Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 21, 2019

Locorotondo, Puglia

I’ll take you back to Puglia for the next few posts. We covered a fair bit of territory on our visit earlier this year.

Locorotondo means round town. If you were able to view it from above you could easily see that. It looks very pretty view from the nearby town of Cisternino.

Like many towns in Puglia (and all over Italy) Locorotondo sits on top of a hill.

We found a park not far from the Centro Storico and began our walk around the old town at Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II where we found the tourist information office.

Walking on from the piazza the old town hall, now the municipal library, with the clock tower stands out.

Turning left into pretty Via Morelli the Baroque Palazzo Morelli comes into view. It is one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Locorotondo.

Our next stop was the tiny St Nicholas church.

The magnificent  St George church was built in Neoclassical style between 1790 and 1825.

One of the first things you will notice is a particular style of house with a pointed roof. They are called cummerse and are mostly whitewashed.

The streets are narrow. The houses and shops are well kept and often have pretty gardens and house decorations.



There was not a lot open while we were there. It only took about an hour to wander through the historical centre and we were soon on our way to another town. I wonder how these towns survive on a tourist season that lasts just a couple of months each year.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 13, 2019

Mary Quant at the V&A London

“The whole point of fashion is to make fashionable clothes available to everyone” Mary Quant.

Mary Quant and her husband and business partner, Alexander Plunket Greene launched a fashion revolution. They were at the forefront of the youth movement in fashion, young people designing for young people. They opened their groundbreaking Bazaar on Kings Road in London in 1955.

Mary Quant wanted her clothes and accessories to be eye catching, strong and colourful, to offer freedom for the young and be totally unlike the clothes their mothers wore.

Her signature style became synonymous with the Swinging Sixties, which is when I picked up on it. While I didn’t have an original Mary Quant, there were many copies available here in Australia. I remember thinking I was Christmas in a Prue Acton white empire line crimplene dress with a nylon scarf threaded through loops around the neckline. Crimplene was the most hideous fabric, much like wearing a plastic bag, but we thought it was marvellous as teenagers.

She also produced dress patterns for Butterick and I made my own…a lot.

While in London recently I was delighted with the Mary Quant exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The first dress in the collection is the dress she wore to collect one of her many awards in 1966.

The exhibition is a timeline of Mary Quant’s fashions. She introduced new fabrics, or new interpretations of old ones and showed them on the iconic models of the time, Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy and more.

Her fashion parades featured young models dancing to new music, a completely new concept.

She used PVC for clothing for the first time. It took her almost 2 years to work out how the sew the fabric effectively.

The clothes became more colourful as the 60s went on.

There were dolls and cutout figures to dress.

She made underwear. I can recall wearing steppins…Yuk! As if a 14 year old needed these awful things. I also remember wearing pantyhose for the first time, so much better than stockings and suspenders. I did have Mary Quant pantyhose. The packaging was great.


She did makeup and had cartoon like illustrations showing how to use it.


Her accessories were fabulous, and much copied.

I’m pretty sure I had this Butterick pattern.

It was fun to take a walk back through my teenage years, but the exhibition is excellent for anyone with an interest in fashion. There are hundreds of garments and accessories including unseen pieces from the designer’s personal archive.

The exhibition continues until 16th February 2020

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 7, 2019

Oxfam Giant Doll’s House

While we were staying in London with our lovely friends Anup and Poorna we went with them to an evening at Oxfam.  Anup is a volunteer with the charity. He had just returned from a trip to Rwanda.

Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan is home to 80,000 Syrian refugees, many of them who have been there for years. People are working to make new lives for themselves having crossed borders, fleeing with little more than their memories of home.

The Giant Doll’s House project is an independent international arts project started by Catja De Haas. It asked participants to make a room in a shoebox. Maybe a vision of home, memories, hope for the future or something they felt like making on the day.

The boxes are linked by ropes, ramps and ladders to create a giant doll’s house. This web of connected spaces and stories brings people’s dreams and aspirations together in a dramatic installation.

The project team spent 4 days in Jordan with residents of Za’atari refugee camp making all kinds of boxes. There is a volleyball pitch, a mini art gallery and a simple bedroom with a view. The rooms explore themes such as home, displacement, safety, community and the future. In the U.K. they worked with schools, artists and refugee groups. Each contribution has a personal, unique story behind it.

Keep in mind that the camp is a barren tent city. Here are some of the stories behind the boxes.

Sameha 45 and Suha 36.

We designed a wedding shop and we put a model wearing a white wedding dress. In Damascus, I used to run a wedding shop. I dream of rebuilding my house and restarting my fashion business.

Abdelrahman Omari  13, Mahmoud Omari 11 and Ali Omari 10.

We made a kitchen and the idea around it is to help our mothers in preparing the food. Our message to the children in U.K.: to help your mothers at home making and preparing food.

Mariam 12.

I am optimistic, I like many things in this life, sewing, making and creating fashion design and dresses. I made a fashion shop to present the clothes that we have designed. My dream is to become a fashion designer or an engineer or a journalist.

Zuhair 47.

I designed a natural scene of spring in Syria. I put a sun, clouds, river, Ducks, trees, flowers and stone. I was always excited to see the flowers and greenery coming through and as a family we would go to the country for a picnic.

I work in agriculture outside the camp and I created this because I like nature and I am from a rural area from Homs.

Nour 11 and Shahed 12

I want to become a lawyer to help and defend people who need help. We created an art exhibition because we like art and we want to have our own art exhibition in the future. I have many drawings at home and I thought could make an art gallery and add my drawings. I love art and I love drawing a lot.





Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 1, 2019

A gorgeous place to stay in Lecce, beautiful city in Puglia

Our stay in Lecce, the beautiful pearl of Puglia, was excellent, in no small way because of our lovely hotel, Torre del Parco.

It is right on the edge of the Centro Storico, which meant it was easy to find and parking was a breeze. This was our first view of Torre del Parco…the tower.

It has a long history. It was built in 1419 by 18 year old Giovanni Antonio Orsini del Balzo, Prince of Taranto, son of Raimondello and Maria d’Enghiem, who was countess of Lecce and later Queen of the Kingdom of Naples after a second marriage.

The entrance is very inviting.

The foyer…

…the sitting room.

The beautiful indoor garden area.

Our room…with walk in wardrobe.

The tower was beside our room.

It looked fabulous at night.

The breakfast room was great…I could easily move in forever.

The hotel is popular for events. There were 3 while we were there, including a colourful first communion.

If you go to Lecce stay at Torre del Parco…you won’t be disappointed.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 27, 2019

Midsummer in Helsinki

Our visit to Helsinki coincided with the celebrations for midsummer. Finland has a holiday for the summer solstice an everyone heads to the countryside to enjoy picnics and barbecues by a lake or the seaside.

Helsinki used to be a ghost town at this time, but lately more things are open and there are more people about. We had fabulous weather for the few days we were there, some of the best of our entire trip. The sky was blue, it was warm and everything was looking fabulous.


Oodi, the new library is amazing. I have been watching this building grow over the last couple of years and to see it finished is great.

Landscaping is continuing in front. I love the way the windows over the building look like floating clouds.

Toolonlahti is in full bloom and the wild birds are about with their babies.


The Allas pool in the harbour was full of people enjoying the spectacular weather.

The market by the harbour was busy.

There are flowers all over the city.

Also spotted was a Finnish chap selling flowercrowns.

I love my visits to Helsinki, especially in glorious summer weather.

Here we are flying out of Helsinki.

I’m back in Australia now for some great winter weather. I have many photos of our few months away and blog posts will follow.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 13, 2019

Oxford Botanical Garden

The weather in Oxford has been awful. It is raining and cold. In a brief break from the rain we visited the beautiful Botanical Garden, the oldest in Great Britain and one of the oldest in the world.

The garden was founded in 1621 to grow plants for medical research. Today it contains 6,000 different plant species on 1.8 hectares of land.

The garden is well laid out.

There are lovely paths and walls dividing the garden.

Of course there are gorgeous flowers.

I like these baskets to protect new plants.

Anyone for cricket? Just next door.

…or punting on the canal?

Oxford appears between the trees occasionally.

We left just as the rain returned. I love visiting gardens, it is excellent inspiration for Casa Debbio.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 8, 2019

New things at Casa Debbio

We are leaving soon to go home to Australia, via London, Oxford, Bath and Helsinki.

We spent our last day at Casa Debbio yesterday. The garden is looking great. We have a few new additions this year.

A straw bed has found a home on a terrace above the house.



We have a dondola, swing chair, on the other side of the house.


I repainted my chair wall.

Here are the latest photos of our gorgeous garden.

The sambucco grew beautifully this year.

Angela the cake stand (and Angelina) made a few appearances and our lovely terracotta table under the pergola was put to good use.

The views are always great.

I climbed to the terraces above Casa Debbio.

My favourite peony bloomed the day before we left. This amazing plant produces more than 50 blooms.

We have left Casa Debbio in the capable hands of Filippo who takes great care of everything when we are away. He will welcome guests and introduce them to the house along with Anette who helps and speaks English, Italian and Danish.

I will be back in September to enjoy beautiful Tuscan mountain autumn at Casa Debbio.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 3, 2019


Monopoli sits on the edge of the Adriatic Sea 40 kilometres south of Bari. It takes its name from the Ancient Greek city that began on the site. Monis Polis means unique and singular.

It is a port city and once you fight your way through the chaotic, crazy driving, new town, the Centro Storico beside the coast is a pleasant surprise.

It is popular with tourists but it has an authentic feel, with locals enjoying the space as well.  It is a lovely place to wander and find a great spot for lunch or to sit by the sea. There are sandy beaches and interesting coves to explore.

The port is pretty with its colourful fishing boats.


The Castle of Charles V was built on the site of previous town walls between 1544 and 1552. It has been restored after being abandoned for years and is now used for exhibitions and cultural events.

Lively piazzas dot the historic centre.

Interesting shops and bars line the streets.

There are lots of churches to explore.

The crypt of Madonna del Soccorso dates from the 10th or 11th century.

The Centro Storico is full of pretty corners and narrow streets. The town is mostly built in white stone and many buildings are white-washed.

We were lucky to have a fine sunny day in Monopoli after some miserable cold rainy days. The town was a happy surprise after the struggle to get there through the new part of town. We were almost put off by the maze of streets and awful drivers. I am pleased we persisted.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 28, 2019

Il Frantoio…a great place to stay

Il Frantoio is a gorgeous masseria near the town of Ostuni in Puglia. We stayed here several years ago and liked it enough to return…possibly for the food alone. Much of the delicious food is grown on the property and what isn’t is sourced locally.

Our welcome was great.

Our room was really a mini apartment and was the home of the original owners. It was delightful.

We entered through the kitchen of the original house.

This was our front door.

The interior.

The floor tiles are lovely.

We had our own kitchen and private terrace.

The common rooms are lovely too.

The grounds are fabulous…lots of lovely places to sit.

The cave under the main house is where the olive oil was once made on the property.

The food was as good as we remembered it to be.

Pizzelle (fried bread) with tomato sauce.

Marinated octopus with tomato on spicy zucchini cream.

Green bean fricassee in a basket of pecorino.

Fried stuffed zucchini flowers.

Hand made pasta with turnip top pesto, mussels and fried bread crumbs.


Pork rolls with caciocavallo cheese in ragout with straw potato chips.


Mixed salad with fresh almonds and rose petals.


Ricotta bewitched with Strega.

If you are looking for somewhere to stay near Ostuni, Il Frantoio could be for you.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 24, 2019

On the hunt for pasticciotto

 Pasticciotto is a small, oval shaped pastry made from short pastry and filled with crema pasticcera or ricotta. It was brought to my attention by a friend who is besotted with them. They come from Puglia, so while there we investigated.

We found the first pasticciotti in Locorotondo.


More in Cisternino.


They were first made in Galatina, a Baroque town 20 kilometres south of Lecce. I have read a few stories about their beginning, but the one that makes the most sense is that Nicola Ascalone in 1875 used his left over pastry and crema paticcera to make a mini pastry. It became popular and the pasticceria that has his name is still making them today.

On the way to Otranto from Ostuni we called in to Galatina. It was a rare fine day when we parked our car beside a green park.

The large piazza dominated by a huge Baroque church marked the entrance to the Centro Storico.

Via Vittorio Emanuele is on the right side of the piazza and it was a short walk to Pasticceria Ascalone at number 17.

The pasticceria is tiny and we could not see any pasticciotto in the window.

The shop was busy and we had a nervous wait…what if they had sold out?

Finally it was our turn. They are supposed to be eaten warm and 2 warm, crema filled pasticciotti were bought from the kitchen for us.

We can report that they were delicious.

Mission accomplished we took a short walk through Galatina. It is a pretty town dotted with Baroque style buildings in the narrow streets.

We left via one of the old portals.

If you are nearby it is worth stopping for a delicious piece of Galatina history.

This bright green pistacchio pasticciotto, which tasted better than it looked, was found in Lecce.

This one was part of breakfast at our hotel in Lecce.

When we were in Matera we visited a lovely bar for breakfast. As I was ordering coffee I spotted pasticciotti on a tray. We ordered 2 and they were excellent, possibly our favourite pasticciotti.

I complimented the man behind the bar who told us he made them fresh every morning. The pastry was deliciously crumbly and the crema filling also had a little cherry jam….I want one now.

I wonder if they have found their way to the north of Italy.

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