Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 27, 2018

A word on pintxos

Addictive!

We have just been to San Sebastián to visit dear friends. While there we were given instructions on the best way to enjoy pintxos, or tapas, as these delicious delights are known elsewhere in Spain. San Sebastián is known for having the best in the country.

We were advised not to go to just one establishment and load our plates, but to try a couple in several places. There are many places to choose from in San Sebastián.

Here are some of the pintxos we sampled in San Sebastián and Bilbao. I would like to point out that we did not eat all of these. Txakoli is a slightly sparkling, low alcohol, white wine which is an excellent accompaniment to pintxos. It is poured theatrically from high above the glass…we won’t be trying this at home, but we did enjoy it in San Sebastián.

Pintxos

Pintxos

Pintxos

Pintxos

Pintxos

Pintxos

You simply cannot go to San Sebastián and this wonderful Basque area of northern Spain without getting into the pintxos scene. The bars are lively and fun and the food delicious…something for everyone.

More on wonderful San Sebastián soon.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 24, 2018

Canal Saint-Martin, Paris

Napoleon I ordered the Canal Saint-Martin to be built in 1802. The artificial water way was created to supply fresh water to the growing population. The water diverted from River Ourcq helped avoid dysentery and cholera, supply fountains and allow the streets to be cleaned.

Almost half of its 4.6 kilometre length, between Rue Fauberg du Temple and the Place de la Bastille, was covered in the mid 19th century to create wide boulevards and public spaces.

Saint-Martin canal Paris

Saint-Martin canal Paris

Saint-Martin canal Paris

Saint-Martin canal Paris

Saint-Martin canal Paris

These days the canal is a popular place for residents and visitors. The little parks are green oases in the city and people like to watch the barges and boats navigate the series of locks.

This area, not far from Republique, is now full of restaurants, bars and interesting shops. It is wonderful that these little village like areas are dotted all over Paris, each one quite different.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 20, 2018

Paris in spring

We’ve been to Paris for a few days. It is an easy and inexpensive trip from Pisa and who doesn’t love Paris in spring?

The best way to see Paris is to walk and that is what we did. We stayed near Republique, so our walk began and ended there each day.

Paris

The Marais is one of my favourite areas in Paris.

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

The Uniqlo shop is in an old foundry, what an excellent use of an old building.

Paris

We walked towards the river.

Paris

Paris

The Bateaux Mouches is also an excellent way to see the city. We were lucky with the weather and sailing on the Seine is a great way to spend an hour. You can take a hop on, hop off along the way, but we just did the loop to see the sights.

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

It is always lovely to walk through the Tuileries, the beautiful gardens near the Louvre. Some of the garden beds were in transition, but the peonies were just about to bloom and beginning to look very pretty.

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

A visit to Le Bon Marche, possibly the loveliest department shop in the world is always needed. How I wish I lived beside the food market. The area around it on the left bank is wonderful too.

Paris

Paris

Paris

We took the metro to Montemarte. Despite the ridiculous crowds, this area is very beautiful.

Paris

Paris

The queues to get into Sacre Coeur were far to long so we gave up on that and found another lovely little church nearby were there was almost nobody.

We walked back to Republique from Montmartre. It is an interesting walk.

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

It is easy to see why Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world. It is incredibly beautiful, the food is great and the people friendly and helpful. (They really are)

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 16, 2018

Fireworks in Camogli

On the night before the Sagra del Pesce, Fish Festival, in Camogli there is a parade through the town, fireworks and bonfires on the beach.

We had other plans for the day of the festival but were there for the evening festivities. We arrived in the afternoon and walked around this lovely town again.

On the way in we spotted a fishing boat sailing out of the harbour for a night’s work.

Camogli

The harbour looked fabulous in the afternoon sunshine.

Camogli

Camogli

We climbed up the stairs to the church and the castle for a good view of the huge frypan being prepared for the festival the next day.

Camogli

Camogli

It seems that the area where the church and the old castle stand was once an island.

The interior of the Basilica Santa Maria Assunta is very elaborate.

Camogli

The statue involved in the street parade was on its carrier waiting to be taken through the town.

Camogli

This one is impressive too.

Camogli

The Castel Dragone is imposing.

Camogli

We walked on into the town. There are tiny laneways and lots of stairs in Camogli.

Camogli

The painted buildings are stunning.

Camogli

Camogli

Garibaldi gets around.

Camogli

The Camogli dragon boat was on display as part of the festivities.

Camogli

The boat travels the world to compete in races. Here it is in Venice. (Photo from poster)

Camogli

The giant cake on the beach is one of the structures waiting to be set on fire.

Camogli

After dinner we positioned ourselves on a terrace beside the sea to wait for things to begin.

The sun slowly disappeared.

Camogli

Camogli

Camogli

We waited and we waited…

The parade was a bit of a disappointment. We were expecting bands, music and something amazing.

There was no band, no music, just these being carried down the street. I almost missed it as I had gone into a shop to buy a bottle of water.

Camogli

Camogli

Then it was another wait until the fireworks began…at 11.30. By this time we had been waiting for hours. The crowds streadily grew and finally things started to happen.

My photos of the fireworks were not much good and in the end I just stood there and watched. Here are a few that are OK.

Camogli

Camogli

Camogli

Camogli

Camogli

At end of the fireworks the church was lit beautifully and the bonfires  began.

Camogli

Camogli

Camogli

Camogli

 

Camogli

The fireworks are some of the best I have seen anywhere, and the church looked incredible, but waiting for 4 hours was a bit much. It is always difficult to find out ahead of time what time these events start. Even if you can find something they are often late.

I would definitely attend the event again, but plan ahead a bit better and find a hotel with a view of the beach and watch in comfort.

I have to comment on the well natured crowd, many of whom waited as long as we did. The atmosphere was cheerful, with children playing under the watchful eyes of their parents and everyone out to enjoy themselves. Italians do this very well.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 13, 2018

A visit to Camogli

On the other side of the peninsula of Portofino is the less well known seaside resort of Camogli. It shares the Golfo Paradiso on the Riviera di Levante with Portofino, but is a different kettle of fish.

In the late Middle Ages it was a significant seaport, but today it is a fishing village and beach resort with a more relaxed attitude than its neighbour. It’s name is said to come from ‘case delle mogli’, house of wives. Women took care of the town while the fishermen were out to sea.

Parking in the town is a bit scarce on a busy spring day, so we parked outside the centre and walked along the coast road until the harbour came into view.

Camogli

Camogli

Camogli

Camogli

Camogli

Camogli

From there steps lead down to the water’s edge, a hive of activity.

Camogli

Camogli

Through an arched entrance we found the beach and the colourful houses that line the pedestrian street.

Camogli

On the warm day we visited the beach was full of people soaking up the sun.

Camogli

Camogli

The water is probably still a bit cold, and few people were in the water past their ankles.

Camogli

Walking further on the group of buildings on the point make a dramatic backdrop for the sun worshippers.

Camogli

Camogli

The gorgeous cluster buildings on the point includes the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, which was begun in the 12th century.

Camogli

The esplanade has a great collection of shops, cafes, gelaterias and restaurants, all with excellent sea views.

Camogli

Camogli

The colourful buildings are decorated with trompe l’oeil window shutters, like several other villages in the area.

There are some seriously narrow laneways.

Camogli

We had lunch at Primula, a pretty restaurant on the esplanade. We had seafood, of course, and a Ligurian pesto dish.

Camogli

Camogli has become famous for its Sagra del Pesce, Fish Festival. It was established in 1952 in the optimistic and revival years after WWII. The festival was combined with the feast of San Fortunato, the patron saint of fishermen and is held on the second Sunday in May each year.

In the first year there were 6 small frying pans. The festival grew and a giant frying pan was constructed. The one below is the third of four made of iron.

Camogli

It was used from the 1970s until 1985. Now a stainless steel one is used and 1,000 litres of oil are used to fry 3 tons of fish and 3,000 – 5,000 servings are distributed.

We were not able to attend the Sagra del Pesce this year but we did visit the town the evening before, when a religious parade winds through the town and later on there is a fireworks display and bonfires on the beach…more on that later.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 10, 2018

The most beautiful cloister in Italy?

When, in 1739, Abbess Ippolita Carmignani asked architect Dominico Vaccaro to create a cloistered garden suited to “the decorum of noble ladies” for the church of Santa Chiara in Naples, she was probably a little surprised by the result.

Santa Chiara cloister

Santa Chiara cloister

Vaccaro must have been inspired by the dazzling sun and vibrant colours of the city. He chose a geometric design for the garden and filled it with glorious pillars and benches decorated with earthenware tiles, known locally as majolica.

Santa Chiara cloister

Santa Chiara cloister

Vines, lemons, oranges and figs climb up the pillars reflecting the plants in the garden.

Santa Chiara cloister

The bench panels depict every day rural life in the 1700s in vivid colours.

Santa Chiara cloister

The corridors are lined with frescoes.

Santa Chiara cloister

Santa Chiara cloister

Santa Chiara cloister

The low walls on the other side are tiled.

Santa Chiara cloister

We were lucky to be there in spring when the garden was looking lovely.

Santa Chiara cloister

Santa Chiara cloister

Santa Chiara cloister

Santa Chiara cloister

Santa Chiara cloister

Santa Chiara cloister

Santa Chiara cloister

Santa Chiara cloister

Santa Chiara cloister

The Santa Chiara nuns lived in seclusion which meant that few people ever saw the beautiful cloister. In 1924 the nuns swapped convents with the nearby Franciscan friars who led less restricted lives. The Friars gradually invited philosophers and intellectuals into their garden and finally, in the 1970s, the public was allowed access.

There is a museum beside the cloister and the ruins of a Roman Thermal Bath Complex, both of which are excellent.

On the way out of the cloister is an enormous nativity scene. It is part of a series of nativity scenes created in Naples in the 18th century during the reign of Ferdinand VI of Bourbon. It is made from papier-mâché, cork, wood and fabric. The heads and limbs of the figures are terracotta.

It is behind glass, so there is some reflection in the photos.

Santa Chiara

The cloister is behind the Santa Chiara church. Look on the website for the opening hours as there is no sign on the outside to inform the public. (There is a handy sign on the inside, which you can see when the cloister is open)

http://www.santachiara.info

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 8, 2018

A special nativity scene

In the Abbazia di San Michele Arcangelo on the island of Procida is a nativity scene made almost entirely of sea shells.

Nativity scene Procida

Somebody clearly took a lot of time to create the little scene which includes some daily life scenes as well as the wise men, shepherd and the baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph in the stable.

Nativity scene Procida

Nativity scene Procida

 

Nativity scene Procida

Nativity scene Procida

Nativity scene Procida

I love to find these little treasures on my travels. I am constantly amazed by the things that people do.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 5, 2018

Procida, an island in the Bay of Naples

While most people might have heard of Capri and possibly even Ischia, I think that Procida is a bit more elusive. It is the smallest of the islands in the Bay of Naples and has charms all of its own.

We took the ferry from Molo Beverello in the port of Naples. The trip takes about 40 minutes. Ferries go fairly regularly.

We landed at Marina Grande and wandered along the edge of the sea looking at the colourful buildings that line the port.

Procida

Procida

We decided to take a bus up to Terra Murata, the historical centre of the island. The tourist office was not open, but the signora at the ticket office gave us some information. We waited a while for the little bus to arrive (the buses to Terra Murata leave the port every 40 minutes) and soon we were driving along some of the narrowest streets known to carry a bus.

Procida

We went through an even more narrow arch and arrived in the upper piazza.

Procida

We went a little further on to the entrance of what was once a prison, where we got off the bus. A short, uphill walk took us to an excellent viewing point.

Procida

Procida

Nearby is the Abbey of San Michele Arcangelo clinging to the edge of the cliff. The church was begun in 1026 in Benedictine times and has had many modifications over the centuries.

Procida

It has an amazing terrace on the side of the cliff.

Procida

It has a great sundial.

Procida

The interior is stunning with an intricate wooden ceiling and trap doors in the floor where priests and wealthy residents were buried.

Procida

There is a very special nativity scene in the church which I will show you in another post.

It was time for lunch so we walked back towards the Piazzetta, past houses built into a high wall.

Procida

Procida

On the way we stopped at Santa Margherita Nuova which dates from the second half of the 16th century.

Procida

From the terrace there are wonderful views up to the Abbey.

Procida

The gorgeous Marina Corricella managed to shine below, even though the day was a little dull.

Procida

Procida

We stopped briefly in the Piazzetta.

Procida

It was then a short walk down to Marina Corricella, past colourful houses. Scenes from Il Postino (The Postman) were filmed here. It is a very pretty part of the island, you can see why it might be chosen as a film set.  Scenes from The Talented Mr Ripley were also filmed on the island.

Procida

The buildings along the water’s edge are painted different colours, all with balconies looking towards the sea. It is the oldest marina on the island and many buildings date from the 17th century.

Procida

Some have added a modern touch. You have to admire this effort, with its marine theme.

Procida

It was comforting to see a group of gentlemen discussing, and possibly solving, some world issues.

Procida

Our lovely friends Stephanie and Paul recommended La Gorgonia for lunch. They introduced us to Ischia last year and we are always happy with their suggestions.

Procida

There were pretty views from the restaurant. The large building on top of the hill is the former prison. Palazzo d’Avalos was built in 1500 by the d’Avalos family, governors of the island until 1700. It was converted to a prison in 1830 and closed in 1988. It is possible to visit, but you must book ahead.

Procida

 

Procida

Obviously we ordered seafood. First course was dried fish, which was delicious.

Procida

Second course was also fish, with pepperonata and a speciality of the island, lemon salad. We even managed to save some room for dolce.

After lunch we walked back up the hill to wait for the bus near the Piazzetta. After waiting for some time, we decided to walk back to Marina Grande to take the ferry back to Naples.

To our great surprise it only took about 10 minutes to arrive at the port. The bus took quite a long time to drive up, so we expected to take some time to do the trip on foot. Clearly the bus takes a circuitous route to the top of the island. Next time we won’t be waiting for the bus in either direction.

Procida is a lovely island to visit. It is completely different from Ischia and Capri, much more quiet and relaxed. We were there in spring, before the busy season, but I think it would be less busy than the other islands even in summer.

It has quite a large local population, around 11,000, on an island only 4.1 square kilometres. There are few hotels, so Procida has an authentic southern Italian feel. Its dilapidated buildings only add to its charm. The food is great, there are some pretty beaches…why not take a day trip to Procida?

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 1, 2018

A slow spring at Casa Debbio

As I have mentioned in other posts, spring was slow to arrive this year. Casa Debbio is in Vergemoli in the mountains of Garfagnana, an area where the Appenine and Apuan Alps meet. We are just over 600 metres above sea level.

When I arrived in late February winter weather was still with us. Here is the view of Vergemoli from Casa Debbio.

Casa Debbio

 

Casa Debbio

This weather continued all through March. It rained most days, with occasional hail and snow. These photos were taken on the few fine days. The only colour at Casa Debbio was in the form of our lovely daffodils.

Casa Debbio

I do like the wintery views around Casa Debbio.

Gradually, and several weeks late, things began to turn green.

Casa Debbio

Our garden began to grow and the rain persisted.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Our weeping cherry grew buds.

Casa Debbio

Our magnolia tree grew buds, but rain, hail and snow killed them and they all fell off.

The weeping cherry flowers lasted only a few days before the leaves began to appear.

Finally our lavender began to grow and the rosemary plants flowered. We have about 350 lavender plants and almost as many rosemary.

Our 60 peonies all survived the winter and grew quickly, some more than others.

Casa Debbio

Wisteria buds appeared.

Casa Debbio

…and the trees kept turning green

The little crop of daffodils that must have been planted many years ago made an appearance.

Casa Debbio

Violets appeared almost overnight.

Casa Debbio

Our cherry tree was covered with blossoms, but we have no bees this year so I wonder if we will get cherries.

The greening continued.

Peony buds grew, wisteria flowers grew and rhododendrons grew.

Casa Debbio

The ricotta plant produced flowers that start green and slowly turn cream.

Some of my beautiful peonies grew flowers. There are many more to come.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Bugs love peonies.

The quince tree is covered with blossom.

There are carpets of blue flowers under the trees.

Casa Debbio

The kiwi plants are thriving.

Casa Debbio

We should get figs this year.

Casa Debbio

Pretty little aquilegias are popping up everywhere.

Casa Debbio

Wild daisies are covering our terraces.

Casa Debbio

The Frassino, or flowering ash trees are magnificent this year.

Casa Debbio

This is the latest on the wisteria. We are hoping our 2 pergolas will be covered this year.

These are the latest views of the garden.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

 

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

….and the views from the house.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

 

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio is available for rent this summer. Let me know if you know someone who is interested in a restful holiday in an authentic Italian mountain village.

Next summer we are looking for someone who would like to rent the house for all of summer. I think it would be the perfect base to stay, write a book, paint a landscape and make an occasional trip to one of the hundred or more tiny villages dotted around our Tuscan mountains. Please share this post with anyone you think may like to stay at Casa Debbio.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 27, 2018

A surprise In Sorrento

Just off Piazza Tasso, the main square in Sorrento, is a surprise. There is a deep ravine which holds a group of old mills, now abandoned.

From the top only a couple of buildings are visible, but there are 25 in total. They were flour mills and saw mills, powered by water from fast flowing streams. Some date from the 13th century. They were abandoned in the early 20th century and are now disappearing in the undergrowth.

Sorrento

Sorrento

You can see how deep the ravine is in this photo.

Sorrento

I think it is possible to walk through the area, but I am not sure how to do so. There is a track from the top, but it has collapsed in a couple of places. There must be another entrance. I will investigate on my next visit to Sorrento.

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