You shouldn’t miss a stroll along Lygon Street when you visit Melbourne. This leafy tree lined street in the heart of Carlton is known as ‘Little Italy’ mainly due to the Italian families who populated the area when they migrated in the 1950s and it’s the place where Melbourne’s cafe culture was born. History names it as the first place to install an espresso machine in Australia. Today the street is still crammed with Italian restaurants, ice cream shops, boutiques and bars and is a vibrant place to visit on a night out.
Our first stop was Johnny’s rooftop bar, which we headed to early to perhaps catch a sunset before seeing the city lights take over the night sky. It wasn’t to be though, rather than a spectacular sunset we saw a spectacular build up of storm clouds followed by pelting rain and gusty winds.
Even that didn’t detract too much from the view and we got an idea of what makes this a popular spot to visit. Thankfully we were undercover and took advantage of gas heaters to be able to sit in relative comfort while enjoying a warming red wine. The rooftop bar boasts amazing 360 degree views over Carlton and towards Melbourne city and the views weren’t disappointing despite the chilly night. The bar can be found on the corner of Lygon and Faraday streets and entry is via a laneway off Lygon Street, just look for the neon sign. A lift takes you to level three where you walk out into the open space and can take in those awesome views.
There are a number of places to sit in the space and brick walls with fireplaces inside, divide areas. There are corner lounge areas as well as marble topped tables to sit at with potted plants and gas heaters dotted around the space. The 15-metre-long bar makes receiving service easy too. The bar menu has modern day Italian snacks to accompany drinks but unfortunately the weather won out on the night we visited and we had to retreat to look for a less Antarctic option.
And so began the wander up and down Lygon Street to search for a warm space to sit and have a light meal. We were warned before our search that spruikers would try to tempt you into each and every restaurant along the strip, and that was true. Every few metres someone would be trying to tempt you in with offers of some free wine…and garlic bread, but we had a few criteria we needed met, including warmth, space and reasonable prices for the food and wines we wanted. We found all that, at Little Lygon Restaurant, where we enjoyed great pizza, wine and service.
After finishing our meal we had one more stop to make and it was at the highly recommended Pidapipo Gelateria. This authentic gelateria is obviously the best around as the line up of patrons willing to wait outside on a freezing, rainy Melbourne night attested to.
They were right too, with the reasons behind its popularity including the gelato being made from scratch on site, with fresh ingredients including the fruit, none of which is frozen, and no artificial flavouring used. They offer 20 rotating flavours each day using quality ingredients and seasonal fruits.
So when in Lygon Street indulge in the Italian culture and enjoy, even if that does mean eating gelato under outdoor heaters as the rain pelts down.