Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 27, 2017

Casa Debbio update 2017

I am now back in Australia for a couple of months, leaving our garden at Casa Debbio in the capable hands of Filippo.

The new growth each spring still amazes me. When I arrived in February, winter was almost over and there were signs of new beginnings. Once things start to turn green it all happens very quickly.

The garden has really come on this year. Our first lavender is now 5 years old, the second planting is 4 years old and the lower terrace is in its 3 summer.

The first 2 photos were taken 2 years ago. The difference this summer is amazing.


We have also planted another 100 lavender along the sides of the road up to the house. They are still quite small, but they are growing well.

The new pergola has been put to good use and we have had many lunches on the terrace.

Wisteria and roses are growing over the 2 pergolas. I am hoping they will be covered by next summer.

The last of my peonies flowered just before we left. There were 50 dark crimson blooms on one and 30 white flowers on the one beside it.

The hydrangeas were beginning to flower. The oak leaf hydrangea is fabulous and the 5 plants I have seem to be thriving.

Aquilegias do very well at Casa Debbio. They are great little plants and flower for quite a while.

The weather this spring was glorious. I rained for months last year, but this year was dry. We had warm weather early,  but then cold days returned. We had the promise of cherries, but the cool weather changed that. The blossoms came, then little cherries , but they didn’t come to much. The tree looks fine, so maybe next year will be better. We have planted 6 new cherry trees, along with apple, pear, pomegranate, olive, mulberry, persimmon, quince and peach trees. Our raspberries and tomatoes are thriving and we have a gooseberry bush.

The fig trees are laden. There are a few old trees and we have planted a dozen new ones.

Geraniums this year are happy with the fine days and are looking great.

The hardest thing for me to leave is the view. It is stunning and ever changing. The house faces south and we have sunshine all day.

I love fine, clear days, but I also love the misty days when the village below appears and disappears under the swirling mist.

Casa Debbio has been rented this summer by people from Australia, Scotland, Belgium and Poland. There are a couple of weeks available in August and September…tell your friends.

We think Casa Debbio is the perfect place to enjoy peace and quiet in a gorgeous setting. The only sounds you will hear come from the local birds and, if you are lucky Sisto, who lives below us, will play his music in the afternoons.

The village of Vergemoli is a 10 minute walk, or a 3 minute drive, if you feel like a chat with the locals. In summer there is often a party in the piazza. Drop ins are welcome.

I am counting the days until my return in fabulous autumn…time to prepare the garden for the winter.

It all started with this…amazing.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 25, 2017

Snorkelling in Silfra

One of the highlights of our Iceland trip was snorkelling in a freezing lake. I didn’t do it, but I did get to watch our friends Jodie, Allan and Hannah. Jodie was the superstar planner of our Iceland visit and Allan did a great job driving us all over Iceland.

Dive Silfra ( organises fabulous diving or snorkelling experiences in one of the top dive sites in the world. Jodie chose the Silfra fissure site, the only place where you can dive or snorkel in the crack between 2 continental plates. The underwater visibility is over 100 metres. The water comes from the nearby Lanjokull glacier. It is filtered through porous underground lava for 30 – 100 years until it reaches the north end of the Thinvellir lake.

The water is always between 2 and 4 degrees. I couldn’t snorkel because I get asthma caused by temperature changes and I am only just under the 65 age limit. I was happy to watch, especially when I saw the procedure to prepare for the event.

We arrived bright and early to the preparation area.

First of all our snorkellers put on their thermals…who doesn’t love a onesie, especially one with an escape hatch in the back?

Then came the dry suits.

Neck bands, head covers and gloves came next.

Jodie had room for someone else in her dry suit.

Then they were off to the water.

The instructor gathered the group for final instructions.

The water is very cold. The snorkellers were instructed to put their faces into the water. Apparently they go numb quite quickly…sounds like fun.

The instructor soon got them moving through the water.

From above we could tell they were having a great time. They were certainly excited as the appeared above the water and they were helped to take their flippers and head covers off.

All 3 declared it was the best thing they had ever done. The cold water didn’t seem to be a bother at all.

Then it was back to base with excited chatter all the way. The suits were hauled off and there was a welcome hot chocolate.

Thank you to the wonderful guide Deyan.

Here are some photos Deyan took from his perspective.

He even managed one of me and Jodie’s Dad.

These were taken by the snorkellers.

…and a video.


Jodie did an amazing job making plans for our Iceland trip. She sniffed out all the best places to go. If you are thinking of visiting Iceland let me know and I will put you in touch with her.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 22, 2017

Where America meets Europe

The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet in Iceland. This is the only place  on land where we can easily see the effects of 2 major plates drifting apart. The plates are constantly diverging, causing fissures and gullies and creating a diverse and stunning landscape. The plates move at the rate of 2 centimetres a year.

Standing on the edge at Thinvellir national park.

Thinvellir national park is a popular place to visit in Iceland. Thinvellir lake is the largest in Iceland and it is magnificent. Like much of Iceland, the landscape is dramatic, with rocky cliffs, waterways and mountain backdrops.

We were there at the beginning of summer and there were wildflowers and new life everywhere.

It is possible to snorkel or dive in the lake. The water is crystal clear with visibility to 100 metres. You can actually see the giant fissures between the plates.  I will tell you all about that in the next post.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 19, 2017

Walk behind a waterfall

While in Iceland we visited its most famous waterfall, Seljalandsfoss. It is part of the Seljalands river and originates in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajokull.

The waterfall is spectacular. It is around 60 metres high in a stunning landscape.

Rainbows form in the spray from the falling water.

The best bit is that you can walk behind the waterfall. We had bought some gorgeous plastic raincoats at the supermarket in Reykjavik and they were put to good use.

We entered the track to the waterfall from the left side and it a reasonably easy walk. The path is wet, but surprisingly not too slippery.

Being behind the waterfall is breathtaking. The clips on the side of the supermarket raincoat didn’t work very well, so it kept flying up over my head. Juggling a camera that was getting wet while holding down the raincoat kept me busy.


The path out of the waterfall was steep and rocky. There was a bit of a holdup when a couple of people had to be dragged up. At that point I put the camera away and hauled myself up the slope.

The view from the other side was marvellous.

It was definitely worth getting wet and muddy to go behind the waterfall.

As we left I saw some brave souls walking up a very steep path to a cave beside the waterfall. I didn’t need that experience.

Seljalandsfoss is on the south coast of Iceland near Vik. It is lit up in winter, which must look stunning, but it is not possible to walk behind as it is too slippery. Seeing the waterfall is fabulous, but the walk behind it is a great experience.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 16, 2017

Sunny Helsinki

Our week in Iceland is over and we are now in Helsinki, our last stop before heading home to Brisbane. Summer has arrived and Helsinki is stunning. There are flowers everywhere.

The Helsinki cathedral looks spectacular with its blue backdrop.

The Russian church is surrounded by lilacs.

The Sea Pool is open and attracting crowds.

There is music in the street.


Esplanadi park is looking wonderful and Helsinki residents are enjoying the sunshine.


I have lots more to share on our time in Italy, Greece and fabulous Iceland. There will be more posts over the next couple of months while I am back home, planning my next visit in September. I will be back at Casa Debbio in autumn to get the garden ready for the winter.



Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 12, 2017

Diamonds are forever

The diamond in your ring might be forever but the gems on Diamond Beach in Iceland are fleeting.

The ice diamonds on the black beach are chunks of ice that float down from nearby Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon, part of Vatnajokull glacier national park. ( Are you getting your head around the names?) The ice comes from Breidamerkurjokull glacier. Huge blocks of ice, more than 1,000 years old break away from the glacier and float into the lagoon, then out to sea.

The lagoon is littered with enormous bits of glacier.

If the day had been clear we may have taken to the water in a boat, but it was raining and windy so we passed on that.

Ice diamonds are washed onto the black beach where the sparkling blue, white and transparent ice chunks form gorgeous sculptures. Some are made smooth by the ocean waves and some are rough diamonds. Strolling through a field of diamonds is a delight.

As with many things in Iceland, you will not be alone for the Diamond beach experience. Don’t be put off by that, wandering among diamond ice is magical.

Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon is in South Iceland beside ring-road 1. It is a must see in Iceland.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 10, 2017

Skogafoss waterfall, Iceland

Skogafoss waterfall is huge! It is also considered one of the most beautiful in Iceland. That is saying something, I think we must have seen dozens of waterfalls on our drive along the south coast alone.

The waterfall is on the river Skoga, which originates from the Eyjafjallajokull glacier and the westernmost part of the Myrdalsjokall glacier. (Did you get those names?  There will be questions later). As the river approaches the edge of the moor, it runs over a layer of hard rock then it rushes down in a 15 metre wide and 62 metre high waterfall.

It is possible to get quite close to the waterfall and get some sense of the power of the rushing water, and get a bit wet.

There are just over 500 steps to take you to the top of the waterfall. They are a bit difficult at the bottom, but get easier as you climb. There are regular platforms where you can stop, admire the view, and catch your breath.

The view from the bottom of the waterfall is more spectacular, but it looks wonderful from the top too.

The white dots on the cliffs are nesting seagulls.

There is farmland beside the waterfall, where sheep graze, oblivious to their gorgeous surroundings.


Yhere is no entry fee to see the waterfall, there is ample parking and a cafe awaits you at the bottom.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 6, 2017

Until next time

It is time to leave Italy and return to Australia.

Time to say goodbye to Casa Debbio. The garden will be in the capable hands of Filippo.

Time to say goodbye to Ponte a Serraglio.

Time to drive past the gorgeous Ponte della Maddalena for the last time (this visit).

I will be back in September for a while to prune the garden and get it ready for winter.

We are not going straight home. We will spend a week in Iceland and a few days in Helsinki before heading for Brisbane. There will be photos.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 3, 2017

Neptune undercover

The fabulous Neptune fountain in the Piazza Signoria in Florence is being renovated.

The artwork will be restored and the waterworks renovated. The marble surfaces will be cleaned and any unstable marble will be removed and replaced. The bronze sculptures will be removed to allow access to the pipes carrying water to the spouts. The bronze figures will then be renovated and replaced…a huge job.

I feel a bit sorry for one time visitors to Florence who will miss seeing this magnificent fountain, but these things have to be done.

Meanwhile Cosimo de Medici will keep an eye on things.

The money for the project is being donated by Salvatore Ferragamo. The work is expected to be finished by a December 2018. The renovated fountain will be uncovered on December 10, the anniversary of it original opening in 1574.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 30, 2017

In the middle of nowhere

We were driving through the gorgeous countryside in the Maremma area of Tuscany, surrounded by new spring growth…

When we came upon the ruins of a tiny church between olive trees. We drove on a little further and found the road that led to the crumbling building.

We discovered it is the remains of the Monastero di San Bruzio, The Church of John the Baptist.

There is a surprise at every turn when driving through stunning Tuscany. This is an area that needs further investigation.

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