Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 20, 2019

Spring has arrived at Casa Debbio

A relatively warm March in our area has meant that spring has arrived early this year at Casa Debbio.

We have daffodils popping up everywhere.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

A pink helibore is thriving under a cherry tree.

Casa Debbio

Several tree peonies have buds already and most of my herbaceous peonies are poking through the soil.

Casa Debbio

Our gorgeous weeping cherry started blooming last week and this week is full of blossoms and the bees are loving it.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

We have bought a couple more…we have to keep our bees happy.

Wild goats must have been going elsewhere for breakfast this year. We have camellias!

Casa Debbio

Our new magnolia stellata has bloomed.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Filippo has done a wonderful job over the winter. Everything is neat and tidy and ready for spring growth. These scenes will look completely different in a couple of weeks.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

He has also cleared some more acacia to allow a sambucca tree to grow. We now have another terrace where we can plant fruit trees. This will begin soon.

Please don’t forget to tell all your friends about our Italian mountain house available for rent this spring and summer.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 10, 2019

Magnolias in Lucca

Each March Corso Garibaldi in Lucca becomes a pink and white explosion of beauty. Here is a description I found in a local publication many years ago.

“If you will be there around the half of March you’ll fill the emotion of walking between the wings of magnolia trees, whose leafage full of flowers looks like the big rose coloured fireworks even though…unnaturally static.”

Half of me wonders why someone doesn’t take advice from an English speaker and the other half loves these translations.

Here is gorgeous Corso Garibaldi right now.

Corso Garibaldi Lucca

 

Corso Garibaldi Lucca

 

Corso Garibaldi Lucca

Corso Garibaldi Lucca

 

Corso Garibaldi Lucca

 

Corso Garibaldi Lucca

Corso Garibaldi Lucca

Corso Garibaldi Lucca

The flowers have come early this year. Be quick if you want to see them, the spectacle doesn’t last long.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 8, 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

I am pleased that I arrived in Italy in time to see the last parade at Carnevale Viareggio. I have been several times now and I love it. The photos below don’t really give an idea of what it is like to be there.

The crowds are huge and swarm all over the road where the floats travel. It is absolute chaos…in a fun way. Anywhere else there would be barricades to keep people back from these huge floats, but not Italy. There are people pushing babies in strollers wandering beneath the floats with giant moving parts, whole families standing in front of a monolith moving slowly towards them.

The music is so loud it thumps in your chest and there is so much going on you really need to go more than once. There are hundreds of people in fantastic costumes dancing in front of the floats and performances happening on the floats…an amazing spectacle.

The floats feature political satire and social comment. Some are easy to understand and others not. Donald Trump is an obvious choice and so easy to ridicule. There were 2 Donald floats this year.

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Frida Kahlo representing Freedom and Tolerance.

 

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Locked up…are we all in chains?

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Please help!

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Some participants are on a much smaller scale, but no less impressive.

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Our obsession with selfies and the beautiful people on the red carpet.

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Turning into butterflies.

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

I’m not sure what this one means.

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

 

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Knights on horseback.

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Salvador Dali and friends.

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Ulysses and the siren…beware of bewitching sirens.

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

The last Snow White.

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

The beast.

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

My favourite…High Tide, a huge whale covered in plastic.

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

Carnevale Viareggio 2019

It took 2 hours for the floats to do the circuit. It is an incredible spectacle…go if you can.

A word of caution. My wallet was stolen from my zipped handbag which didn’t leave my arm. The number of thefts made the news. If you go take nothing with you!

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 3, 2019

Gallivanting

My mother would say that I am off gallivanting again. I am not sure she means this in a positive way, but I think it is a great word.

I am now in Helsinki on my way to Italy. I love this city in any season. It is now winter, although there are tiny signs of spring showing. The weather has been good. It is cold, but the sky has been mostly blue…perfect for a walk by the sea.

Helsinki

Helsinki

Helsinki

Helsinki

Helsinki

The blue sky makes a beautiful backdrop.

Helsinki

Helsinki

Helsinki

There is still some snow about, gathered in piles here and there. More is forecast in the next week, but I won’t see it. I fly to Italy today.

I can’t wait to see how my garden and Casa Debbio has survived the winter and to see my friends in Italy, my home for the next few months.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 19, 2019

Bargain

My open days at Sarva every Saturday have been a great success. I am gathering a local following and sales have been better than I expected.

I leave for Italy in a few days and I am clearing the racks to make room for some autumn designs. My friend Sarva, who owns the shop, is going to continue opening the shop each Saturday.

He does made to measure and alterations. Monday to Friday the front door is closed to allow him to get on with his work, but you can ring the doorbell for attention.

Pop up

For 3 days, Thursday 21, Friday 22 and Saturday 23rd February the shop will be open from 10.00-2.00 and everything will be $50 or less.

We are at 239 Boundary St, West End on the corner of Corbett St. There is a vegan restaurant on one side and the very excellent Alphabet Cafe on the other and a brand new vegan tapas bar just in case you get hungry.

Drop in for a bargain.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 15, 2019

Eat

When I tell people I spend 6 months every year in Italy a common remark is “You must love the food.” I certainly do, but I also miss the wonderful variety of delicious food we have here in Australia.

I live in West End, an inner city suburb of Brisbane, and minutes from my front door I can enjoy food from all corners of the globe, including Asian…Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and more, French, Italian, Lebanese, Greek, Indian…I could go on. I love the stunning variety on offer.

Here are just some of my favourite places to eat in my city. I will start with my regular haunts in West End.

The Morning After serves the most delicious all day breakfast and lunch and their coffee is great.

Eat in Brisbane

Lokal + Co has a Scandinavian influence.

Eat in Brisbane

It is hard to find better Greek food in this city than at Nostimo, the wonderful restaurant at the Greek Club.

Eat in Brisbane

Chop Chop Chang serves truly delicious Thai food. I love their bao, but you need to get in early as they often run out. The snapper spring rolls are amazing.

Eat in Brisbane

Mr Bunz also has great bao.

Eat in Brisbane

Ol’ School does the best fish and chips. Here is a tip. Order just one serve of chips for 2 or 3 people.

Eat in Brisbane

When I need at taste of Italy I go to Marchetti in the city centre for great coffee and a Napolitana sfogliatella. You really need to try one of these.

Eat in Brisbane

An eternal favourite place to eat is Harveys in James St, New Farm. If they ever take their Asian chicken salad off the menu there will be a riot.

Eat in Brisbane

 

I have only been once to Kin & Co Cafe in Tenerife but their pea pancakes will call me back.

Eat in Brisbane

We have many new restaurant in Brisbane right now. I have tried a few and was delighted.

Hellenika is quickly becoming everyone’s place to go for delicious Greek food.

Eat in Brisbane

Persone is an Italian resaurant in the brand new Brisbane Quarter in the city. It has fabulous views over Southbank as well as great food.

Eat in Brisbane

Mr Percival at the Howard Smith Wharves under the Storey Bridge is a great location and serves lobster rolls (among other things). It will be a good winter location for me. I found it much too hot to go back in summer.

Eat in Brisbane

I have been home for about 3 months and in just over a week I will be heading back to Italy for 4 months of Italian food…it’s a tough life.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 8, 2019

Beautiful

I have just been to the Easton Pearson Archive at the Museum of Brisbane at City Hall in Brisbane. Lydia Pearson and Pam Easton are the world renowned fashion design duo who hail from Brisbane.

I have known the designers since almost the beginning and have followed their careers all the way. I have several pieces that I have bought over the years. I was always delighted to find their designs in fabulous shops on my world travels, Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Browns in London, Biffi in Milan and once in a wonderful boutique in Viareggio.

Come for a walk through the collection.

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

 

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Easton Pearson

Pam Easton and Lydia Pearson began their partnership in 1989. Their careers in fashion started in different areas. Lydia’s skills were in pattern making, garment construction and running a workshop. Pamela was skilled in commercial operation, creating ranges and establishing a brand. They managed all aspects of the label together.

Their first shop was established in 1992 beside their Brisbane workshop. They attended Paris Fashion Week every year from 1999. By 2011 their garments were stocked in 140 stores in 24 countries.

Easton Pearson designs are known for the artisanal techniques they employed…intricate embroidery, beading, hand painting and fabric manipulation. One of their overseas workshops was based in Mumbai and worked exclusively for Easton Pearson. It employed 300 workers over the duo’s career.

They maintained transparency in their supply chain and ensured the well being and fair pay of artisans. They were at the forefront of what is now known as “slow fashion”.

Easton Pearson closed in 2016 but their garments are treasured by anyone lucky enough to own them.

The Easton Pearson Archive continues at the Museum of Brisbane until 22nd April 2019.

Open 10.00am – 5.00pm Monday to Thursday and 10.00am – 7.00pm Friday.

Admission $12

http://www.museumofbrisbane.com.au

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 31, 2019

Snow at Casa Debbio

Our lovely Filippo took photos of Casa Debbio covered with snow. How I wish I was there to see it!

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Thank you Filippo for showing us the snowfall.

Another friend has taken a photo of the snow beginning to fall at Ponte a Serraglio where our apartment is. This is our view.

Ponte a Serraglio

I hope there is some snow next month when I get there.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 27, 2019

Why Italy?

It will soon be 16 years since we bought our apartment in Bagni di Lucca in northern Tuscany. It is easy to remember the date when we first found the town. It was 1st March 2003, my 50th birthday.

I am often asked why we decided to buy a house in Italy. The answer is simple, we wanted a base in Europe and Italy was the logical choice for me. I lived in Italy for a year 45 years ago and once Italy gets under your skin there is no shaking it off. My son was born in Sorrento, so there will always be a connection.

We did little research. A friend suggested Lucca so we went to Lucca to look for a property. We found several we liked but they cost more than we wanted to pay. I had seen the name Bagni di Lucca on the internet and it wasn’t far away so we drove 30 minutes from Lucca along the Serchio river to find it.

I remember standing on the bridge in Ponte a Serraglio (one of the villages that make up Bagni di Lucca) thinking that if it looked pretty in winter it was going to be even better in spring and summer.

Ponte a Serraglio

Our view

Ponte a Serraglio

Ponte a Serraglio from above

Ponte a Serraglio

Our apartment is the one with the tiny balcony over the bridge

Ponte a Serraglio

Our apartment is the one with the balcony (including washing line)

We liked that it had a bar, a couple of restaurants, a post office, shop and seemed lively and was close to many things we were interested in. There are ski fields 40 kilometres away. It is close to Lucca and the gorgeous Tuscan and Ligurian coastlines and it is easy to get to Florence, Pisa and beyond.

We found our lovely apartment which sits beside the river and is in the centre of our charming village. I can walk across the bridge to our local bar which opens from 6.00am until late and serves excellent coffee, its own delicious pastries, light lunch and evening aperitivo. It is the place where everyone meets.

People ask why we would want to go back to the same place every year. I like it because I feel at home in both countries. I arrive in Italy and I am instantly at home and can get on with my second life. We have made lots of local friends, Italians and foreigners from all over the world who have made Bagni di Lucca home.

We use Bagni di Lucca as a base to travel all over Italy. We have been to almost every region. We do day trips, or stay a couple of nights and usually do a 2 week trip each year. We have favourite places to visit and find ourselves returning regularly to the Amalfi Coast, Venice, Chianti and Portovenere and surrounds.

We also travel to other European countries. We can drive to France in a little over 4 hours and we have driven a few times to Spain and to Germany.  A couple of years ago we drove to Croatia, stopping along the way in some fabulous northern Italian towns.

On the way home to Australia we stop in a different place each time. Last year we stayed a week in Copenhagen and the year before that in Iceland. This year we are planning a trip to London, Oxford, Bath, Cornwall and Devon. We fly Finnair, so we stop in Helsinki for a few days each time we travel to and from Italy. It has been a lot of fun to spend time in Finland, my grandfather’s country of birth.

Several years ago we built a house in the mountains near Bagni di Lucca. We began with a pile of rocks and now it is our beautiful Casa Debbio. The house has been finished for 7 years and our garden is an ongoing work in progress. The entire property was covered in brambles when we bought it and it has been a delight to see our garden grow on the terraces around the house.

This is what we started with.

Casa Debbio

Our pile of rocks

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio from above

Here is some of our ever expanding garden. We have 350 lavender plants and almost as many rosemary, 65 peonies, olive, chestnut, hazelnut, cherry, fig, quince, apple, pear, peach, pomegranate, persimmon and walnut trees and raspberries, kiwi and tomatoes growing.

We had intended to build it and sell it but the GFC got in the way so we decided to furnish it and rent it. One day we will sell it but right now we love it and I would love to see the garden grow for a few more years. This year there will be more peony plantings and probably more lavender and some artichokes…it keeps getting bigger.

I think buying a place in Italy is the best thing we have ever done. The apartment was not expensive and spending 6 months in Italy would not be possible or as enjoyable for us without it. Being able to spend that time in Italy has opened up a whole new world. I love Australia and it will always be my home, but I love my time in Italy too.

I will be heading off again in about a month, first to snowy Helsinki then on to Bagni di Lucca via Milan. We are planning a trip to Puglia in spring as well as a few other short jaunts. I hope you will follow our adventures on the blog.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 13, 2019

On the hunt for Busatti

The Busatti family has been weaving in the cellars of the Palazzo Morgalanti in Anghiari, Tuscany, since 1842.

The first wool carding machines were dated from the late 1700s to early 1800s when the Napoleonic troops decided to produce uniforms for the Grand Army after the French invasion. To dye them blue they started cultivating guado, a plant in the brasicca family,  known since Piero della Francesca, who used it to paint his frescoes.

The machines were originally steam powered. They were electrified in the 1930s by Livio Busatti when the company took its current look and structure.

Busatti produce exquisite textiles in linen and cotton which they turn into tablecloths, curtains, bath towels and more stunning things for your home.

I set off to find Busatti headquarters in Anghiari on a cold, blustery autumn day. Doors and windows were firmly shut against the bitter wind. Like many Tuscan towns Anghiari sits proudly on top of a hill.

Anghiari

Anghiari

I parked just outside the town centre and walked up the hill and through the impressive portal half way up the steep slope.

Anghiari

Anghiari

Just inside I came upon “the straight street”. Corso Giacomo Matteotti was commissioned by Pier Saccone Tarlati in 1321. It is a 7 kilometre road that connects Anghiari to Sansepolcro and has always been a communication and trade route for the valley.

On 29th of June 1440 it witnessed the battle of Anghiari and from the following year onwards the competition called Palio della Vittoria ( to celebrate the victory of Florence) has been held along the Croce. Today the Palio is still run on foot from the Maesta di Santa Maria alla Vittoria to Piazza Baldaccio Bruni.

Anghiari

 

Anghiari

I found the Busatti showroom nearby and went in to admire their treasures.

Busatti

I have collected several pieces over the years and I love them. I did add to my collection. It is possible to do a tour of the weaving facility…another day.

Busatti

Busatti

It was much too cold and windy to discover the delights of Anghiari but I will return on a better day. The town looked charming despite the bleak day.

I returned to Sansepolcro where I had chosen to stay the night. It too was shuttered against the wind but there is much to see in this lovely town. A return visit is required.

Sansepolcro

I passed a school and museum dedicated to lacemaking and embroidery. I would love to have gone in, but it was closed.

Sansepolcro

Nearby was the home of Piero della Francesca, the early Renaissance painter. (1415-1492) He is famous for his magnificent frescoes. His History of the True Cross is in Arezzo at the church of San Francesco.  His house was closed, but I could peer in through the glass door.

Sansepolcro

I found an open door and went into the Oratory of the Holy Sepulchre. The date above the door was 1596.

Sansepolcro

The lovely frescoes inside were painted by the 3 sons of Alberto Alberti.

Sansepolcro

To my delight I found another Busatti shop! Of course I went in and found lots of different items. Their range is huge.

Sansepolcro

It is possible to find small selections of Busatti in shops all over Italy, but it is great to find these dedicated shops that show a broad range.

 

Busatti is a member of Italian Historical Business, an association born in Florence that gathers business with exceptional tradition and history.

The Busatti shop and showroom in Anghiari  is at 14 Via Mazzini.

(39) 0575 788424  Email…busattishop@busatti.com

The Sansepolcro shop is at 48a Via Piero della Francesca.

(39) 0575 741539. Email…busattiborgo@gmail.com

There is also a shop in Arezzo at 48 Via Corso.

(39) 0575 355295  Email…busattishop@busatti.com

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