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Set in New South Wales’s beautiful Riverina region, Griffith is an abundant blend of orange harvests, world-class vineyards, and the taste of Italy in the middle of Australia’s food bowl. Located six hours from Sydney on the Hume Highway, the city known affectionately as Little Italy is a thriving cosmopolitan centre with a passion for Italian. More than 60 percent of Griffith’s locals claim Italian ancestry, with almost a fifth born in the old country. Traditional skills such as grape-growing and market gardening, brought over by early Mediterranean migrants, have transplanted well, setting the scene for Griffith’s gourmet outlook.
Griffith’s main street is wall-to-wall restaurants and eateries offering fabulous Italian cuisine. From antipasti to gnocchi, pizzas and cannoli – and superb coffee to top it off. Don’t miss La Scala for handmade pasta and dishes lovingly handcrafted from seasonal fresh produce; or Little Italy for authentic homemade dishes and smooth espresso. This pioneering city has also been enriched by a diverse mosaic of peoples over the years. From Samoan to Indian, Filipino and Afghani – all influencing the experience of this vibrant, forward-looking city as well as adding their own flavour to the community.
Like Canberra, Griffith’s unique urban landscape was designed by esteemed American architects, Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, with circular streetscapes radiating out into an octagonal pattern. Fed by the mighty Murrumbidgee River, Griffith’s culture revolves around agriculture. Its rich red soil (and massive irrigation systems) allow for a bountiful mindset and down-to-earth attitude. Food, wine and the good life are the ingredients to Griffith’s flourishing and success. A holiday here may not give your taste buds a rest, but they’ll certainly appreciate this delicious destination.
Start at the top and make your way to Banna Avenue – Griffith’s main, tree-lined strip – to experience the best of this lively regional centre. Visit galleries, boutiques, antique stores and gift shops, or just relax with a drink.
To soak in the history and cultural stories of the region, head to Griffith Pioneer Park Museum. Look out for distinct mini museums within the grounds covering many buildings. ‘Old Griffith’ showcases historic Bagtown; the Italian Cultural Museum depicts early settlement and vintage memorabilia; and the Wine and Irrigation Building includes machinery for the irrigation scheme and viticulture history. The Griffith War Memorial Museum was more recently opened (in 2009) and honours the returned servicemen to the region, from World War I onwards, through social history and military artefacts. And don’t miss the exhibitions at Griffith Regional Art Gallery, including two permanent collections featuring contemporary jewellery and couture.
Head off to the northern outskirts of Griffith for an attraction with a difference. Explore Hermit’s Cave while being treated to a scenic view of the region’s pastoral fields, vineyards and orchards, distant hills and Cocoparra National Park. This remarkable cave complex was the home and hermitage of Italian migrant, Valerie Ricetti from 1929 to 1940. On a secluded ridge of shelters and overhangs, Ricetti single-handedly moulded a series of extraordinary spaces upon the rocky escarpment, including a chapel, main room and garden, with steps, paths and stone walls.
Griffith is a buoyant city that loves a festival. Plan your trip to coincide with one that takes your fancy. The Griffith Spring Fest is everyone’s favourite fortnight. Mark the arrival of spring harvest with the zest and colour of the Citrus Sculptures. Applaud the work of 700 volunteers making 70 larger-than-life fun objects from over 100,000 oranges and grapefruit. There are talks and workshops, and a lot of love for all things citrus. The Garden Festival and the Griffith Multicultural Festival are also part of the Spring Fest, giving you three times the reason to celebrate.
If you’re here on Easter Saturday, don’t miss the Griffith Vintage Festival for flowing wine, beer and cider – plus some great local bites and live music to accompany this huge festive showcase of top Riverina wineries. Discover ‘A Taste of Italy’ for a delectable weekend during August. At any time of year, you can get familiar with the great tastes of the area with a small group tour covering famous wineries, farms, providores and pasticcerie. There’s always a great reason to visit Griffith!