Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 20, 2018

The Bourbon tunnel, a must do in Naples

In turbulent times in Naples, Ferdinand II wanted an escape route from the royal palace. Errico Alvino was commissioned in 1853 to construct a military passage for troops and his family.

A tunnel was dug through the volcanic rock underneath the hill of Pizzofalcone and connected to other tunnels and aqueducts, including the Carmignano Aqueduct (1627-1629). Two years after it was begun the fall of the Bourbon dynasty stopped the work and it was forgotten until WWII when it was put to good use.

In the last few years a team of volunteers has cleaned the tunnels of rubbish and now it is possible to venture underground and find an amazing part of Neapolitan history.

We entered the tunnel at the Via Morelli entrance. (There is another one in Vico Del Grottone). We eventually found the entrance which is inside the Morelli Car Park. (Signage is not a priority)

Bourbon tunnel

 

Bourbon tunnel

A delightful guide took us on a walk through the tunnel.

Bourbon tunnel

Just past the entrance is a huge Art Deco style marble statue of Aurelio Padovani, an early Neapolitan Fascist trade unionist who participated in Mussolini’s march on Rome in 1922. The statue was dumped into the tunnel in 1943 as the allies closed in on Naples…nobody wanted to be seen to be profascist.

Bourbon tunnel

Art Deco was very stylised. The poster beside the broken statue shows what Aurelio actually looked like.

Bourbon tunnel

After the war this part of the tunnel became the place where impounded vehicles were stored until the practice stopped in the 1970s. Beyond Aurelio is a collection of old vehicles, still sitting where they were left all those years ago.

Bourbon tunnel

Bourbon tunnel

 

Bourbon tunnel

There is a row of “Ginori” toilets in this area of the tunnel. We saw much more basic arrangements further on.

Bourbon tunnel

You can see war relics and see the alarm that was set off when bombs were about to fall.

Bourbon tunnel

Bourbon tunnel

As we walked on we could see the huge water storage cisterns that form part of the tunnel. Naples is a city built largely on tuff, or tufa, a light, yet strong rock formed from volcanic ash. It is an excellent building material so it was quarried and brought up through shafts.

Bourbon tunnel

The caverns formed from the process were later used as reservoirs into which water was diverted from aqueducts.

Small men, called Pozzari, were employed to maintain the cisterns. They had to be small to get through the tiny entrances. Their job was extremely dangerous as they had to climb down perilous ladders formed by holes dug in the walls of the cisterns with only candles to light the way.

Bourbon tunnel

Bourbon tunnel

Pozzari were also called Munaciello, little monk, named for the bizarre spirit who was the source of urban legend. Sometimes the Pozzari/Munacielli were not paid and it is said that they used to creep into the houses of their employers and steal or create mischief. (What kind of idiot would not pay someone who was looking after their water supply?)

The system was used until 1885 when a cholera epidemic forced the closure. With  the cisterns no longer being used they became rubbish dumps. Residents would throw their rubbish down the wells into the spaces below.

The cleaning of the tunnels goes on and it is possible to see the work in progress.

Bourbon tunnel

During WWII the tunnel served as an air raid shelter and military hospital providing aid and protection to up to 10,000 Neapolitans. There was no time to clean out the debris dumped in the tunnel, so soil was thrown in to cover it.

The walls were whitewashed to help brighten the area and make it look a bit cleaner.

Bourbon tunnel

We came to the saddest part of the tunnel where the evidence of this dreadful time is there to be seen…the remnants of the hospital and toys and every day items left behind by those who sheltered there.

Bourbon tunnel

Bourbon tunnel

People interviewed years later recalled that the times they spent as children in the tunnel were happy times. Their parents were free from the worry of bombs falling and the children were allowed to play.

Bourbon tunnel

Some of the highlighted graffiti on the walls shows the positive spirit of the people who sheltered in the tunnel.

Bourbon tunnel

Bourbon tunnel

We live.

Photos show a sad story.

Here are the other toilets, in the area reserved for poorer Neapolitans…just a hole in the floor.

Bourbon tunnel

After the war the tunnel was forgotten again until 2007 when geologists working on a nearby tunnel discovered the extensive system.  The Associazione Cultural Borbonica Sotterranea opened the tunnel to the public after years of cleaning and restoration work.

The tour is excellent. Our guide was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and had some wonderful tales to tell.

Don’t miss this if you go to Naples.

As well as the walks through the tunnel there are rafting and Cave tours  for the more adventurous…perhaps another time.

Tickets for the guided tour cost €15.

www.galleriaborbonica.com

Phone…(39) 366 2484151

mail@galleriaborbonica.com

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 16, 2018

Winter at Curly Flat

I have been to Victoria to visit Curly Flat, the beautiful vineyard and winery owned by my sister. The grape vines are resting, waiting for spring.

This is the view across the lake towards the vineyard. It looks wonderful even in the dead of winter.

Curly Flat

Curly Flat

Curly Flat

The driveway is lined with beautiful gum trees…very Australian.

Curly Flat

Other trees have lost their leaves for winter.

Curly Flat

Curly Flat

I went for a chilly walk around the lake. The day was cold and windy with threatening rain.

Curly Flat

Curly Flat

I woke one morning to find a mob of kangaroos having breakfast outside my bedroom. There was a huge buck feasting on the grass just metres from me.

Curly Flat

Curly Flat

 

Flocks of colourful galahs come in to feed most days.

Curly Flat

A flock of guinea fowl has moved to Curly Flat. The birds are fun to watch. They charge around as a group squabbling amongst themselves. They are extremely noisy and seem to be having earnest conversations with each other.

Curly Flat

Curly Flat

They will eventually move up to the vineyard to help control pesky insects. They will keep snakes away from the vineyard as well with their noise, something vineyard workers will be happy about.

Vintage Hall is the tasting room at Curly Flat. It is delightfully cosy in winter with the fires going on cold winter days.

Curly Flat

Curly Flat produces some of Australia’a best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The winery is open on Saturday and Sunday from 12.00 – 5.00pm. Drop in and say hello.

Curly Flat is in Lancefield, in the Macedon Ranges area of Victoria. It is the coolest wine growing area on mainland Australia, perfect for Pinot Noir.

http://www.curlyflat.com

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 11, 2018

Balenciaga museum

My main reason to visit Getaria was to see the Balenciaga Museum which was established in the town of the fashion designer’s birth in 2011.

Anyone with an interest in fashion would know of Cristobal Balenciaga. He was the most inspirational clothing designer of the 20th century. Christian Dior referred to him as “The master of us all”. On the day of his death in 1972 Women’s Wear Daily ran the headline “The King is Dead”.

Balenciaga

Cristobal Balenciaga was born in Getaria, in Basque Country in northern Spain on January 21, 1895. His father died when he was a child. His mother, Martina Eizaguirre, worked as a seamstress at Bista Ona, the summer residence of the Marquises de Casa Torres, often with her young son by her side. The Marchioness became one of Balenciaga’s first clients years later.

He began an apprenticeship at the age of 12 with a tailor, something which set him apart from other designers later on. He was able to cut fabric, assemble a garment and sew it by hand.

His first boutiques were in San Sebastián, but the Spanish Civil War saw him move to Paris. He opened his Paris couture house in Avenue George V in August 1937.

Harpers Bazaar wrote in 1938…”The best of the school is the new Spanish house Balenciaga. Here black is so black it hits you like a blow. Thick Spanish black, almost velvety, a night without stars, which makes the ordinary black seem almost gray”

The museum is attatched to the villa belonging to the Marquises de Casa Torres in Getaria.

Balenciaga

Balenciaga

The interior is as elegant as you would expect it to be.

At the entrance is a timeline of his life and a theatre showing a documentary about the designer.

There are more than 1200 pieces in the museum, many supplied by his pupil, Hubert de Givenchy, and the families of clients such as Grace Kelly.

The lighting is low and everything is behind glass, making taking photos difficult. Here are some that are not too bad. This first selection is from 1928 until 1952.

Balenciaga

Balenciaga

Balenciaga

His Spanish heritage was evident in his designs.

Balenciaga

His inventiveness became most evident in the post war years. In 1951 he transformed the silhouette, broadening the shoulders and removing the waist. In 1955 he designed the tunic dress which became the chemise in 1957. 1959 brought the empire line and coats like kimonos. The baby doll dress appeared in the late 1950s.  The sack dress was the forerunner of the mini-dress of the 1960s.

Balenciaga

Balenciaga

Balenciaga

Balenciaga

His sculptural designs were considered masterworks of haute couture in the 1950s and 1960s. Most of the clothes we think of typical of these decades where his creations.

He closed his couture house in 1968.

In the late 1960s he designed uniforms for Air France.

Balenciaga

He died on March 23, 1972.

Unlike many designers of his era (and now) he shunned publicity and gave only 1 interview in his life. He did not appear at the openings of his collections and his clients rarely saw him.

I read an excellent book on his life and work, Master of us All, by Mary Blume. She interviewed Florette Chelot, the first person Balenciaga hired in Paris. She became his top vendeuse and they worked closely together for 30 years. It is a fascinating insight into an interesting life.

My visit to The Balenciaga Museum was a delight. I have a feeling I will be back, there is much to take in.

Opening hours…

November – February…Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 – 15.00

March – October…Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 – 19.00

July – August…Open every day 10.00 – 20.00

Admission fee €10

info@cristobalbalenciagamuseoa.com

http://www.cristobalbalenciagamuseoa.com

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 7, 2018

A very special green door

The sleepy town of Getaria on the coast of Spain has a famous son. You may not have heard of him, I had not, but Juan Sebastian Elcano was the first person to circumnavigate the world in one voyage.

He was born in Getaria around 1486. One day he stepped out of this door, hopped on a ship and sailed off on a grand adventure…it is a bit more complicated than that, it was a convoluted journey to get to that stage, but he did live here.

El Cano

I learned at school (many years ago) that Portuguese sailor, Ferdinand Magellan, was the first to sail around the world. He led the vogage in 1519 with a crew of 260 on 5 ships. Elcano eventually became captain of one of these, Victoria. (photo of the replica courtesy of Wikipedia)

El Cano

 

Magellan might have been the first had he not been killed in the Philippines before the voyage was finished. There were mutinies, boat failures and many deaths before Elcano finished the vogage with what remained of the crew in September 1522.

All that is left of Elcano’s house in Getaria is a couple of crumbling walls, the front door and a sign.

El Cano

El Cano

Elcano returned home after just over 3 years at sea. Only 18 men from the original crew survived the journey. 4 Timorese (out of 13) also made it to Spain. The hold of Victoria was filled with much prized cloves and nutmeg.

A monument to the intrepid sailor stands proudly at the entrance to the old town. Next year will mark the 500th anniversary of this incredible journey.

El Cano

El Cano

What brave men these were to set off in small boats to explore the world!

Getaria has another famous son…next post.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 4, 2018

Something in the water

Getaria is a gorgeous little town clinging to the edge of the Bay of Biscay in Basque Country. This tiny seaside town in northern Spain is the birthplace of 2 of Spain’s most famous sons.

We arrived by bus from nearby San Sebastián (just 25 kilometres away) on a lovely spring day. The historic centre sits between the mainland and San Anton, which was an island until the 16th century.

Getaria

Getaria

Getaria

San Anton is called the Mouse of Getaria because of its shape. (You might need to squint to see that) It is now a national park with lots of walking trails, which will have to wait until our next visit.

Getaria

We wandered down the Main Street, Nagusia Kalea, looking for a late breakfast. Turn right at the boat.

Getaria

Getaria

We found a cute bar with some delicious breakfast pintxo.

Getaria

We were just about the only ones around. It was a Sunday and people were not out and about yet.

Getaria

There are several old buildings in the street. This one dates from the 16th or 17th century, although the washing is more recent.

Getaria

Getaria

The church of San Salvador is wedged into the end of the street. It was originally built into the defensive wall surrounding the town. It was begun in the late 15th century.

The streets around the church are extremely narrow making it difficult to get a view from a distance.

Getaria

The interior is quite strange. The floor is on an incline as it follows the line of the rock it is built on.

Getaria

The street continues through a tunnel beneath the church.

Getaria

On the other side is the pretty harbour. Fishing is one of the main industries in Getaria.

Getaria

Getaria

Getaria

Beside the port is a great little shop selling local products, including the local wine, txakoli.

Getaria

There is a good beach in the harbour, which had attracted a few swimmers.

Getaria

There are a few restaurants looking over the water specialising in freshly caught fish grilled over hot coals. Of course we had to try it.

All of the outdoor tables were booked and we managed to get the last indoor table in Mayflower and we were very pleased we did. The fish is possibly the best grilled fish I have ever eaten. It was simply cooked with olive oil and garlic…delicious. I also have developed a taste for grilled peppers.

After lunch we walked back to the bus stop via the main street which had become very busy. This is the scene in front of our breakfast spot.

There was a celebration underway as we were leaving.

Getaria

Getaria is a delightful little town. There are some interesting shops, great food and it has a wonderful atmosphere…a lovely way to spend a Sunday.

Getaria

I will tell you about Getaria’s famous sons in the next couple of posts.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 30, 2018

San Sebastián, the old town

I got a bit sidetracked after my previous post about San Sebastián, the wonderful Spanish city we visited in May. My IPad decided not to work for a while, then we were busy travelling again. I am home in Brisbane now, with more time to look through photos.

King Sancho the wise of Navarre wanted to have a route out to sea from his kingdom so he arranged the foundation of San Sebastián in 1180. Maritime trade flourished along with whaling and cod fishing.

Its proximity to France and its position on the road to Santiago drove the development of the town, but it also made it a strategic location in times of war. It became a fortified town in the 12th century and was successfully defended until 1719 when the town surrendered for the first time and fell into the hands of France for 2 years.

It fell again in 1794 when besieged by the French until 1813 when San Sebastián was liberated by Anglo-Portuguese soldiers, who burnt and looted the town. Very little survived from the old town and it was rebuilt within the walls almost from scratch. The new “old town” began.

The heart of the old town was and is Constitucion Plaza, formerly known as Plaza Nueva (New Square) from 1689 until 1820. The original buildings around the square were destroyed in 1813. Architect Pedro Manuel de Ugartemendia was commissioned to rebuild on the foundation of the old square in the Neo Classical style.

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

The city council  retained ownership of the balconies, renting them out during bullfighting festivals when the square was used as a bullring. The numbers of the viewing platforms have been kept.

San Sebastián

The square was renamed Constitucion Square in 1820 in honour of the constitutional regime which came in during that year.

The narrow streets in the old town are full of “pintxo” (pronounced pincho) bars and restaurants. Hopping from bar to bar to sample the delicious pintxo and drinking wine is a favourite pastime in San Sebastián.

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

This restaurant is famous for its sublime cheesecake. We tried it one night, declared it delicious and headed back the next night only to find the place closed.

San Sebastián

We need to go back to San Sebastián just for this.

San Sebastián

Dotted around this area are private clubs where men go to cook and enjoy the company of other would be cooks.

The magnificent Basilica of Santa Maria looms at the end of one of the streets. It was built over an old temple and completed in 1774. Saint Sebastián appears on the front of the church.

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

He also is shown in a painting in the altar near the tiny statue of the Virgen del Coro (Virgin of the choir), patron saint of the city, for whom the church is named.

San Sebastián

Legend says that the virgin’s little image was placed in the choir and that a clergyman, tired of going up the stairs to revere it, tried to take it home, hiding it under his cassock. When he got to the door he couldn’t move. He was immobilised.

The interior of the church is stunning. You can see just how small the little statue is here. San Sebastián is above her.

San Sebastián

From the front of the church you can see the new church far off in the newer part of the city.

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

Looking down to the left of the church you can just see San Vincente Church at the end of the street,  the oldest building in the city.

San Sebastián

Buildings on the right side of the street walking away from the church are all built after the fire that destroyed most of the town. Some of those on the left survived the fire.

This one is from the 16th century.

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

Further down the street is San Vincente church. It is just about impossible to get a good view of the whole building as the streets in front are narrow.

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

It was closed the first time we passed.

It was built in the early 16th century in Gothic style. Additions have been made since. The towers were erected in 1856, a semioctagonal baptistery in 1892 and in 1923 four rose windows were made in the facade.

Luckily, it was open the next day. Walking in is like entering a dark, golden cave, magnificent and peaceful at the same time.

San Sebastián

The church is home to one of the finest Romanesque altarpieces, the work of Ambrosio de Bengoecha and Juan de Iriarte.

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

There are other beautiful pieces.

Walking around the old town is both fascinating and delicious. Pintxos call from all directions and visual delights abound. It is quite different from the newer part of San Sebastián, which has the charm of the Belle Époque, with a distinct Parisian feel.

Together these districts help create a wonderful city. My friend calls it Paris by the sea…and excellent description.

San Sebastián became fashionable in 1845 when Queen Isabell II came to the seaside town on her doctor’s advice to allieviate her skin problems. The town grew and the old walls were demolished in 1864 by a clever mayor, allowing it to grow beyond the old town and it eventually become the stylish, modern city it is today.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 26, 2018

Tuscany’s cave dwellings

I saw recently that Tuscany has a town of cave dwellings similar to Matera in Basilicata. Since we were going to be in the area, we thought to would be a good idea to investigate.

Like several towns in southern Tuscany, Sorano is built on top of a tufa plug, porous volcanic rock. On the way to Sorano we passed spectacular Pitigliano on its ridge of tufa.

Pitigliano

Sorano is more compact that Pitigliano, but impressive nonetheless. From the edge of town the Masso Leopoldino dominates. It is a defensive outpost built in medieval times by Gran Duke Leopold and restored more recently.

Sorano

Sorano

We headed into the centre and found a map of the city. There is a castle high above the town, Orsini Castle, built in the 14th century and renovated by Nicolo Orsini in 1552. It is considered one of the most important examples of Renaissance military architecture.

Sorano

Sorano

We didn’t go there. Instead we walked through the town towards Masso Leopoldino, the curved structure in the above photos.

We entered the historical part of Sorano through an old arched portal.

Sorano

The streets are narrow, with tiny laneways and steps going up and down.

Sorano

Sorano

 

Sorano

We took the high road towards the historical centre.

Sorano

Sorano

It would be a serious challenge living in some of these old homes.

Sorano

We walked uphill to the Masso Leopoldino. There is a good view of the castle from here.

Sorano

Sorano

We got to the top to discover that the gate to the panoramic terrace on the top of Masso Leopoldino was firmly closed. Of course we only found this after climbing more stairs.

Sorano

From the terrace below Masso Leopoldino we could see caves dug into the surrounding tufa cliffs.

Sorano

Sorano

We walked down the Via Archetto della Rocco Vecchio, a very interesting part of the town.

Sorano

Some of the houses are still lived in and well cared for and there are crumbling remnants of ancient homes, some clearly dug into the tufa.

Sorano

 

Sorano

 

Sorano

Sorano

Sorano

 

Sorano

Sorano

From various vantage points we could see cave homes dug in to the sides of the cliffs. It must have been a difficult way to live.

Sorano

Even letterboxes are dug into the tufa.

Sorano

We had a final look at dramatic Sorano on our way out of town.

 

Sorano

Sorano didn’t really remind me of Matera, but it has a fascination of its own, and is well worth a visit.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 22, 2018

Our garden at Casa Debbio

Leaving my garden at Casa Debbio to come home to Australia is difficult. After watching it grow in spring, planting, weeding and watering I have to leave it behind for the summer.

This year, after a late spring dotted with snow, hail and lots of rain, the garden grew like Topsy.

This is what the entrance to the house looked like at the end of winter.

Casa Debbio

This is what it looked like a few months later.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

The lavender is stunning. I love to walk along the paths early in the morning with the sun shining through the plants. Before I left the flowers were almost open. One day I will be there to see them in full bloom.

Casa Debbio

The weeping cherry is doing well this year. The wild goats didn’t come this year since wolves have been reintroduced to the area and the leaves are no longer chewed off to goat height. The peonies at the start of the driveway will be finished now, but they were amazing this year.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

The terrace below the house is looking great. We lost a few plants to the tricky weather, but the replacements will catch up soon.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Roses, rhododendrons, peonies, delphiniums and ricotta flowers grew beautifully.

Casa Debbio

We have several fig trees which are covered with fruit, but this one is a favourite. It was caught up amongst lots of acacia and when we cut those down is began to grow.

Casa Debbio

The frassino, flowering ash, trees put on the best show this year. The mountainsides were dotted with these gorgeous white flowering trees. They don’t bloom every year, but this year they were spectacular.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Last year we planted lavender along the driveway to the house. This year it is waist high.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Wisteria is growing and may cover our pergolas this year.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

The area beside the house is thriving. Wisteria is growing along the fence, my favourite peonies are doing well and our tomatoes, raspberries, kiwi and gooseberries are on the way.

Casa Debbio

I prefer to leave flowers in the garden but there were so many peonies this year I picked lots.

Casa Debbio

We planted grass in front of the house this year.

Casa

Behind the house the hydrangeas and peonies have doubled in size since last year. We have acanthus flowers, wild flowers on the old walls, forsythia and the beech hedge is coming along.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

The house and garden have been left in Filippo’s capable hands. We are very lucky to have him. When I return in autumn it will be time to prune the 350 lavender plants, a job that I love doing. The fragrance is delightful and I find lavender flowers in my pockets for weeks afterwards.

Casa Debbio is available for rent and we have time left this August. Next year we would like to rent the house on a monthly basis. If you know someone who might be interested pass on this post. Anyone who loves garden will love Casa Debbio.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 20, 2018

Home to Australia

We flew into Brisbane early this morning. The sunrise from my window was stunning. Thank you Finnair and Qantas for excellent flights.

Sunrise Brisbane

Sunrise Brisbane

 

Sunrise Brisbane

Sunrise Brisbane

Sunrise Brisbane

Sunrise Brisbane

Sunrise Brisbane

Sunrise Brisbane

I am happy to be back in Australia for a few months. Winter in Brisbane is glorious. After a cool start the day warmed up to about 22 degrees with blue sky and sunshine.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 10, 2018

Time to go home

Our time in Italy has come to an end…for now. I really like winter in Brisbane and I am ready to resume my Australian life.

I will miss my beautiful garden at Casa Debbio. My flowers are gorgeous this year.

Casa Debbio

 

Casa Debbio

I will miss my lovely Ponte a Serraglio and my morning coffee and sfoglia at Bar Italia.

Casa Debbio

 

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

There have been some excellent developments in Ponte a Serraglio recently. Bar Italia has been renovated and it is great. The bar is busy all day and the piazza has come alive again.

A young couple has opened a fabulous fruit and vegetable shop beside the bar and it is also busy all the time. I love being able to walk across the bridge and buy just about everything I need.

The Corona hotel has been renovated and will be open soon as the Hotel Nazionale. Best of all they have opened a new restaurant where we have eaten some of the best food in the area.

It is great to see some growth in our little part of Italy. See more on  http://bellabagnidilucca.com

My iPad has been playing games. Once I get it sorted I will go through the photos of our trips in Europe this visit and there will be more posts soon.

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