While we would all love to pop over to Italy for the weekend, a couple of little things called “money” and “time” always seem to hold us back.
Luckily for Canadians, an Italian-esque getaway exists right in our own country, and we’re going to tell you exactly what you need to add to your itinerary to have the most bellisimo experience.
Here are five incredible experiences all found in the area of Cowichan on Vancouver Island that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to Italy.
We Canadians have to cross the pond (as in the Atlantic Ocean) to get to Italy, so your faux Italian getaway to Vancouver Island will start the exact same way. From Vancouver, you can take a ferry or a seaplane, but since it’s “Italy” and we are in treat yo’self mode, why not take it one step further and get yourself on a chopper!?
Helijet is our new favourite way to travel (and our new favourite word to say — Helijet… Helijet…) and we will not be settling for anything less from here on out.
The whole experience is luxurious, from the easy breezy check-in process to the fully stocked lounge, to the graceful helicopter ride over the open ocean. At 20 minutes (or 16, if the wind is on your side!), the ride almost feels too short given the spectacular views you’ll be soaking up on the way.
(Wait, did we just say a method of transportation was too short? We take that back).
Once you’ve landed, you’ll want to travel around in the same way you would want to travel around Italy: in your own personal ride, of course. Renting a car through National Car Rental means you can journey through the stunning landscapes on your own time. AKA island time.
As you can see throughout this article, there are ample incentives to plan a Vancouver Island getaway. But if nothing else, this attraction alone is reason enough to get up and go as soon as you possibly can:
Presenting (drumroll please)… the Villa Eyrie Resort.
We did not know this kind of luxury existed in BC. It literally feels like a villa in Tuscany, complete with charming peach-perfect architecture and an expansive property nestled into the woods.
Perched atop the Malahat ridge, the view of the Saanich Inlet is absolutely breathtaking — a vantage point that we haven’t seen in any other destinations across the world. The mix of the rugged west coast vibes, serene nature, and luxurious lodging is something every Canadian needs to experience.
You can watch eagles soar above, gaze at the deer grazing on the lawn, or just listen to the birds chirping. West coast, best coast, baby.
If there’s one thing to say about Italians, it’s that they know how to appreciate their food. (If there are two things to say about Italians, it’s “Mamma mia!“) Five-course meals featuring the heartiest pasta, freshest seafood, and most delectable desserts aren’t a luxury in Italy, they’re the norm.
The meals we ate in Cowichan were a 10/10 on the Italian deliciousness scale. Excuse us for drooling over the keyboard while we recap.
Grabbing a fresh cinnamon bun from Old Town Bakery in Ladysmith is the definition of living your best life. The spot is a huge local favourite, with people coming from around the island just to get in on its treats. You can even watch the goods being made from scratch through the street-view window.
Every meal at Villa Eyrie Resort’s Alpina Restaurant was absolutely incredible. The crispy cauliflower appetizer and open-faced seafood lasagna would certainly make any Italian proud. Everything tastes better with that view, of course, but this food was objectively delicious.
The farm-to-table deliciousness at Hudson’s on First paired with its cute country decor is a perfect taste of the quaint town of Duncan. You can tell the kitchen and front of house staff truly care about the experience they are delivering to guests, and the attention to detail is impossible to miss. Every bite of that charcuterie board was absolute perfection.
Now, what kind of Italian vacationers would we be without some pizza? Tasting straight out of Naples, the brick-oven pizza at Pizzeria Prima Strada is a non-negotiable for your menu. That dough, though.
Side note: wine pairs well with all. #WhenInRome
If you don’t go to Tuscany and visit a winery, did you even go to Tuscany?
Similarly, the vineyards of Cowichan are a wine-lover’s dream. There are many to choose from, including Blue Grouse Winery, which serves up an award-winning glass of wine with a view to match.
We spent the night in the Grouse House, a luxurious retreat amongst the vines at Blue Grouse. Our stay in this rustic-modern hideaway offered spectacular views, comfortable surroundings, and even a bottle of wine at check-in! If that isn’t accommodation goals, we don’t know what is.
Fun facts: Merridale is a prime wedding destination, and you can stay in yurts. And Westholme is the first and only commercial tea farm in Canada!
The unique fertile landscape at Westholme allows for the growth of camellia sinensis, which are tea plants. You see these beautiful crops in regions of Asia, Africa, South America, but if you can’t make it to any of those destinations, right here in your backyard works perfectly!
Psst — we are definitely coming back during the summer where Westholme hosts Jazzy Tea Sundays. The peaceful natural setting of their tea garden plus a little bit of soft jazz music with some delicious tea to sip on sounds like the absolute perfect way to spend a summer day!
Remember, you’re on island time, so kick back, relax, and savour.
Italian fashion is the real deal, and any savvy traveller knows that you always need to leave a little extra room in your suitcase for the one-of-a-kind goodies you will come across on your trip.
Cowichan presents similar temptations for shopaholics with its unique retail offerings.
Stop by the adorable Cowichan Bay for stores such as the Wild Coast Perfumery, an Instagram-worthy space right on the water with all natural, botanical, artisan perfumes. For a trip down memory lane, stop by Udder Guys Ice Cream and Candy for all the nostalgic flavours from your childhood.
One of the best parts of your Italian experience is getting to know the charming locals.
Here in Cowichan, you will feel like you are in “Italy”, but don’t forget you are actually in the west coast of Canada, so one of the best ways to connect with the locals is to get acquainted with some of our local wildlife.
Did you know that British Columbia is home to one quarter of the world’s bald eagle population?
Get up close and personal (in a safe way) with these massive, majestic creatures and other birds of prey at the Raptors in Duncan.
Though we are in denial, all Italian trips must come to an end (or must they?) so now it might just be time to hop on your Helijet back home. But don’t worry, your trip will live on through your Insta throwbacks for weeks.
Ciao for now!
Disclaimer: Travel, accommodation, and meals were provided by Tourism Cowichan and its partners. All views and opinions are those of the author.