Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 29, 2014

An elegant place to stay in the centre of Florence

Hotel Scoti is in the very stylish Via De’ Tornabuone, one of the best shopping streets in Florence. Gucci, Pucci, Armani, Prada and many more iconic fashion houses will be your neighbours if you stay there.

The entrance is directly opposite Fendi.



A lift will take you up from the foyer.


The hotel is in a 16th century palazzo. The 17th century floor to ceiling frescoes have been retained in the living room.

All the rooms have been lovingly restored and the common rooms will make you want to stay for ever. There are single and double rooms, each with ensuites.  Breakfast is available.



It is just around the corner from my favourite cafe in Florence, Giacosa, making it the perfect place for me to stay in the city. The charming owner speaks English and Italian and has an extensive knowledge of Florence which she is delighted to share.

Our stay at the Scoti was too short, but I know we will be back.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 26, 2014

Inside Basilica di San Marco

Basilica di San Marco is one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture.  It is modelled after Constantine the Great’s Church of the Holy Apostles and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. It has a floor plan in the shape of a Greek cross, with a dome on each of the four arms. Each arm has a central aisle and two side aisles.


We lined up early to be the first group in for the day. Photographs are not allowed inside, so I kept my camera in my handbag…until I saw dozens of people snapping away, and nobody was stopping them…so I joined in.

The interior is decorated with Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic art mostly in glorious gold. Gilded mosaics dating mostly from the 12th century cover an area of about 8,000 square metres on the vaults and cupolas, earning it the nickname Chiesa d’Oro (church of gold).



The altarpiece is the Pala d’Oro, a panel of gold emnedded with gems (now behind glass). It was commissioned from Byzantine goldsmiths in 976 and further embellished over the centuries. Naploeon pinched some of the precious stones in 1797.


The spectacular floor is a 12th century mixture of mosaic and marble in geometric and animal designs.

Not far from the Pala d’Oro is a special paving stone. It is marked by a heart and the ducal corno (ceremonial hat) and indicates the place where the heart of Francesco Erizzo (doge from 1631 – 1646) was buried. The rest of his body lies in the Church of San Martino in Castello, near his birthplace. The black shape under the corno dogale symbolises a hedgehog (riccio in Italian), the symbol of the  Erizzo family. Most people walk right over it, and we would have too, if not for the wonderful book, Secret Venice.


The Tesoro (Treasury) is on the far right of the main altar and for €3 you can enter and admire a collection of Crusaders’ plunder from Constantinople.






It pays to be early to enter this incredible church. We didn’t have to wait too long and it wasn’t all that crowded. Basilica di San Marco is not to be missed if you visit Venice.

The next person to follow Bagni di Lucca and Beyond will be the 4,000th…quite a milestone. Who would have thought when the blog started that so many people would come along for the ride?

Thank you to all those who have signed up, and thank you especially to those who take the time to leave a comment, it is always good to hear from you.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 23, 2014

Ristori…coffee, gelato and more

Just before I left Italy I discovered a lovely new place for coffee, gelato and a snack in Lucca. Ristori  takes its name from the perfume store it replaced in the main street, Via Filungo, between Via Buia and Via San Giorgio.

The long, narrow shop  has been lovingly restored. You can stand at the tiny bar for your coffee or sit at one of the tables.

I can report that the coffee is very good. I didn’t try the cakes, but I will next time. They look delicious.









I need to try the gelato as well…all in the name of research, of course.



There are a couple of tables tucked in a little corner at the back of the shop.



I think Ristori is a great addition to Via Filungo.

Take a look at their Facebook page.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 19, 2014

Fennel and blood orange salad

On my final night in Italy I had dinner at a restaurant beside the Hotel Julia, where I always stay in Rome. I ordered saltimbocca and a fennel and blood orange salad. The saltimbocca was fairly ordinary but the salad was delicious.

I recreated it myself shortly after I arrived home…it was quite simple.

The ingredients…a fennel bulb, a blood orange, pitted olives and anchovies.



Slice the fennel finely.


Pour a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper on the fennel and let it sit for a while.


Peel and slice the orange.



To assemble the salad, place the olives in a dish.


Arrange the anchovies over the olives.


…then the fennel.


…and the orange slices.


I served it with some grilled Tasmanian ocean trout. The only thing missing was lovely Rome.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 16, 2014

I would live in Venice if I could live here

I know Venice can be crowded and full of tourists, but if you get away from San Marco and Rialto and the streets that join them, the city can be remarkably peaceful, beautiful and quiet.

On our last visit to Venice in June we went to the Dorsoduro area behind the Basilica Santa Maria della Salute.

As you can see from the photo below, there are no crowds.


We came upon a gorgeous piazza, or campo, as they are called in Venice. This one is actually a campiello, a small square.


There was a pretty garden.


I can’t tell you what the campiello was called, the name had worn off.


I like the house with the glassed in balcony, the rooftop terrace and the fabulous chimneys. I think there would be Grand Canal views from there.


Not far away was a cute bar where I could go for lunch every day.



San Marco and Rialto are wonderful and it is understandable why they are popular, but it is easy to find quiet places in Venice if you wander off the main streets.

To get to Dorsoduro, take the traghetto (ferry) to Salute, walk behind the church and wander aimlessly. Getting lost in Venice is inevitable and desirable.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 13, 2014

Meet the growers

In Australia 2 large retailers have most of the market in fresh food. I don’t really think this is a good idea. The big supermarkets have too much say in prices and even what farmers grow.

This is just one of the reasons I like to shop for food at farmers’ markets. We have some great markets here in Brisbane. Yesterday I went to the Powerhouse markets in New Farm. It was a gorgeous sunny winter day and there was some great produce on offer.

The markets are very popular, which is great so see.



One of the fun things about the market is that you get to meet the people who grow your food.


I met a particularly delightful farmer who,  with her family, grew the delicious mandarins, limes and lemons below.






In all cases the produce is picked as close as possible to the selling day, meaning it is going to taste better and last longer…and be better for you.

This is my haul for the day.



Do you shop at farmers’ markets?

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 10, 2014

Marchetti…a little bit of Italy

I am back home in Brisbane for a while. I love it here, especially now that winter has arrived. The crisp mornings and warm, sunny days suit me very well.

Of course, as soon as I get home, I miss Italy. Fortunately my friend Michael has recently opened a cafe in the city, and it is full of delectable reminders of Italy. It is worth going for the sfogliatelle alone.


Michael has them flown in from Naples. The uncooked sfogliatelle are snap frozen and speedily sent to Marchetti where they are cooked and sit prettily waiting to be eaten. I can report that the one I had tasted exactly like the ones I have enjoyed in Naples.

There are other tasty things to eat as well. The filled pannini look just like the Italian variety and the biscotti, made by Virginia from Naples, are amazing.

Today for lunch I had minestrone, which was excellent.


Say hello to Michael and Virginia.




Art Deco inspired Marchetti is in the elegant Tattersalls’s Arcade off the Queen St Mall.  Michael has travelled extensively in Italy and has created a delightful cafe that makes me feel right at home.

There is a small area inside with a communal bench, outside tables and a banquette in the centre of the arcade. Michael just happens to be my optometrist as well. That is his shop (Optiko) in the background.




Marchetti is brand new and the menu is changing regularly. The coffee is great and the food is delicious. Wine is available by the glass and later in the year Marchetti will be open for afternoon and evening aperitivi…I can’t wait for my first Campari or Aperol spritz.

Call in and say hello to Michael and Virginia and the rest of the team.

Phone…07 30031344



Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 7, 2014

Torcello revisited

Torcello is the abandoned island in the Venice lagoon. It is where Venice began. I have been a couple of times in winter and autumn. ( see a previous post here, with photos of the cathedral interiors)

The island offers a completely different Venice experience. A few people still live on the island and it is a quiet, green space to escape from the crowds of the main islands. On a hot summer day we wandered among locals enjoying picnics on the grassy areas beside Venice’s first cathedral.

Come for a summer walk in Torcello.









There is a lovely vineyard near the cathedral with some interesting sculptures around the edges. The first one may be intended to keep you out of the vineyard.







We had lunch at the same place as last time in the beautiful garden restaurant. The food is excellent and very reasonably priced.



One day I might find the shop open to buy one of the gorgeous sculptures…getting it home might be a problem.



Don’t miss Torcello on your next visit to Venice.

Take a look at the recent post by Madhu from The Urge to Wander on Torcello for lots more information.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 4, 2014

What to do with that wet swimsuit

My mother used to wear a rubber bathing cap covered in rubber petals in the 1950s and early 1960s. I thought this was the most glamourous thing I had ever seen and longed to have one when I grew up. Now I can’t think of anything much worse than diving into a wave with a head covered with rubber.

Thankfully the clever Italians have come up with a reason to bring these things back. They have turned them into waterproof bags for your wet swimsuit. At last I can have one, without having to put it on my head.




I found them at this great shop in Lucca, behind the San Michele church.


They sell lots of other great things for the beach.


The company is called Brandina and this is what they say about themselves…Brandina is full of passion, joy and happiness, a timeless icon of seaside design. The sea is happiness wherever you are, Brandina has the beach inside and always brings you to the seaside.

If that doesn’t make you want to buy one of their products, perhaps this will. Their handbags come with a keyring with a transparent envelope containing sand from the Riviera.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 2, 2014

Out with a friend in Rome

I came upon this little group on the way to the Trevi fountain.


Pinocchio certainly gets around.

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