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Welcome to Northern Italy: A Taste of la dolce vita

By Carla Harvey, Contributor

Location can sell any property under the sun, and northern Italy golf club settings serve as a model of this creed. Surrounded by the Alps, the environs of these clubs are breathtaking. Now, to add a further fillip of inducement: between rounds on top Italian courses, you can learn how to prepare the dishes that have made Italy famous for its cuisine. What more could a golfing gourmet demand? Well, you might wish for time to shop, to do a bit of wine tasting and sightseeing. 'Wide World of Golf' (WWG) has included it all.

Northern Italy is neither a hideaway nor a 'hidden gem'. Italy's most sophisticated spots, the Lombardy and Piemonte regions are reflections of affluence and worldliness, with the cities of Milan and Turin representing the prevailing life-style. Travellers have long made their way to the Alps for skiing and hiking, to the lakes for their beauty and the cities for their multiple charms. By clever manipulation of places and time, the WWG company has come up with a nine day visit with the intention of uniting two of life's most appealing pastimes: golf and cooking.

Garda, Maggiore, Montofano and Como lakes are graced by superb accommodation. Two and three day visits to such hotels as Palazzo Arzaga, a 15th century palace and Grand Hotel Iles des Borromees, with state-of-the-art facilities and belle époque finery, give these holidays a distinctive flavour. Rounds of golf are scheduled at the following courses: Arzaga GC, Garda GC, Iles des Borromees GC and Castelconturbia GC.

Neil is a member of the WWG team. He offers this insight into the food and wine experience: "As far as the culinary aspect of it goes, it is really a mixture, we will try and incorporate some specialties of the region and what is in season, such as truffles and local red wines of the region. Some of the schools are conducted in local restaurants while others are at more established cooking schools. It is a nice mix and emphasis is that the courses be 'hands on' sessions, the only way to learn! Afterwards, the group will enjoy a meal together and wine, some of what they cooked and some of what the expert chef has created for them."

Basic Italian cooking techniques, recipes and cuisine are explained just before lunch. During the following days, lessons progress from learning how to prepare famous Italian sauces, risottos and pasta dishes to appetizers, soups, table-setting etiquette and then the final touches of la dolce vita when the secrets of such desserts as tiramisu and gelato are revealed.

Let's take a closer look at the golf course route. Palazzo Arzaga consists of two courses, the first (18 holes), designed by Jack Nicklaus Jr. in the late '90s and the second, a 9 hole course by Gary Player. Nestled in the foothills overlooking Lake Garda, Arzaga is notable for large bunkers and enormous, rolling greens. There are four tee-offs on each hole. With the Alps and Lake Garda as backdrops, the views are as outstanding as the club. Arzaga's is the first Teaching & Learning Centre of the PGA of Europe in Italy; it has its own practice golf course.

Recently, a further nine holes were constructed at Gardagolf, giving it a full complement of 27 holes, some on them level, others hilly. The layout is ideal for a balanced game. The first hole amounts to a long, uphill Par 4; the golfer is brought now to water on two, one of the most interesting short holes with a lake mounting a full defence to the green. Large amounts of water on some holes, cunningly placed to create mischief and, should you become careless, high scores. There are beautiful views during play overlooking Lake Garda.

Golf Club des Iles Borromees has panoramic alpine vistas of the Sempione and Val Grande mountains. From the 18th hole, players are treated to the skylines of Milan and theTicino Alps. Considered a triumph in design because Marco Croze had the nous to leave the lie of the land as it was, the course's hazards are fashioned by nature and is more pleasurable to play because of it. Lake Maggiore is a vividly colourful location, whose popularity as a visitor destination is well established. Five hundred metres above sea level, Borromees lies close to one of Italy's first courses, the Alpino.

Golf Club Castelconturbia, considered one of Europe's finest and most interesting courses, presents a landscape of forests, mountains and lakes - a quintessential northern Italian scene and one that was recognised as such as early as 1898.

On record is the fact that a 19th century course was established on the same spot as the present club. Three, nine-hole Par 36 courses comprise the club: they are known as yellow, red and blue. Various tee positions give golfers the chance to balance their skills with the courses. This Robert Trent Jones course was designed in 1984; he took advantage of the unspoilt countryside and wisely adapted the course to it without disturbing its natural attributes. Castelconturbia has hosted the Italian Open twice.

The Villa D'Este Golf Club lies beyond the wonderful lake of Montofano in a splendid setting in sunny Brianza. The course is situated at a height of 1200 feet on what has aptly been described as a Scottish landscape. Golfers will find play pleasant, even in the heat of August. The course was designed in 1926 by Peter Gannon and the 18 holes wind their way between chestnut groves, birch and pine woods.

It is considered one of the most varied and difficult of the European "par 69" courses. This is borne out by the number of important international tournaments held at Villa d'Este each year. The 2-storey club house has views over some of the holes and the lake of Montofano.

Wide World of Golf organizers accept a maximum of 20 participants on their Italy Golf and Cooking School holiday. Their May tour is fully booked, so if you're interested, get in touch for the 23 September - 2 October trip.

The price, $5,475 per golfer, includes hotels, breakfasts, various lunches and dinners, cooking tuition, etc.. Phone: 831 626 2400 for information.

Contact details

Palazzo Arzaga Golf Club
25080 Carzago de Calvagese della Riviera
Phone: 390 207 8555126
Fax: 390 207 4903822

Gardagolf Country Club
Villa Angelo Omodeo 2
25080 Soriano del Lago, BS
Phone: 390 365 674707
Fax: 390 365 674788

Iles des Borromees Golf Club
Località Motta Rosa
28010 Brovello Carpagnino, VB
Phone: 390 323 929285
Fax: 390 323 929190

Castelconturbia Golf Club
Via Suno
28010 Agrate Conturbia, NO
Phone: 390 322 832093
Fax: 390 322 832428

Villa D'Este Golf Club
Via Cantú, 13 22030 Montorfano (Como)
Phone: 390 312 00200
Fax: 390 312 00786

Carla HarveyCarla Harvey, Contributor

Carla Harvey freelances for various magazines in Spain and abroad. Among them are Mediterranean Life, Essential, The Reporter and Lookout Magazine. She was the editor of Marbella Times for five years and WHERE Costa del Sol for two years.

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