Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 16, 2020

My Pop Up continues

I have been reluctant to write new posts on my blog while the terrible fires raged in Australia. It seems frivolous to be writing about roaming around Italy as my country burns.

The situation is still dire, but the firefighters, emergency workers, army and navy, wildlife rescuers and volunteers have been doing an excellent job saving homes and lives. Rain is falling in some of the fire areas and with a lot of work by many people life will go on. It will never be the same for those affected, but it will go on.

We have been giving regularly to the Rural Fire Service for years and will continue to do so long after this crisis is over.

While watching the events unfold I have been busy sewing for my Pop Up. I have just a few weeks left now until I return to Italy where different things occupy my days.

I have been sewing since I was a child and I like to make things. Having an outlet to sell them is excellent and I thank my good friend Savva for allowing me to use his shop, where he does made to measure and alterations, to display my wares.


I use natural fabrics, cotton and linen, to create wearable, cool clothing, suitable for our ridiculously hot summers. My biggest seller this summer has been a short jumpsuit. There are still some left…come on in!

I have been gathering fabric wherever I go for years and continue to find treasures lurking in my workroom waiting for the right moment to be turned into something.

The shop is open every Saturday from 10.00 – 2.00 and I am there. Lately I have been in the shop a few other mornings as well. At other times feel free to ring the doorbell. Savva is busy at the back creating, but will happily open the door for you.


239 Boundary St, (Cnr Corbett St)

West End.




Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 26, 2019

Siena revisited

Siena is a Tuscan hilltop town first settled in the time of the Etruscans, an advanced people whose custom was to build easily defendable hill forts.

According to legend it was founded by Senius and Aschius, 2 sons of Remus. When they fled Rome, they took the statue of the She-wolf to Siena. It became a symbol of the town and you will find variations of the sculpture all over Siena.

Siena is also one of my favourite towns in Italy and in October I went to see the incredible floor of the cathedral. For most of the time some of the inlaid marble mosaics are covered to protect them, but twice a year from June 29 – July 31 and August 18 – October 26 they are uncovered and open to the public.

I found a car park on the edge of town and wandered in. I came upon a very cute house with gorgeous snail decorations. I find these small things delightful.

Each time I go to Siena I stop at this famous deli and buy a porchetta (roast pork) roll. Photos are not allowed in the shop, which is a pity as it is fabulous and full of delicious things to eat.

I then take this porchetta roll and walk to the nearby Piazza Del Campo, find a place to sit, eat my lunch and watch the passing parade.

Piazza del Campo is the famous heart of the town. It is home to the Palazzo Pubblico (town hall) with its magnificent Torre del Mangia, a 14th century tower.

From Campo the 17 contrade (districts) radiate into the town and it is here that the famous Palio race happens twice a year.

Each contrada is represented by an animal or symbol. It is fun to look for the sculptures all over town…caterpillar, eagle, snail, little owl, dragon, giraffe and more. This time I found only the panther.

The Siena cathedral is one of the most spectacular in Italy. I walked up the stairs beside the subterranean baptistery to come to the side of the cathedral.

The Romanesque-Gothic Duomo was begun in the 12th century.

The main facade covered with stunning sculptures was completed in 1380.

The first time I entered the cathedral was early one morning and I was the only person there. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I was stunned by the magnificence. Now you have to pay and line up with hundreds of other people, but it is still an incredible experience.

The mosaics cover the entire floor of the cathedral. The 56 panels were created between the 14th and 16th centuries by around 40 artists. The designs represent the sibyls, scenes from the Old Testament, allegories and virtues.

It is worth a trip to Siena just to see this. Not all of the floor is covered for the rest of the year. Some near the entrance are always able to be seen.

Not to be missed in the cathedral is the Piccolomini Library off to the side. (on the left after the entrance) It was commissioned by the archbishop of Siena, Cardinal Francesco Tadeschini Piccolomini around 1492.

In the centre is a Roman era copy of the Three Graces.

The magnificent frescoes that line the walls were painted by Pinturicchio (real name Bernadine di Betto) and his assistants between 1503 and 1508. There are scenes of allegorical figures, pastoral scenes and classical mythology. The detail in the paintings is stunning.


Look for a self portrait of Pinturicchio, which means little painter, standing beside his friend Raphael (in the red tights)

There are also some exquisite old books in glass cases.

Later I went back to the Campo, found a seat for aperitivo and settled back to watch the sunset.

I paid €5 for my Campari and soda and the accompanying snacks. After my enormous porchetta earlier these tasty morsels proved to be quite enough and I didn’t go to a restaurant for dinner…a pity, there are many great places to eat.

…a last look at the Campo on my way back to the hotel.

I must return soon.

For more on Siena click here, here and here.





Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 18, 2019

Dragons in Spello

On a recent visit to Spello in beautiful Umbria we wandered into an internal courtyard that houses the Comune offices.

Just inside the entrance we came upon a wonderful frescoed ceiling. It featured dragons and the light fittings and torch holders repeated the theme. I have no idea why dragons were used to decorate this place, but I love them!

I want that light fitting!

Does anyone know why dragons were a popular item in Italy a few centuries ago?

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 5, 2019

Vegans look away

When I was in Rome on the way home to Australia I spotted this butcher shop on the way to the Pantheon in Via della Maddalena.

The window called me in.


Inside there were more delicious things to tempt me. If only I had an apartment with a kitchen!

The only real problem would be deciding what to buy…lucky Romans.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 28, 2019

Almost summer

We are a couple of days away from summer here in Australia, the perfect time for a day or 2 at the beach. We went north of Brisbane to Noosa, one of my favourite places on earth.

We arrived in the afternoon and the beach looked fabulous. Noosa is protected from most winds, which is one of the things that makes it great. However, it is not protected from an onshore wind, and it was fierce. If you look closely at the photos you can see the white caps.

I passed on an afternoon swim, I’m not much interested in personal sand blasting, but got up really early the next morning and walked to Little Cove, the next beach along from Noosa beach, which was looking calm.

Little Cove is tiny and the sun had not quite reached there as I arrived.

It is a gorgeous secluded spot.

There were a couple of parrots on the beach, trying to pass themselves off as seagulls.

People were already swimming as I walked back. You must be up seriously early to be first at the beach here.

I grew up at the beach and I love it. There will be more summer days at the beach.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 22, 2019

Home for a while

I am back home in Brisbane for a while. I left behind torrential rain that lasted weeks for heat and smoke. There are fires burning all around the city, a terrible situation. I wish I could have dragged some of the rain with me.

One of the best things about being home at this time of the year is the fruit. My favourites are mangoes as cherries and right now they are looking and tasting great.

I spent a couple of autumn months in our little corner of Tuscany. It is a gorgeous time of the year. I can’t decide whether I like spring or autumn better.

I divide my time between Bagni di Lucca and Vergemoli, as well as a bit of travelling.

Ponte a Serraglio, our part of Bagni di Lucca is gorgeous, whatever the weather.

The drive between the villages and in our mountains is always a treat.


I always make time for a walk around Lucca’s fabulous wall.

When I arrived at Casa Debbio the garden was still looking great, not as good as spring and summer, but lovely anyway. Once again Filippo did a great job over the summer. The month of rain in May seemed to set the garden up for some serious growth.

The straw bed lasted for summer and now might become goat food.

The original weeping cherry grew a lot this summer. The wild goats trimmed the lower leaves just before I arrived.

Wisteria has just about covered the pergola.

Our pomegranate trees produced fruit and we had lots of chestnuts.

I love to wake up on the side of the mountain and see what the weather is serving up. The rain might prevent pruning work in the garden, but is does make for some spectacular views.

The drive up to Vergemoli is beautiful. The road winds its way up the mountain with a gorgeous view at every turn.

We had the first snow on the mountains around us while I was there, and lots of rain. I’ll be back in February for some lovely winter weather and to watch our garden come alive again in spring…can’t wait.

If you live in Brisbane come to say hello at my Pop Up every Saturday from 10.00 – 2.00 at Sarva, 239 Boundary St, West End (Cnr Corbett St). I make summer clothes and accessories in pure cotton and linen, perfect for our hot days. My friend Savva (who owns the shop) is a designer and makes garments to order and he is a whizz at alterations.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 14, 2019

Two excellent wineries in the Langhe district

While in Piedmonte my son and I visited several wineries. Two stood out from the rest.

There is little to suggest the delights inside from the simple front door of Cantina del Glicine.

The tasting room is like being in someone’s home, complete with several cats.

Before our tasting we were taken to visit the tiny winery and cellar below the ground.

With 2 couples from Milan we entered a door with the date 1582 written above it, the beginning of the winery.

The first room looked like a regular winery with steel tanks.

We were led into the next room.

Then came the real treat, down the slippery slope to the cave like area.


The walls glistened with moisture.

There were even tiny mushrooms growing on the floor.

Then it was back into the light and into the tasting room.

The wines were very good and the 2 ladies who showed us the wines were delightful…a few bottles came home with us. This place is special, you need to visit.

Cantina del Glicine

Via Giulio Cesere 1



The second winery that impressed us was Vietti in Castiglione Falletto. It was a bit difficult to find as there was no signage. Here is the front gate.

The winery is on the edge the tiny town. Part of the winery is dug into the side of the hill. We arrived early in the morning. The misty views from the terrace were gorgeous. Castiglione Falletto is in the heart of the Barolo zone in the Langhe hills.

Our guide was great. She was charming and very knowledgeable about the history of the winery and the wines. Vietti was begun by Carlo Vietti in the late 1800s.

The winery is modern and stainless steel, but the barrel rooms are old and dug under the building and the one next door.

The old cellars are fabulous. One of the walls is part of the fortification wall of the town.

There are caves where wine and other valuables were stored in times of trouble.

We returned to the ultra modern tasting room above to sample some of the best wines of the area.

Once again, several bottles came home with us.

The mist had cleared to offer a different view.


Piazza Vittorio Veneto 5

Castiglione Falletto


We wandered through town in search of coffee.

These 2 completely different balconies appealed to us.

There is an impressive fortress with towers.

We found the perfect place for coffee and a slice of delicious hazelnut cake. (hazelnuts are another famous product from Piemonte)

These were the gorgeous views from the terrace.

This was our farewell from Piemonte…a fitting end.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 7, 2019

Autumn in Piemonte

Piemonte, or Piedmont, means “at the foot of the mountain”. This region, the second largest in Italy, is surrounded on 3 sides by the Alps. (Sicily is the biggest)

We recently spent a few days in the gorgeous Langhe region of Piemonte, best known for wine and truffles…we planned to try both.

Our first stop in Piemonte was Novello, where we were to stay for 3 nights. After we settled into our Chalet we set off to discover the village. There is a lookout on the edge of town offering sweeping views over the surrounding vineyard covered hills. The damp weather actually enhanced the gorgeous vista.

There is a castle, now a hotel.

There is a great enoteca in Via Giordano where we enjoyed aperitivo.

We had a excellent dinner at Barbabuc Ristorante at 35 Via Giordano in Novello.

On our second morning the rain mist had stopped and we could see the Alps from Novello.

Nearby Barolo is stunning from a distance.

Barolo castle is impressive.

More stunning views from and around Barolo.

Serralunga d’Alba has a huge castle dating from 1340.

…more gorgeous views.

We tasted local wine in this very cute establishment.

In Neive we had a delicious lunch at La Luna nel Pozzo, where we were looked after by the charming Cesere.

Rain cut our exploring short.


We did visit a very special winery, Cantina del Glicine…another post.

Did you know there was a town called Mango in Piemonte? It has nothing to do with my favourite tropical fruit, but it does have a castle.

Everything was closed in town, so I have nothing else to show you except the gorgeous views between Neive and Mango.

La Morra is one of the loveliest towns in the area.


Piazza Castello at the top of the town has spectacular views of the surrounding villages. Helpful directions are built into the floor of the piazza.

We tasted wine and had lunch at Vineria San Giorgio at 1 Via Umberto.

In Barbaresco we tasted wine in 2 great places. The first was Produttori del Barbaresco in Via Torino.

The second one was in a church, L’Enoteca Regional del Barbaresco.


…more gorgeous scenery around Barbaresco.

We found a great restaurant tucked away in a back street in Monforte d’Alba, Osteria La Salita.

Prunotto winery is in Bussia. Don’t go, as we did, to the office close to Alba.  It was not easy to find even with GPS help, but worth the effort.

In Castiglione Falletto we found (with some difficulty) Vietti, a stunning winery right in the heart of the village. The winery is built into the side of a hill and some of its walls were part of the early fortifications. They have done an amazing job creating a modern winery in an old setting. I will show you more in the next post.

We stayed at Chalet nelle Vigne in Novello.

It was in a great location, close to everything we wanted to see. It has 2 bedrooms, a comfortable living room, small kitchen and good bathroom…an excellent base from which to explore the region.


An almost sunny day offered a different impression of the scenery. I enjoyed the misty views just as much.

Plan to stay a while in this spectacular area in Piemonte, there is much to see and taste.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 2, 2019

Bella Bergamo Alta

I visited Bergamo Alta, the historical centre of Bergamo, briefly many years ago and vowed to return. It has taken 14 years or more, but finally I revisited this gorgeous place. Bergamo is in Lombardy 40 kilometres northeast of Milan.

We parked the car in the city below and took the 128 year old funicular up the 52 degree slope to the Centro Storico. From the funicular station it is a short walk to Piazza Vecchio, the stunning heart of the town.

Built on the site of the Roman Forum, it is the original medieval square. It took its current layout after the Palazzo Ragione was built in 1100, separating it from Palazzo Duomo nearby. Palazzo Ragione is the oldest municipal seat in Lombardy. Beside it is an impressive staircase in the building with the bell tower.



At the centre of the piazza is the Contarini Fountain, built in 1780.

Facing the fountain from the opposite side from the Palazzo Ragione is Palazzo Nuovo, which was Bergamo’s town hall until 1873 and is now the home of Angelo Mai library. (Full of treasures to be discovered on another visit)

I recommend sitting in this gorgeous piazza as often as you can. It is surrounded by cafes and restaurants where you can have coffee and a snack, lunch, aperitivo or dinner under the stars while taking in the magnificence.

Take the time to find the 18th century sundial in the open area in front of the Palazzo Ragione. Look up to see the face of the sun with a hole in the centre. At midday the sun hits a certain spot on the floor below. It was cloudy when we were there so we missed seeing the track of the sun.

The Piazza Duomo is the home of the cathedral, the Colleoni Chapel,  Santa Maria Maggiore and the pretty octagonal baptistery.

The baptistery was built in 1340 inside the Santa Maggiore church where it remained until 1661. It was pulled apart and remodelled twice before it was relocated formthe last time between 1898 and 1899 on the western side of the Duomo.

The Colleoni Chapel is an authentic Italian Renaissance masterpiece. The exterior is stunning  and the interior beautiful, but I can’t show you because no photos are allowed.

It is the chapel of Bartolomeo Colleoni, a famous Italian mercenary captain who spent most of his life fighting all over Italy. He was born in Bergamo and returned to the city at the height of his power. He was a brutal man. Legend has it that when the Santa Maria Maggiore clergymen opposed the building of the chapel Bartolomeo solved the problem by sending his soldiers to destroy the old sacristy to make room for it.

Santa Maria Maggiore was begun in 1137 on the site of another church from the 8th century which has been erected over a Roman temple of the Clemence. The bell tower was built from 1436 – 1500.

Included in the facade is Giovanni da Campione’s porch, supported by columns on the backs of lions in Veronese marble. The arch has a frieze with hunting scenes.

The interior is sensory overload. It is fun to watch people with goggling eyes and gaping mouths trying to take it all in. The church is filled with painted ceilings, beautiful statues, frescoes, enormous tapestries…to much to take in on 1 visit.

A walk around the church is a delight. There are stunning details from every angle.

Beside the church is the very cute 11th century Capella di Santa Croce in Romanesque style.

The Cathedral is dedicated to Alexander of Bergamo, it was built at the beginning of the 17th century. A major renovation was undertaken in the 19th century, culminating in the completion of the Neoclassical west front in 1889.

The interior is largely from the 17th century Baroque renovation.

We found sections of the 6 kilometre Venetian walls, built from 1561 by the Republic of Venice to face enemy attacks. We didn’t see them, but there are 14 bastions, 2 armouries, 4 gates (we found 2) and underground tunnels…next time.

There are remnants of original Roman walls still visible in Via Vagine.

Climbing the bell tower, also called the Campanone is an excellent thing to do. It is 52.76 metres high with 230 steps to the top. There is a lift almost to the top and another short set of steps to the very top. The bell is the largest in Lombardy. At 10.00pm every night the bell chimes 100 times as a reminder of the closure of the city gates along the Venetian wall.

The view is marvellous, don’t miss this. It is the best way to see the buildings below and the gorgeous surroundings.

There are some great looking food shops.

We stayed in a lovely apartment called Colleoni 20 which is in Via Colleoni at number 20. It was great, with a spacious bedroom, great bathroom, living room and a kitchen. It would be a great base for a few nights…I’m going back to discover more of bella Bergamo Alta.


We had a delicious dinner at L’Alimentari. They have an entrance in Piazza Vecchio and around the corner in Via Colleoni.

Bergamo Alta is small and built to make you want to wander all over the historical centre. There is an enormous number of things to see. There are great restaurants, cafes and shops. You really need some time here to take it all in.

Here are a few more random photos.

Visit Bergamo Alta soon, you won’t be sorry.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 29, 2019

Ferghettina, a stunning winery in Franciacorta

One of the wineries we visited in Franciacorta was Ferghettina, a stunning establishment built on a gentle slope with gorgeous views over the surrounding vineyards.

Vine growing is a ancient tradition in the Franciacorta area. It began in Roman times.

Roberto Gatti was born nearby in 1953. He came from a family of farmers and vine growers. In his youth he worked for a local farmer with his father. After 20 years of gathering knowledge and experience he presented his first 2 wines after the harvest of 1991.

Ferghettina was born, taking the name from the area where the winery was built. Since that time Ferghettina has expanded enormously . As well as their own vineyard, the family rents plots of land to plant vines. They now have 200 hectares under organic cultivation. His 2 children, Laura and Matteo (both of whom have graduated in oenology) have joined him, his wife and partners in the business.

The current winery dates from 2002. We enjoyed a tour of the winery with the charming and knowledgeable Daniele.

The winery buildings and surroundings are gorgeous. Some areas are available for events.

The winery equipment is state of the art. These people know what they are doing.

Underground we were shown the enormous tanks holding the current developing wine. Grapes from each area of the vineyards are processed in their own tank!

Daniele showed us the Ferghettina square bottle, designed and patented by Roberto’s son Matteo. In the square bottle wines benefit from a contact surface between the wine and yeast almost twice and a half as large as the typical surface of a round bottle.

The bottles are expensive and more difficult to store than round ones. In the cellar we saw them stacked.

We were shown an exquisite room where samples of all vintages are stored. The winemakers can sample them as they age and record what they find. Nothing is left to chance.

Soon it was time for us to  go to the tasting room to sample some of the wines…best part.

It was difficult to choose, they were all excellent, but we did leave with several bottles.

Thank you Ferghettina for a wonderful experience!

Booking ahead is necessary to visit the winery.


(39) 030 7451212

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