Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 27, 2016

Scicli, a delightful Sicilian surprise

When I told my good friend, Luis,  from Paris Boheme, that we were going to Sicily he said we must visit Scicli. He spent many happy summers there when he was a child. So we made a point of looking for Scicli when we left nearby Noto.

We had no idea what to expect and were enthralled from the moment we made a dramatic entrance into the steep ravine where Scicli sits basking in the sunshine.

Scicli

Scicli

We could see ancient cave dwellings dotted around  the cliffs edges. There was nowhere to stop so I had to take photos from the car.

Scicli

The town grew up around  2 valleys divided by steep ridges. The same earthquake that destroyed Noto in 1693 damaged Scicli, so it has some Baroque buildings too. I think the setting is much more interesting in Scicli and there were no crowds at all.

The buildings are impressive and there are several lovely piazzas, perfect for enjoying the spring weather. Our eyes were constantly drawn up to the huge buildings above the town.

Scicli

Scicli

Scicli

There were pretty balconies.

Scicli

I absolutely love the quirky decorations that appeared everywhere we went.

Scicli

Scicli

Scicli

I was most amused by this rooftop…old and new together.

Scicli

Luis told us of his favourite pasticceria, Giannone, the oldest and most famous in town. We arrived at lunch time and caught it just before it closed for siesta. We bought a very delicious selection of pastries.

Scicli

In the park in the centre of town I was surprised to see a huge poinsettia plant. It is the official flower of Brisbane and this one was a long way from home.

Scicli

With everything closed it was time for lunch. Tre Colli was recommend by some locals and the location offered great views over the centre of town.

Scicli

Scicli

Our lunch was delicious. The pasta sauce was very local, based on fava beans.

 

The town looked very impressive from above as we drove out.

Scicli

Scicli

Get yourselves to Scicli while it is still relatively unknown. There are plans to restore some of the cave dwellings. As well as that it is one of the film locations for Montalbano, so it is bound  to become busier. We loved it…thank you Luis.

There are sandy beaches on the coast nearby, but we didn’t go there, we headed off to Ragusa, which will be the subject of the next post.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 24, 2016

Noto, Baroque theme park, Sicily

Noto is famous for its fine buildings of the early 18th century, many of which are considered to be among the finest examples of Sicilian Baroque style.

The town’s striking architecture is due to an earthquake that struck Sicily in 1693. The old town was completely destroyed and the new town was built several kilometres away.

The entrance to the Baroque section of the town is through Porta Reale.

Noto Sicily

It leads to the Main Street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which is lined with amazing buildings.

Noto Sicily

There was a sign which gave an excellent description of the town.

Cesare Brandi, an art historian, defined Noto “The stone garden”. About 50 churches and religious institutes, 15 noble palaces, residences of ancient aristocrats, are the flowers of this garden. 

The Baroque dwells in the town; it is splendid and conceited in the historic centre, tender and almost elusive in the high area of the town and in its characteristic quarters. There are many climbs, many staircases and some streets which are less large than one metre. Let curiosity guide you and Noto will show you itself”.

We let our curiosity guide us.

Noto Sicily

Noto Sicily

Noto Sicily

Noto Sicily

Noto Sicily

Noto Sicily

Noto Sicily

Noto Sicily

Noto Sicily

Noto Sicily

Noto Sicily

Noto Sicily

Noto Sicily

As in all Italian towns, we came across a group of older gentlemen sitting together solving the problems of the world.

Noto Sicily

The one thing I was not prepared for was the crowds. We arrived early in the morning, which was just as well. It was already busy and a steady stream of buses were dropping hoards of people into the town.

Noto Sicily

Noto Sicily

I also admit to not having much interest on Baroque buildings as it turns out. I can see that the buildings are stunning, but there are other eras I prefer.

We covered most of the town and got out before we were completely swamped by tour groups. We were there in mid April, long before tourist season. It must be hell in summer.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 19, 2016

Segesta…a temple in Sicily

On the road between Trapani and Palermo in the north of Sicily, just outside the ancient city of Segesta, is a beautifully preserved Doric Temple. It sits magnificently on a rise surrounded by rolling green hills and rocky cliffs, setting it off perfectly.

Doric temple Segesta

Segesta was one of the major cities of the Elymian people, one of the indigenous inhabitants of Sicily. The population mixed with the Ionian Greeks and it was an Athenian architect who designed the temple. It is thought to have been built in the 420s BC.

It was not finished. The columns are not fluted and the roof was never built. It somehow avoided destruction by the Carthaginians in the 5th century…lucky for us.

The temple attracts quite a crowd, as you would expect, but the area is huge so there is plenty of room for everyone to walk around the temple and see it from every angle.

Doric temple Segesta

Doric temple Segesta

Doric temple Segesta

Doric temple Segesta

Doric temple Segesta

Doric temple Segesta

 

Doric temple Segesta

Doric temple Segesta

Doric temple Segesta

We were there in spring and the wild flowers were spectacular, making the views even more beautiful.

Doric temple Segesta

Doric temple Segesta

Further up the hill is a semicircular theatre built about the same time. It is a bit of a climb but the thoughtful people looking after the site provide a bus to take you to the top.

There would have been no need for stage props with a view like this.

Ancient theatre Segesta

Ancient theatre Segesta

Ancient theatre Segesta

Ancient theatre Segesta

Ancient theatre Segesta

Ancient theatre Segesta

The theatre is still used today.

We walked down the hill from the theatre to get some views of the temple from above.

Doric temple Segesta

Doric temple Segesta

Doric temple Segesta

Doric temple Segesta

We stayed at a great B&B, Villa Palmeri, on top of a nearby hill.

Segesta

We had amazing views of the temple as well as the gorgeous hills.

It looked beautiful at night.

Doric temple Segesta

…and the next morning.

Doric temple Segesta

Sicily is full of amazing things…we will return.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 15, 2016

Know your onions

Tropea was one of the wonderful towns we visited on our drive through Calabria. Cipolla di Tropea, or Tropea onions are a particular type of red onion which grows in a small area of Calabria named Capo Vaticano, near Tropea.

In 2008 the European Union registered the Protected Designation of Origin mark for red onions grown in this particular area.

We saw them on sale everywhere as we walked through the town. I love these onions and would dearly love to have taken some with us, but I didn’t think they would like to be sitting in our car for a couple of weeks.

Tropea onions

Tropea onions

Tropea onions

When I am in Italy I don’t buy any other type of onion. They are not as strong as regular red onions and are delicious sliced finely in salads. They are also great baked in the oven, by themselves or mixed with other vegetables.

Look out for them, you won’t be disappointed. I am yet to discover them in Australia, but I keep looking.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 13, 2016

Black is black

Fallow is one of the most interesting and beautiful shops I have seen anywhere. Natalie, a lovely friend from my fashion past, created her shop in 2008. She scours the world for beautiful things outside the mainstream…mostly black.

The shop is exquisite…take a look.

Fallow

Fallow

Fallow

Fallow

There are many covetable items to be found in Fallow.

Fallow

Fallow

Fallow

The elegant interior is all the more amazing when you see what they started with. The space was the office of a mild mannered accountant before it was completely transformed.

Fallow

A couple of things were retained…the fabulous wallpaper…

Fallow

…and the old phone, which still works.

Fallow

Fallow is one of the most elegant I have seen anywhere in the world, and it is in my hometown, Brisbane.

Drop in and say hello to Natalie and her team at Fallow.

Level 1, Cameron House.

354 Brunswick St,

Fortitude Valley. Brisbane.

fallow.com.au

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 9, 2016

Surprising Salerno

Salerno is the capital of Salerno Province in Campania. It is bigger that many of the other towns along the Amalfi Coast. As well as a very well preserved medieval centre it has a more modern area nearby.

We stayed a couple of nights there on our way back from Sicily and were delighted by the town. We stayed in the new section, but it was just a short walk to the narrow streets of the old part of town.

Salerno

Via dei Mercanti was the main street in medieval times and is still a thriving shopping area. New businesses are to be found among old facades, doorways and crumbling stone columns, making for some interesting strolling.

Salerno

Salerno

Above the town is the first European Botanical Garden, Giardino della Minerva. The gardens are set in terraces on the side of a steep hill. There is not a lot of space, but it has been used wisely.

Salerno

Salerno

On each level is a trough or fountain, part of the clever watering system.

Salerno

Salerno

There are excellent views of Salerno from the gardens.

Salerno

In the centre of the old town is the duomo built in 1076. The Romanesque entrance is called Porta dei Leoni.

Salerno

It leads to an atrium surrounded on 4 sides with a portico.

Salerno

Salerno

Salerno

The interior of the church is magnificent. The inlaid marble alone makes it worth a visit.

Salerno

The belltower was constructed in the middle of the 12th century from travertine, bricks and columns that possibly came from the ruins of nearby Paestrum.

Salerno

The seafront promenade, Lungomare Trieste, was created in the 1950s. It is 8 kilometres long and is lined with rare palms.

Salerno

We came across a beautiful park.

Salerno

The view from the park is stunning.

Salerno

Street art is everywhere in Salerno. Some are small and interesting and others cover the entire side of buildings.

Salerno

We ate at a wonderful restaurant, Vicolo della Neve, a Salerno favourite. It has been there for 3 generations and was the haunt of poets and artists. Enrico Caruso was a famous guest.

Salerno

Breakfast was excellent at Puro.

Puro Salerno

The sfogliatella was delicious.

Puro Salerno

A well dressed local joined us for breakfast.

Puro Salerno

Salerno is a great place to stay on the Amalfi Coast. It mixes old and new very well, and there is lots to see and do. Boats leave regularly to other towns along the coast, making it very convenient.

Salerno

 

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 6, 2016

Amazing Amalfi

Many years ago I lived in a small village on the Amalfi Coast. I visited most of the other towns along this fabulous coast, but didn’t get as far south as Amalfi.

On the way back from Sicily earlier this year,  I finally got to see this shining jewel at the foot of Monte Cerreto. Like the other coastal towns, Amalfi clings to the edge of the sea. In the 1920s and 1930s it became the place to be for the British upper class and aristocracy.

Now, it seems, Amalfi is popular with everyone. The town was crowded with eager tourists when we were there at the beginning of May.

Arriving by sea is an excellent way to get a great view of the town.

Amalfi

The entrance to the town from the water’s edge is via an old portal.

Amalfi

Piazza Duomo, the heart of the town, soon appears, with the magnificent cathedral of Sant’Andrea looking on from above. Between the 9th and 11th centuries Amalfi was the seat of a powerful maritime republic. The Arab/Norman cathedral with its striped Byzantine facade survives from this era.

Amalfi

Amalfi

The front door of the church is most impressive.

Amalfi

The interior is very elaborate.

Amalfi

Amalfi

Behind the church is the lovely Chiostro del Paradiso, Cloister of Paradise. It was built between 1266 and 1268 by Filippo Augustariccio and was used as a burial ground for noble families of Amalfi. The white columns and pointed arches reflect Arab influence. It is absolutely beautiful, with frescoes and views of the campanile.

Amalfi

Amalfi

The view from the church over the piazza is excellent.

Amalfi

We wandered down to explore the town. There is an interesting fountain in the square.

Amalfi

Amalfi

The main street is long and narrow.

Amalfi

The Amalfi Coast is famous for its huge lemons…and Limoncello, the delicious lemon liqueur. It is on sale in bottles of all shapes and sizes in shops all over town…along with lemons.

Amalfi

Amalfi

Shops are also full of beautiful ceramics and colourful beach clothes.

Amalfi

Amalfi

Amalfi

Amalfi

There is a very strange, and not particularly attractive, fountain in the street. It is called De Cape ‘e Ciucci, and refers to an old custom when donkeys (ciucci) came down from a village above laden with fruit, vegetables and wood to drink at the fountain.

Since 1974 the fountain has  been a centre point for a nativity scene made from limestone and tufa.

Amalfi

We had a delicious lunch at a very busy restaurant, Locanda del Marinaio. Our friendly waiters were delighted when I told them used to live nearby and declared me an honorary local.

Amalfi

Amalfi

Amalfi

The weather was a bit patchy, with clouds and occasional sun. It began to rain just as we left, but it didn’t matter. I absolutely love the Amalfi Coast, all of it. I love the colour, the food, the shops, the people, the sea…everything.  I can’t wait to return.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 1, 2016

What a difference a year makes

Last year at Casa Debbio we decided to plant a new garden on the terrace below the house. We had some pine trees removed, which has allowed a walnut tree and a fig tree to get more light and space, and gave us a new area to plant.

Casa Debbio

This is what the new terrace looked like at the end of spring last year.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Here is what it looked like at the end of spring this year.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

We are absolutely delighted with the results. Weeks of rain may have ruined the roses and geraniums, but it certainly made everything grow. Last spring was quite dry and I spent hours every other day watering the new plants. This year I didn’t have to do it at all.

The garden behind the house is growing well too, the peonies and hydrangeas have done very well.

Casa Debbio

Watching the garden for a whole year is amazing.

Here is the entrance to the house in February.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Here it is in early spring.

Casa Debbio

…late spring.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

 

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

 

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

 

Casa Debbio

The terrace in front of the house is looking good with the new pergola.

Casa Debbio

I can’t wait to see what happens next year. We are going to plant lavender all along the road up to the house. I think it will look great.

We have left the garden in Filippo’s capable hands until we return. He takes great care of everything as well as meeting our visitors and introducing them to Casa Debbio.

There are still a couple of weeks available for rent at Casa Debbio this summer…tell your friends.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 27, 2016

Fiskars and orange scissors

I’m sure many of you have a pair of these scissors in your possession.

Fiskars scissors

Perhaps you don’t know where they come from. They were originally made in a place called Fiskars, about one hour west of Helsinki in Finland.

Fiskars Bruk was founded as an iron works in 1649 and gave rise to the company Fiskars. In 1822 John von Julin bought the iron works and began the production facility and Finland’s first workshop in 1836. They produced utility items from scissors and knives to ploughs.

In the 1980s Fiskars began to move operations to make use of more modern facilities. Now the old factory site is a centre for Finnish art and design. 600 people live in the area and it is popular with artists, artisans and designers.

It is also popular with visitors, including us. Some Finnish friends, Helena and Lasse Kinnunen from Brisbane, have a summer studio in Fiskars. On the way home  from Italy we stopped in Helsinki and drove across to Fiskars to visit them and see the beautiful village.

Their studio is set in a pretty forest. It is a perfect show room for their beautiful crafted furniture.

Fiskars village

Fiskars village

Helena and Lasse very kindly showed us around the village. The buildings in the village are scattered around the river which was an important transport route. The 3 rapids in the river provided power for the blast furnace, machinery workshop and electric power station. Come for a walk around lovely Fiskars.

Fiskars village Finland

Fiskars village Finland

Fiskars village Finland

Most of the buildings are used as studios for the artists, or shops to sell the lovely things they produce. There are also restaurants, cafes and hotels for those who would like to stay a while.

I particularly liked the blacksmith, where we found lots of things to buy for Casa Debbio. I will have to return with an empty suitacase.

Fiskars village Finland

I have been collecting these cute cups for a few years now and I was surprised and delighted to meet the designer, Riita Talonpoika, in a Fiskars shop. She also has a nearby studio which I would love to see.

Fiskars village Finland

Fiskars village Finland

In the Onoma shop we found lots of wonderful things.

Fiskars village Finland

As well as beautiful furniture Lasse makes these lovely necklaces for sale in the shop.

Fiskars village Finland

At the other end of the building is the Fiskars shop where there is an amazing range of Fiskars products as well as a display of the history of  Fiskars.

Fiskars village Finland

Fiskars village Finland

Here I found the story of the orange scissors, and why they are orange.

In the year 1967 the first model was to be made. The designer wanted the scissors to be black or green. As the prototype went into production the machinist decided to use up the orange colour already in the machine. The result was that the prototypes were made in 4 colours, of which orange and black were the favourites.

A final decision was made after an in-house vote, and the orange Fiskars scissors were born. The colour, Fiskars Orange, was registered as an official trademark in Finland in 2004 and the U.S. in 2007. Orange scissors are found all over the world. We Fiskars product often in our travels.

Best of all there is a gallery chock full of interesting things.

Thank you Helena and Lasse for a lovely day in heavenly Fiskars…we will be back.

Fiskars village Finland

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 20, 2016

Time to go home

I have been in Italy for 4 months and it is time to return to Australia. It is always difficult to leave, but I know that I will be back in September.

I arrived in Bagni di Lucca in winter. Our little village changed in the time I have been here.

I do like winter and the scenes it brings.

Bagni di Lucca winter

Bagni di Lucca winter

Bagni di Lucca winter

The view from my balcony is always good.

Bagni di Lucca winter

Bagni di Lucca rain

My daffodils were out when I arrived. Unfortunately they were much too crowded in the pots and left no room to plant pansies and later geraniums, so now they live at Casa Debbio. I hope they put on a good show next spring.

Bagni di Lucca winter

When spring begins I can see things turning green before my eyes. I plant pansies on the bridge in front of our apartment.

Ponte a Serraglio spring

Ponte pansies

Ponte pansies

This year we had lots of rain, sometimes it seemed it would never end. At times we almost disappeared in the mist and rain.

Ponte a Serraglio rain

Ponte a Serraglio rain

Ponte a Serraglio rain

All the rain makes for a very green spring.

Ponte a Serraglio

We left very early this morning. True to form the day began with cool mists.

Ponte a Serraglio

Ponte a Serraglio

Ponte a Serraglio

We are now in Helsinki. We arrived to warm sunshine, warmer than it has been in Italy for a while.

When I return it will be autumn…a favourite time for me.

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