Italy’s undiscovered golfing gems prove a big hit

PUBLISHED: 13:57 14 September 2017 | UPDATED: 14:40 19 September 2017

Tarvisio golf club close to the Italian,.Austrian and Slovenian border

Tarvisio golf club close to the Italian,.Austrian and Slovenian border

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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.

Trip touring the Friuli Venezia Guilia region in the north east with Italy Golf and More PHOTO: Kath SansomTrip touring the Friuli Venezia Guilia region in the north east with Italy Golf and More PHOTO: Kath Sansom

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.

Kath Sansom enjoys a golfing trip to Italy. Seen here on the course at Castle D'AvianoKath Sansom enjoys a golfing trip to Italy. Seen here on the course at Castle D'Aviano

A two hour flight from London, and bordered by Austria and Slovenia, it is the least visited area of Italy.

Golfing trip to Italy PHOTO: Kath SansomGolfing trip to Italy PHOTO: Kath Sansom

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.

Castle D'Aviano golf club arranged through tour oeprators Italy Golf and More PHOTO: Kath SansomCastle D'Aviano golf club arranged through tour oeprators Italy Golf and More PHOTO: Kath Sansom

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.

Udine golf course visited as part of a tour  arranged by Italy Golf and More PHOTO: Kath SansomUdine golf course visited as part of a tour arranged by Italy Golf and More PHOTO: Kath Sansom

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.

Tranquil lakeside walk close to Tarvisio golf club arranged by  Italy Golf and More PHOTO: Kath SansomTranquil lakeside walk close to Tarvisio golf club arranged by Italy Golf and More PHOTO: Kath Sansom

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.

View from the driving range at Trieste golf club arranged through tour oeprators Italy Golf and More PHOTO: Kath SansomView from the driving range at Trieste golf club arranged through tour oeprators Italy Golf and More PHOTO: Kath Sansom

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.

Golf trip to Italy - the main square in the port city of Trieste PHOTO: Kath SansomGolf trip to Italy - the main square in the port city of Trieste PHOTO: Kath Sansom

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.

A secret garden in Udine city centre with quiet reading areas and an outdoo library shelf stacked with books to borrow - part of the Italy Golf and More tour PHOTO: Kath SansomA secret garden in Udine city centre with quiet reading areas and an outdoo library shelf stacked with books to borrow - part of the Italy Golf and More tour PHOTO: Kath Sansom

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.

Away from the busy centre of Udine - part of the Italy Golf and More tour PHOTO: Kath SansomAway from the busy centre of Udine - part of the Italy Golf and More tour PHOTO: Kath Sansom

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.

Udine Golf Club on the day of the European Seniors Tour pro am - part of the Italy Golf and More tour PHOTO: Kath SansomUdine Golf Club on the day of the European Seniors Tour pro am - part of the Italy Golf and More tour PHOTO: Kath Sansom

It boasts indoor and outdoor pools, spa facilities and holistic treatments.

A hidden street scene away from the busy shopping centres of the port  of Trieste - part of the Italy Golf and More tour PHOTO: Kath SansomA hidden street scene away from the busy shopping centres of the port of Trieste - part of the Italy Golf and More tour PHOTO: Kath Sansom

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.

Inside Udine Cathedral.Part of the Italy Golf and More tour. PHOTO: Kath SansomInside Udine Cathedral.Part of the Italy Golf and More tour. PHOTO: Kath Sansom

There are three lakes and a blend of established holes alongside nine new ones with a large clubhouse scheduled to open by Christmas 2017.

Count Giovanni Policreti bought a villa in Castle D'Aviano and created the gardens as a healing space for his sick wife. He built this shrine to give thanks for her recovery. The villa is now a popular hotel and the healing gardens are a golf course.Part of the Italy Golf and More tour. PHOTO: Kath SansomCount Giovanni Policreti bought a villa in Castle D'Aviano and created the gardens as a healing space for his sick wife. He built this shrine to give thanks for her recovery. The villa is now a popular hotel and the healing gardens are a golf course.Part of the Italy Golf and More tour. PHOTO: Kath Sansom

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.

Free bike hire at Hotel Policreti to explore Castle D'Aviano and surrounding villages.Part of the Italy Golf and More tour. PHOTO: Kath SansomFree bike hire at Hotel Policreti to explore Castle D'Aviano and surrounding villages.Part of the Italy Golf and More tour. PHOTO: Kath Sansom

The hotel and its chef are a bonus and we had some of the best food of the trip alongside an impeccable wine selection.

A walking tour of Udine. Part of the Italy Golf and More tour. PHOTO: Kath SansomA walking tour of Udine. Part of the Italy Golf and More tour. PHOTO: Kath Sansom

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/

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