Wandi Nut Festival, dedicated to the walnuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts which fall in orchards and backyards in the area at this time of the year.
The festivities in honour of the nut harvest will take place on Saturday, April 28, at Alpine Park in Wandiligong, just a ten-minute drive from Bright.
A shuttle bus will be running to Alpine Park from the Clock Tower in Bright between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm for those getting around by public transport.
After tasting local roasted chestnuts in the Food and Wine Tent, visitors will be able to watch Italian chef Patrizia Simone make chestnut gnocchi with a walnut sauce.
The festival’s main event, the cooking demonstration, will take place at 12:00 pm.
Ms Simone has lived in Bright since 1986, managing a restaurant in the town with her husband George.
She explained that chestnuts are an iconic product of Victoria’s Alpine region and were brought to the area by Italians who arrived in the mid-1800s.
The chestnut trees planted by Italians thrived in the perfect climate, making their mark on the land with their majestic appearance.
One of the best chestnut varieties in the area, the De Coppi Marone, was introduced from Piedmont by the Italian Tony De Coppi in the 1980s, and became renowned for its taste and how easy it is to peel.
The walnut and hazelnut trees in the valley were also planted by Italians, gradually replacing the tobacco plantations which once dominated the land.
Since the festival began, around 10 years ago, Ms Simone has made an appearance at every edition, preparing a dish heroing local seasonal produce.
This year’s dish is a traditional peasant meal, and housewives used to blend the chestnuts with potatoes and flour, saving the more “precious” ingredients for other dishes.
From chestnuts to zucchini grown by Italian families in the area, the use of local produce with an Italian twist has always been the philosophy behind Ms Simone’s cooking.
It’s a philosophy which she adopted in her restaurant – a staple in the Good Food Guide for 25 years – before it was trendy.
“In 1986, we were just starting out,” the chef said, underlining the importance of keeping the Italian spirit alive through events like the Autumn Festival and the La Fiera Italian Festival in Myrtleford, to be held in mid-May.
During the latter, Ms Simone will star in a pasta-making demonstration.
Hailing from the Umbrian capital of Perugia, Ms Simone still holds Italy very close to her heart.
Even amongst the Victorian Alps, she claims to have recreated her own “Umbrian corner”.
Ms Simone has even written a cookbook dedicated to her homeland, entitled My Umbrian Kitchen.
“Here I’ve found the products grown in my land, like mushrooms and wild chicory, along with a similar climate and a sense of home thanks to the hills which surround me,” she concluded.
For more information on the Bright Autumn Festival visit the website.