Melbourne, the capital of the state of Victoria , is a city rich in contrasts, it is the most important center of the country as far as the cultural aspect is concerned, and is second only to Sydney for population (5 Million inhabitants). The city has a sophisticated lifestyle, a sparkling nightlife, excellent shopping opportunities, and a great offer of sports activities.
Founded in 1835, Melbourne experienced a remarkable development during the gold rush period, from 1901 to 1927 it was the capital of Australia. Melbourne is a fascinating city where beautiful Victorian buildings alternate with modern skyscrapers. On the southern bank of the Yarra River lies the cultural heart of the city, here are the State Theater (State Theater), the Victorian Arts Center (Victorian Arts Center), and the National Gallery (National Gallery of Victoria), the most important and ancient art gallery of Australia where a vast collection of objects on the culture of the Australian Aborigines is displayed. The city also has a building and a garden that are a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Royal Exhibition Building – designed by architect Joseph Reed in the late 19th century – and the Carlton Gardens (Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens).
Melbourne hosts a wide variety of cultural events and festivals of all kinds: theater shows, classical music concerts, rock and jazz music, cabaret shows and comedies are presented. The Australian Ballet (Australian Ballet) has its headquarters in Melbourne. In the city there are events like the Melbourne International Arts Festival, dedicated to dance, theater, music, visual and multimedia arts. The Melbourne International Film Festival, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival – which is the third largest international comedy festival in the world and the largest cultural event in Australia – and the Melbourne Fringe Festival, dedicated to alternative art.
Melbourne is also a renowned shopping center, Australia’s largest and most modern shopping center, the Melbourne Central Shopping Center. In the city there is also the historic market of Queen Victoria Market, the largest outdoor market in the southern hemisphere. Today the market is an important tourist destination in Melbourne, offering a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, fish, delicacies and local specialties. Melbourne also hosts a large non-food market, where clothing, shoes, jewelry and craft items are sold.
For lovers of good food the Southgate Center, along the Yarra River, offers a large number of restaurants and wine bars, but there are many restaurants in the city that range from fast food to ethnic restaurants, many even Italian restaurants. In 2006 the inhabitants of Melbourne born in Italy (73.800) represented more than 2% of the population of the city, it may sound strange, but the Italian was the second language spoken in Melbourne after English, according to the 2006 census, they spoke it over 120,000 people, 3.3% of the resident population.
In the outskirts of the city, just a few hours drive away you will find breathtaking landscapes, such as those of the Great Ocean Road , of Dandenongs, of the Yarra Valley, famous for its wine, of the Mornington peninsula, full of beaches, or Phillip island, where you can admire the penguins who return home every day at the same time and the largest colony of sea lions in Australia.