Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 20, 2015

Casa Debbio garden update

We have done lots of work in the garden at Casa Debbio. Some trees were cut down last autumn and it was all looking a bit bare, so we are planting the terrace below the house.

Casa Debbio

Filippo and Batista have built us a new fence at the edge of the drop to allow plantings above and below.

We bought about 80 lavender plants, hydrangeas, peonies, azaleas, lilac, fruticans, roses, raspberries, blueberries and a few other things. Our lovely gardening friend Agostino has given us lots of plants he has grown from seed and cuttings.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

The terrace still looks a bit bare, but I am hoping the plants will grow quickly and fill in the gaps.

Spring has been slow coming, but our beautiful new magnolia tree grew some excellent flowers.

Casa Debbio

Now it is busily growing leaves which I hope will give us some shade this summer.

The daffodils were beautiful and lasted for weeks. They are finished now and irises are about to appear.

The weeping cherry put on a good show.

Casa Debbio

Trees are finally starting to turn green. Our walnut is getting leaves. One of our fig trees has baby figs.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

The quince is covered in new growth.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

The Judas tree has tiny flowers.

Casa Debbio

All the fruit trees are in blossom.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

We have a carpet of blue flowers under the trees at the edge of the terrace above the house. I think they are periwinkles.

Casa Debbio

I have peonie buds everywhere…my favourite flower. A couple of new ones I bought came with flowers about to open and they have done so.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

The aquilegia has come up again this year. These are the cutest little flowers.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

I have violets.

Casa Debbio

Strawberries are beginning to grow.

Casa Debbio

The bleeding hearts were under a hazelnut tree last year, they like shade. This year they have reappeared. I hope the full sun is not too hot for them.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Work continues. It takes a few hours just to water the new plants and there is endless weeding to do.

Soon the roses will appear and the wisteria is on the way…I’ll let you know how it all goes.

There is a fly in the ointment…mufloni. We have wild goats and deer living all around us. They occasionally drop in at night and nibble things. They have chewed the poor rhododendrons and ate 2 roses soon after I planted them.

I spotted these on the road up to Vergemoli…I hope they stay there.

Mufloni

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 16, 2015

Vinci…Leonardo’s home town

As you all know the da Vinci in Leonardo’s name is not really a surname, it means Leonardo of Vinci. He was the illegitimate son of notary Pieroni Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci and Caterina, a servant in his house.

Leonardo da Vinci

Yesterday, 15th April, was the anniversary of his birth in 1452, so I thought a visit to his home town was in order.

Vinci is a tiny hilltop town not far from Florence. We first visited the church where Leonardo was baptised. The original church has been replaced with a fairly plain one, but the font where the boy was baptised is still there.

Church in Vinci

Font in Vinci

As well there is a plaque stating that in 1952, the fifth anniversary of Leonardo’s birth…..Of course they meant the 500th anniversary. I saw the sign the first time about 10 years ago and it has not changed.

Vinci baptistery

There is a museum in 2 parts showing models made from Leonardo’s drawings. He was an incredibly inventive and curious individual. He must have been fascinating to know.

I was particularly impressed by his round tank which could travel in any direction.

Leonardo's tank

He designed a machine to beat gold into fine sheets. From there it was cut into thin strips and would around yellow cotton to make gold thread.

Leonardo's machines

I liked his ladder on wheels.

Leonardo's ladder

His diving suit was a bit scary.

Leonarodo's diving suit

His portable bridge was great.

Leonardo's bridge

Leonardo's bridge

There is a wooden model of his Vitruvian man. If the glass window had been clean I would have got a better photo.

Vitruvian Man

It looked better outside.

Vitruvian Man

Vitruvian Man

We climbed the 120 steps to the top of the tower to get great views from the top.

Vinci views

Vinci views

Vinci views

Vinci views

Vinci views

Vinci views

There were a couple of pigeons up there enjoying the view too.

Vinci pigeons

Naturally there are plenty of Leonardo inspired souvenirs to buy.

Leonardo souvenirs

Leonardo was probably born in his father’s house, which is in Anchiano, a small hamlet 3 kilometres from Vinci. It is possible to visit the house, but there really isn’t a lot there. It is set in a beautiful olive growing area and the path to the house is lined with old olive trees.

Leonardo's house Anchiano

If you go to Vinci now you will see some very beautiful wisteria.

Vinci wisteria

It was a beautiful spring day in a gorgeous part of Tuscany. Drop by and see some of the brilliant things that Leonardo thought of. The world is a richer place because he lived.

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 13, 2015

Charcoal burning at Casa Debbio

After WWII there was very little money to be had by Italians living in the mountains of the Garfagnana. Woodcutters had no customers so some of them turned to charcoal making.

One of my neighbours in Vergemoli showed me a small patch of land at the end of our drive with a dry stone wall edge where charcoal was made.

It is overgrown and the wall is falling down, but I was delighted to find a little piece of history so close to our house.

charcoal burning platform at Casa Debbio

The charcoal makers work was very difficult. It would take many months to cut the wood and then weeks to make the charcoal.

Logs were piled on their ends to form a conical pile, with an opening left at the bottom to admit air. There was a central shaft to serve as a flue.

Charcoal burners

 

The whole pile was covered with turf or moistened clay. The firing began at the bottom of the flue and gradually spread upwards.

Charcoal burners

Once the charcoal was made and cooled it was raked into jute bags. Each bag weighed between 80 and 90 kilos. They were loaded onto donkeys or wagons drawn by oxen.

charcoal burners

Life must have been hard for these men. At least they had a good house nearby. Many charcoal burners lived in remote areas with little contact with other people.

I think we will clear the area to make it a pleasant place to sit and think about how lucky we are.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 8, 2015

Spring fashion in Florence

Spring is really dragging its feet this year. It was 2 degrees here this morning on my balcony. It warmed up when the sun rose a little higher in the sky, but the temperature is not what we would expect for April.

Despite this, spring is alive and well in the shops in Florence. Here is a quick look at some of the lovely things to wear when it does warm up.

Max Mara spring 2015

Max Mara spring 2015

 

 

Ermano Scervino spring 2015

Dolce &Gabbana spring 2015

 

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2015

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2015

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2015

 

Spring 2015

Spring 2015

Spring 2015

Spring 2015

Prada spring 2015

Spring 2015

Bottega Veneta spring 2015

Spring 2015

Pucci spring 2015

Moschino sprng 2015

Spring 2015

Spring 2015

It seems there is something for everyone, bright colours, neutrals, white…what would you like?

 

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 5, 2015

A walk in Verona

Verona is a perfect town to walk in. It is not too big, it is flat and it is full of beautiful things…come for a walk through the lovely streets.

A good place to start is Piazza Erbe with its stunning fountain and beautiful frescoed buildings.

Piazza Erbe Verona

Piazza Erbe Verona

Our next stop was Juliette’s balcony, possibly the worst bit of Verona.

Juliette' balcony Verona

The balcony was built in 1936 to cash in on the story of Romeo and Juliette, a fictional tale. It has become extraordinarily tacky, with walls covered in scrawling signatures. Last time I was in Verona there was actually a wall covered in bits of chewing gum with notes stuck on. There has been some attempt to remove this, but it has not been entirely successful.

Juliette's balcony zverona

Juliette's balcony Verona

Now people push and shove to touch the breast of a statue of poor Juliette in the hope it will bring them luck and possibly romance.

Juliette's balcony Verona

In nearby Piazza dei Signori you can see Dante conjugating a few verbs while he looks down from his high perch. The square was largely covered in scaffolding, so I can’t really show you what it looks like.

Dante in Verona

From here you can walk through an amazing doorway into the courtyard of Palazzo Tribunale dating from 1365.

Entrance to Palazzo Tribunale

There is a spectacular arched entrance on the opposite side.

This building in Piazza dei Signori has an incredible facade.

Piazza dei Signori Verona

On the opposite corner is an archway leading to some apartments. I would love one of these balconies.

Piazza dei Signori Verona

Verona balconies

Near the Piazza dei Signori are the Arche Scaligere, the mausoleums of the Scala family who ruled Verona in the 1200s and 1300s. They are a fine example of Italian Gothic architecture.

Arche Scaligere Verona

Arche Scaligere Verona

Beside this is another gorgeous archway.

Verona building

A short walk away is a beautiful building…it makes me want to paint the front of my house.

Verona house

The church of St Anastasia is one of the most beautiful in Italy. It was begun in 1290 and completed in the early 16th century. It is the largest in Verona. The interior is magnificent and I will show you more of that later.

St Anastasia Verona

St Anastasia Verona

The Verona Cathedral is not far away and almost as fabulous as St Anastasia.

Vernona cathedral

Castelvecchio is a military structure from the 1300s with a bridge crossing the Aldige River.

Castelvecchio Verona

Castelvecchio Verona

Moving on…to the amazing arena in Piazza Bra. It was built in the 1st century and once held 30,000 people at a time. Now, because of safety, half that number gather to watch performances. It is one of the best preserved ancient structures of its type.

Arena Verona

As you can see Verona is a beautiful city. It also has sophisticated shops and restaurants. It manages to combine the new with the ancient very well.

Don’t miss Verona when you come to Italy. Shakespeare used Verona as a backdrop for 3 of his plays with good reason.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 3, 2015

Verona at night

We have been in Verona for a couple of days. Verona is a gorgeous city at any time, but it really shines when the sun goes down…come for a walk around town.

 

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Verona at night

Soon I’ll show you Verona in all it’s daytime glory.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 30, 2015

Green walls

I know I go on about Lucca and how gorgeous it is, but just have a look at this view of the wall.

Lucca

Lucca

Lucca

We went to Lucca on the weekend for Verdemura the garden show held each year on the wall surrounding the town. You can see the stands along the top of the wall.

It was a gorgeous sunny day when we started out, but dark clouds gathered and we have to take shelter from heavy rain a couple of times.

Lucca

Not to be deterred, we pressed on with our trolleys and gathered up a few more things for the garden at Casa Debbio.

We bought peonies, lilac, lavender, agapanthus, hydrangeas, irises, poppies and a gorgeous little daphne that smells heavenly.

We have been busy planting and weeding at Casa Debbio. The peonies I planted last year are poking through the soil, my weeping cherry is beginning to bloom and all the fruit trees are about to bud. I will show you what’s happening soon.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 27, 2015

Heavenly things for your home

I thought I had found the most beautiful shops…see here, here and here…but another one has presented itself to me.

I was walking down the main street of Pietrasanta, Via Garibaldi, when I spotted Luca Ferrari…House Counselling, and was drawn inside by lovely things.

It is one of those shops that make you want to throw out everything you have and start again.

Luca Ferrari Counselling

Come on in…

Luca Ferrari

Luca Ferrari

Of course, I won’t be doing that, but a couple of items came home with me.

I met the charming owner, the one with the exquisite taste.

Luca Ferrari

I can see that this will not be my last visit.

Luca Ferrari,

Via Garibaldi 52,

Pietrasanta.

housecounselling@gmail.com

Pietrasanta’s piazza looked wonderful, despite the rain.

 

Pietrasanta

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 25, 2015

A wet day in Lucca

The sun doesn’t always shine in Italy and right now we are having some spring showers. Lucca still shines, even on a dull day.

Lucca

The trees on the wall are turning green. Within a week or 2 they will be looking gorgeous.

Lucca walls

Lucca walls

This roof might need a bit of work.

Lucca walls

The magnolias are almost finished on Corso Garibaldi, the flowers will soon be replaced with leaves.

Corso Garibaldi Lucca

Corso Garibaldi Lucca

Corso Garibaldi Lucca

Corso Garibaldi Lucca

Corso Garibaldi Lucca

The rain won’t do these flowers any harm.

Lucca flowers

Children managed to find a place to play out of the rain.

Lucca

The dripping tap joins in with the raindrops.

Lucca

…a sea of umbrellas.

Lucca

Here they are again on the wall.

Lucca

Rain is good sometimes…as long as it doesn’t last too long.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 21, 2015

New/old things for the garden

With spring now upon us I will begin planting the terrace below Casa Debbio very soon. I am slowly gathering plants as they appear in the nurseries. I found a fabulous pomegranate which is too big to fit in my car…I’ll find a way of getting it to the house.

The terrace is quite large and I would like some large pots, or perhaps a statue or 2 to place amongst the plants. With this in mind, I went to one of my favourite shops in Forte dei Marmi…although I don’t think the word shop describes this place well enough.

This is Il Giaggiolo.

Il Giaggiolo

 

Il Giaggiolo

It is an enormous area filled with fabulous things collected from old houses and gardens. I could easily load a truck with things for Casa Debbio.

Il Giaggiolo

 

Il Giaggiolo

These old tiles would be great…somewhere.

Il Giaggiolo

Il Giaggiolo

I especially love these pots…they are very big and very expensive.

Il Giaggiolo

I think this would look great in my garden.

Il Giaggiolo

They have an indoor area full of good things too.

Il Giaggiolo

This is Emilio, the owner. He would have been happy to load a truck for me. In fact, he offered to do just that.

Il Giaggiolo

I wouldn’t mind the gates as well.

Il Giaggiolo

 

Il Giaggiolo,

Via G.B.Vico, 25,

Forte dei Marmi. 0584 787350

www.ilgiaggiolo.it

 

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