Italy’s undiscovered golfing gems prove a big hit
PUBLISHED: 13:57 14 September 2017 | UPDATED: 14:40 19 September 2017
Take one largely undiscovered Italian region, add some fine food and good wine then throw in a journalist on a mission to learn how to relax by playing golf and you have the makings of an unforgettable trip.
Set against the backdrop of the Dolomite, Julian and Karawank alps and nestled in the north east corner of Italy, this “golfing and more” trip was a chance for the region’s tourist board to shout about all that the Friuli Venezia Giulia region has to offer.
A two hour flight from London, and bordered by Austria and Slovenia, it is the least visited area of Italy.
Yet this farming rich region boasts a diverse mix of gentle strolls round tranquil forest lakes, mountain climbs, quirky cities, a rich cultural heritage, scenic drives, intriguing architecture, elaborate churches, regional cheese to die for and decent shopping.
Also home to this decade’s boom wine, Prossecco, those living in the region are more likely to direct you to its lesser known rival, Ribolla. However, with plenty of vineyards and bars to drop into, there are ample opportunities to make up your own mind and throw in some of their fine local red wines too for good measure.
This trip, however, was to primarily showcase four of the region’s seven golf courses, each with a distinct atmosphere and style, all with stunning settings as standard and accompanied by club houses serving good cuisine with price tags that wont make you wince.
For golfers who fancy a pre booked lesson, English speaking pro coaches are on hand to help guide beginners or add a dash of Italian flourish to the swing of the more seasoned player. Bolting on lessons to the golfing experience proved invaluable for me as a novice whose daily coaching taught the art of “feeling” the game alongside understanding the technicalities.
By the end of four days the coaching had me reaching a respectable 100 metres with a seven iron – mostly in a straight line, always with a grin.
From formal traditional membership clubs to family friendly courses, the nod of approval has been given to this Alps to Adriatic region by 36 travel journalists who voted the area as among undiscovered golf destinations of 2017.
Central is the vibrant and artsy city of Udine whose undulating golf course welcomes families, joggers and walkers alongside players. The course stretches in front if its own Villa Verde Hotel where, just a few weeks before our arrival, American R n B legend Mary J Blige came for a get away from it all break.
The eco friendly hotel is built into the side of a hill with rooms that are as welcoming to dogs as they are to their owners.
It boasts indoor and outdoor pools, spa facilities and holistic treatments.
Castle D’Aviano by comparison to the west is a predominantly flat course in a basin at the bottom of a hill, just a few steps from outside the doors of the Hotel Policreti.
There are three lakes and a blend of established holes alongside nine new ones with a large clubhouse scheduled to open by Christmas 2017.
In a small village, that has little to offer in terms of exploring, this course is pretty in its remote setting and oozes peace from every corner.
The hotel and its chef are a bonus and we had some of the best food of the trip alongside an impeccable wine selection.
Tarvisio in the far north east corner had the best mountain views with an approach that is pure chocolate box.
Sitting 800m above sea level the first nine holes are spread across varying ups and downs amidst the forest with the second nine holes across a mostly flat terrain.
There is a stunning 360 degree view of the valley from the fourth hole.
With an award winning chef this club is slightly more formal but appealed to the more seasoned golfers in the trip who enjoyed the diversity of the game alongside the well kept course.
Next up is Trieste that sits high above the bustling port city in the south east with panoramic views of the sea to one side and rugged karst hills to the other.
At an altitude of 350 meters it was set up by allied troops after the second world war and weaves a wooded course of oak trees and Mediterranean fir.
The 17th hole looks like it is hanging over the sea with views that stretch from the Lagoon of Grado to the Istrian coast.
Here an English styled club house serves supreme quality food in a club with a strong family friendly approach and suitable for players of all levels.
Each of the four courses have something different to offer but all are equally appealing - how can you fail to enjoy the beautiful settings with so much more to do once the game is over.
So did I learn to relax through golf? The answer is a resounding yes.
• For more details on these and other golfing experiences in Italy visit the Italy Golf and More website. at http://www.italygolfandmore.com/en/