Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 10, 2017

Rome’s fabulous frog fountain 🐸

I love frogs. Recent rain in Brisbane means there is a chorus of croaking in the evening outside my window.

I had a delightful frog experience on my last visit to Rome. I had heard about the fountain and set off to find it.

The fountain itself needs some love and a haircut. It sits in the middle of the Piazza Mincio in the Quartiere Coppede named for the architect who created it, Florentine Gino Coppede. It is a tiny neighbourhood is a mix of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Italian Liberty and a few other eras thrown in for good measure, quite unlike anything else in Rome.

8 frogs line the top of a basin supported by several human figures. The poor figures are encrusted with calcium and the frogs are sprouting grass but I was enchanted by the fountain. It was an overcast day with occasional bursts of bright sunshine, so the photos are not all good,  but you will get the idea.

Frog fountain Rome

Frog fountain Rome

The buildings that surround the fountain are stunning. My favourites were the Fairy Cottages, covered with decorations and surrounded  by a magnificent fence with elaborate gates.

Frog fountain Rome

 

Frog fountain Rome

Frog fountain Rome

Take a look at this amazing ship. I want one on my house!

Frog fountain Rome

The rest of the buildings are covered with animal motifs, spiders, snails, bees, people, curly things…the list goes on.

Frog fountain Rome

Frog fountain Rome

Frog fountain Rome

Frog fountain Rome

The Beatles attracted attention to the fountain many years ago when they stepped into the water fully clothed. It isn’t particularly old by Roman standards. It was built in 1924.

I know there is lots to see in Rome, but if you have the time make your way to Piazza Mincio. I’m sure you will be as delighted as I was. It is a short walk from the Gallery end of Villa Borghese (about 10 minutes) towards Parioli.

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 7, 2017

Window shopping Florence

Window shopping in Florence is always fun. The new season fashion this winter had something for everyone. There was colour, neutrals, simple, embellished, winter white, black and prints. There were lots of reasons to pull out the credit card.

Florence winter 2017

Florence winter 2017

Florence winter 2017

Florence winter 2017

Florence winter 2017

Not everything appealed to me. I simply cannot imagine wearing these clown shoes…would you?

Florence winter 2017

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 1, 2017

Island salad..

I was recently on Capri, the stunning island off the Amalfi Coast. It finally dawned on me that the delicious salad of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, Caprese salad, was named for the island where it was first made. I am possibly the last person to realise this.

This salad is delightfully simple. The ingredients must be perfect. The buffalo mozzarella needs to be fresh, the tomatoes ripe, but not too ripe and the basil torn, not cut. The only other ingredients are olive oil, salt and pepper.

Caprese salad first appeared on a menu in the Hotel Quissana on Capri in the early 1920s and it now recognised all over the world.

Capri

It is served as antipasto, a starter, not as a side salad.

I made one for lunch.

Caprese salad

The olive oil I used was very special.

Olive oil

It was given to me by Filippo, who helps me with the garden at Casa Debbio. He tends an olive grove in Vergemoli and he picked and pressed the olives himself. I was delighted when he gave me a bottle of his precious oil. I have a little bit of Vergemoli here with me in Brisbane and it is delicious.

Did you all know that Caprese salad was named for the island where it was first made?

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 25, 2017

December Pop Up

My new Pop Up shop will begin on Friday 1st December and will be open until 9th December. I will be at Sarva, 239 Boundary St, West End. (corner Corbett St) from 10.00am until 3.00pm every day.

As usual I have made cool, comfortable summer clothes from pure cotton and pure linen. In summer I don’t wear anything else and I love to work with these fabrics.

December Pop Up

December Pop Up

December Pop Up

Drop in to say hello next week.

Sarva pop up

Sarva

239 Boundary St. Corner Corbett St.

10.00am – 3.00pm every day from 1st December – 9th December.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 21, 2017

Architecture and music

I had a special treat on my Helsinki stopover this time. Some lovely friends took me outside the city to Lake Tuusula in Jarvenpaa. We visited Villa Kokkonen, a house designed by Alvar Aalto, Finland’s most famous architect. It is one of the few private houses he designed.

The house was designed for composer Joonas Kokkonen. The outstanding feature of the interior is the music room where the Kokkonen’s grand piano still stands. It was Aalto’s intention to build a “Home for music”.

Unfortunately I can’t show you the interior of the house as photos are not allowed, but I can show you the exterior. We had the very enthusiastic Antti Pesonen to show us around. He and his charming wife, Elina Viitaila, live in the house and open it to the public.

It was a bleak autumn day, but Antti’s sunny personality brightened up our visit. He walked with us around the house and pointed out its features.

Villa Kokkonen

The house is entirely made of wood and designed to blend in with its surroundings. It was completed in 1969 and today looks just as it did then.

Villa Kokkonen

Villa Kokkonen

Villa Kokkonen

The windows reflect the landscape around the house.

Villa Kokkonen

Villa Kokkonen

Villa Kokkonen

Villa Kokkonen

The pool outside the sauna is not in use any more, but is a delightful feature of the garden.

Villa Kokkonen

An absolute highlight of the visit is the performance by Antti and Elina. Antti’s beautiful voice backed by Elina’s excellent piano playing fills the room. It was purpose built for the composer so the acoustics are perfect. Coffee and cake were excellent too, thank you Elina.

Villa Kokkonen

Photo from Villa Kokkonen website

Visting Villa Kokkonen is a special experience. Anyone with an interest in architecture would absolutely love it and the beautiful performance by Antti and Elina will delight you.

If you are visiting Helsinki take the 30 minute drive to Lake Tuusula for a great day out. There are several other houses to visit, including the house of Sibelius, Finland’s most famous composer (open in summer) and the house of Finnish artist Pekka Halonen.

I’m going back in summer to see the area in a completely different light.

Villa Kokkonen

Tuulimyllyntntie 5

Jarvenpaa

Phone. 358 414326166

http://www.villakokkonen.fi

info@villakokkonen.fi

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 18, 2017

Lucca wall walking

Lovely Lucca is surrounded by a magnificent wall. The current wall is the 4th configuration of the defensive wall built around the town. It was begun in 1545 and completed in 1650. Happily for us, in the 19th century Duchess Maria Luisa of Bourbon commissioned architect Lorenzo Nottolini to turn the top of the wall into a public walkway.

Walking on top of the wall is wonderful in any season, but autumn is special…come for a walk.

There are different types of trees on the wall. The holmoaks are ever green, so they will keep their leaves for the winter.

Lucca autumn

Lucca autumn

Horse chestnut trees keep their colour a little longer than some of the other trees on the wall.

Lucca autumn

I don’t know what these are.

Lucca autumn

The views from the wall are gorgeous.

Lucca autumn

Lucca autumn

Lucca autumn

The tiglio trees put on the most spectacular show of all.

Lucca autumn

Lucca autumn

Lucca autumn

When I return in February Lucca will be wearing its winter coat. I like that too.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 16, 2017

Pruning lavender

Pruning lavender at Casa Debbio is one of my favourite gardening jobs. I put it off as long as I could because the plants were still looking good.  We have about 300 lavender plants now and some of them are shoulder height.

There were some wonderful sunrises at Casa Debbio while I was there.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

The dry summer meant our figs didn’t do well and the fruit trees didn’t grow much, but we did get raspberries, tomatoes and a few pomegranates.  The pomegranate trees turn a gorgeous golden shade.

Casa Debbio

The persimmon tree did very well and grew fruit. Unfortunately the wild goats tried to clamber up the tree to get to the fruit. I eventually pulled the fruit off and left it on the ground for them.

Casa Debbio

It was amazing to watch the trees change colour over the weeks I was there.

Casa Debbio

In my final weeks I pruned the lavender and some other plants that grew well in summer. The flowers were in my hair, pockets and shoes. There were trails of lavender everywhere.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Filippo came after I cut the flowers to shape the larger plants. It is much easier with his power tool than my shears.

Casa Debbio

My friend Paola came to cut lavender too. She makes lavender sachets.

Casa Debbio

Before and after.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

One lunch time called for a pizza with my new favourite topping, stracchino cheese and prosciutto.

Casa Debbio

I enjoyed my autumn weeks at Casa Debbio. The garden is now getting ready to sleep through winter. When I return in February my daffodils, jonquils and freesias should be poking through the soil. I look forward to seeing my peonies to come back to life. If they all survive the winter there will be 60 of them. There will be some new plantings next year…I can’t wait to get started.

Casa Debbio

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 12, 2017

Leaving Bagni di Lucca

I am now on my way home to Australia after several weeks in Italy. Autumn put on a great show this year.

Ponte a Serraglio, my little part of Bagni di Lucca, looked lovely as the leaves on the trees turned yellow and began to fall.

We had some gorgeous sunny days.

Autumn Bagni di Lucca

We had misty days.

Autumn Bagni di Lucca

Autumn Bagni di Lucca

Autumn Bagni di Lucca

We finally had rain and snow on the mountains. We need this after a hot, dry summer which came after a winter drought and a dry spring.

The leaves will soon be gone from the trees.

Autumn Bagni di Lucca

Autumn Bagni di Lucca

Autumn Bagni di Lucca

Autumn Bagni di Lucca

I always miss my Italian home when I leave, but I know I will be back in a few months for more adventures.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 8, 2017

First Snow

It is almost time for me to go home to Australia for a while. I am going back to sub tropical Brisbane, hot weather and beaches.

What could be a better send off than snow? When a friend and I heard that the first snow had fallen in Abetone we took off immediately to see it.

It was raining as we set off along the SS Brennero.

SS Brennero

Soon the rain turned to snow.

SS Brennero

The trees along the road became increasingly laden with snow.

SS Brennero

SS Brennero

Quite suddenly the road became very slippery and the car would not go any further. We reversed until we could find a place to put chains on the tyres. This may sound quite simple, but standing in heavily falling snow in puddles of icy water, reading instructions while trying to put on chains with freezing fingers is not easy.

It took a bit of trial and error and lots of laughs before the chains were in place and we were off again.

Snow chains

We were amazed at the amount of snow that had fallen overnight. Abetone was covered with a blanket of snow and it was still falling.

Abetone

Abetone

Abetone

We found an open restaurant and dried off over lunch.

Soon it was back down the mountain.

Abetone

Autumn is putting on a fine show in the mountains.

Snow Abetone

When I return next year I will be leaving hot summer for deep winter. Perhaps there will be snow in Bagni di Lucca and at Casa Debbio. I hope so.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 6, 2017

Helping hands

Lorenzo Quinn’s hands in the Grand Canal encouraged me to visit Venice. (Any excuse will do)

I went to Venice just for a day. I bought a day pass for the ferry and set off to see the hands emerging from the Grand Canal. They are at Ca’ Sagredo quite close to Rialto.

I saw them from the opposite side of the canal, from the same side, from underneath and beside.

Here are my photos from every angle.

Lorenzo Quinn hands

Lorenzo Quinn hands

Lorenzo Quinn hands

Lorenzo Quinn hands

Lorenzo Quinn hands

Lorenzo Quinn hands

Lorenzo Quinn hands

Lorenzo Quinn hands

The giant white hands remind us that we can play a role in helping to help the save the planet from climate change.  Cities like Venice will suffer from rising sea levels.

Here is what the artist, Lorenzo Quinn, has to say about his work.

Lorenzo Quinn hands

The hands are modelled after the hands of one of his three children. He worries what kind of world we will leave to our children.

The sculpture, weighing 2,200 kilograms, was made in Barcelona using the “lost wax casting” method. The hands are constructed from resin-coated polyurethane foam.  The pieces of the sculptures were carried down the Grand Canal and lifted into place.

Time is running out to see the sculpture in place. It is there until 26th November.

 

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