Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 7, 2016

Little bird

While in Tasmania we also visited friends near Burnie on the north coast. They have a stunning property with their very own rain forest. Imagine having a rain forest in your back yard.

There were pretty little birds everywhere and one in particular was determined to drink the nectar from the yellow flowers beside the front door of the house.

Little bird

It is a beautiful part of the world.

Kathy and Michael both write blogs about their travels and experiences. Drop in and say hello to Cannon Hill Chronicles and Tiger Dreaming.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 2, 2016

Beautiful bay

We had a quick visit to Tasmania to escape a bit of Queensland summer heat. We visited our lovely friends who live in Binalong Bay on the east coast. It was overcast when we arrived but the sun came out the following morning to allow some photos of the beautiful beach.

Binalong Bay

The lichen covered rocks look as though they have been painted especially to delight viewers.

Binalong Bay


Binalong Bay


Binalong Bay

Binalong Bay


Binalong Bay

Binalong Bay

Binalong Bay

The long stretch of beach was looking a bit wind blown, but gorgeous.

Binalong Bay


Binalong Bay

The point was shrouded in morning mist.

Binalong Bay

Our friend Roz has a wonderful cooking school called Kiss a Fish. It is a perfect .spot for a seafood cooking school. Take a look at her website…  I have sampled her delicious cooking many times, I know her lessons would be fun and informative

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 28, 2016

Pop Up number 2

By now you are probably sick of all your summer clothes and there is still at least another 2 months of hot weather in Brisbane. I have been busy sewing some cool summer things for my second Pop Up. It will be in the same location as last time…Sarva, at 239 Boundary St, West End.

Pop Up 5th February

I have a bigger range of sizes this time and some skirts, shorts and narrow pants as well as tops and dresses. Everything is either cotton or linen. The linen is easy care and no ironing (unless you really want to).

I also have some soft cases for your glasses and if I have enough time there will be some cushions in fabrics I have collected from all over the world.

Pop Up 5th February

The Pop Up begins on Friday 5th February until 13th February. It will be open from 9.30 am until 3.00 pm every day.

Drop in to say hello…and please tell your friends.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 22, 2016

Top tips for Padova

One of the highlights of my time in Italy last autumn was my visit to Padova, or Padua as it is known outside Italy. I stayed for a few days and covered a fair bit of the lovely city.

Padova is a university city, which means it is lively and fun. There is nothing like lots of students to liven a place up. The city is ancient. Padova was known for its art with the Etruscans and the Greeks of Taranto before the time of the Romans. It is still a city of art and culture.

My first tip is to visit the Scrovegni Chapel to see Giotto’s magnificent frescoes. You can see more on this here. Giotto’s frescoes would be a good enough reason alone to visit Padova.


While in the area, go next door to the Church of the Eremitani. It was begun in 1276 and completed in the early years of the 14th century. The wooden ceiling is constructed with multiple arches in the style known as the “ship’s keel”. There are beautiful marble tombs and restored frescoes…take the time to wander slowly.


Prato delle Valle was once the site of a Roman theatre. Excavations revealed a semicircular orchestra pit with a radius of 15.52 metres. Now it is a huge green space. Isola Memmia, the centrepiece, is surrounded by a circular canal with stone balustrades and four quaint bridges. 87 white stone statues border the canal on either side. See more here.


Take time to wander in the Botanical Garden begun in 1545, the first of its kind in  Europe. See my visit here.


Palazzo Bo is the heart of the university. Poke you head into the entrance to see the lovely staircase and the magnificent doors, where the students who died in WWII are remembered. Go inside to see the Anatomy Theatre or the modest wooden podium from which Galileo Galilei lectured in physics from 1592 to 1610.

Walk past Casa Olzignani, in Via Umberto I, with its Gothic facade. The house was built in 1466 by P Lombardi and is considered one of the finest works of 15th century Paduan architecture.

Go to Caffe Pedrocchi (see another post here) and try their very special coffee. It is also an excellent spot for aperitivo.


Piazza dei Signori has a magnificent clock tower installed in 1344. I can’t show you, it was covered in scaffolding for repairs when I was there. I did see the Lion of St Mark standing on an ancient Roman column and a very lovely old building.



Not to be missed is the magnificent Palazzo della Ragionethe Municipal Palace built between 1218 and 1219. The squares on either side are often filled with market stalls and there are several inviting place to stop for lunch or a snack. Don’t miss the huge upstairs room with the giant wooden horse…see here for more photos.



I stayed in the Hotel Casa del Pelligrino, opposite the stunning Basilica of Saint Anthony with its towers and cupolas. Photos are not allowed inside so I can’t show you the Ark of St Anthony or the 9 marble high reliefs from 1521, that made me want to reach out and touch them, or the other incredible things that kept me enthralled for ages.

I can show you the exterior and the bronze monument to Gattamelata (Honeyed Cat), real name Erasmo da Narni. It is by Donatello.


Of course there is much more to Padova than these recommendations, but these, at least, are not to be missed.

Here are a few more random moments from my time in Padova.



Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 18, 2016

Hard at work in Florence

I visit Florence regularly when I am in Bagni di Lucca. It is an easy trip in the bus and there always much to see.

I spotted these workmen on the front of the Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza Signoria.

Palazzo Vecchio Florence

Palazzo Vecchio Florence

David and his mates just ignored them.

Palazzo Vecchio Florence

But I think Giotto, in front of the Uffizi, was trying to keep an eye on them with a sideway glance.

Giotto at the Uffizzi

I’ll be back in Italy soon…can’t wait.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 12, 2016

Antenore, Dante and DHL

When I was in Padova last time I went in search of the tomb of Antenore, the supposed founder of Padova, or Patavium as it was called then. Antenore was a Trojan prince mentioned in Homer’s Iliad.

The stone sarcophagus was built in 1274 by the citizens of Padova to honour their founder, and it remains in its original position, in what is now called Piazza Antenore.

Tomb of Antenore Padova

Antenore' tomb Padova

Antenore's tomb Padova

The city has grown around it.

Opposite the tomb is the 15th century Palazzo Sala with its beautiful facade.

Palazzo Sala Padova

Palazzo Sala Padova

Palazzo Sala Padova

Beside it is the gothic Palazzo Romanin Jacur, where Dante Alighieri was said to have stayed to escape arrest after he was charged with political corruption and banished from Florence . There is a plaque in his honour on the facade of the building.

Palazzo Romanin Jacur Padova

Dante Alighieri in Padova


While I was admiring the tomb and the old buildings, a DHL delivery truck turned up. A matching bicycle appeared to ferry the deliveries to an address down a tiny alley.

DHL Padova

DHL in Padova

DHL in Padova

I really love the way Italians adapt their modern lives to the ancient streets…much better than demolishing buildings to widen streets…just build smaller vehicles.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 7, 2016

Castel Sant’Angelo…Rome

On a recent trip to Rome I was a bit unlucky with the weather. It was raining quite heavily so I took the opportunity to go inside the Castel Sant’Angelo. I have walked past it many times and have always been curious. The rainy day did me a favour.

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

What is now The National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo was originally the tomb of emperor Hadrian.

Trajan’s adopted son, Hadrian was emperor of Rome between 117 and 38 AD. A noble and highly cultured figure who was strong and austere, he was a brilliant soldier and an astute politician. He had a predilection for art, music, philosophy and literature and is remembered as one of the best of the Roman Empire.

For himself and his family he built a massive sepulchre just outside the heart of the city, the Ager Vaticanus. The mausoleum was to tower over the others beside it and be linked to the centre of Rome by the richly ornamented Pons Aelius, constructed by the same emperor.

The bridge is still standing and is now called Ponte Sant’Angelo. The three central arches remain from the Roman era. The 10 statues now in place were added much later, in 1668. Two were created by Bernini and considered to precious to remain outside and were moved to the church of Sant’Andrea Delle Fratte. Replicas were made by Bernini’s students.

Ponte Sant'Angelo Rome

For a €9 entry fee you can enter the museum and wander freely through this incredible building…come for a walk.

There are huge sculptures from ancient times.

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

It is possible to get up close and personal with the detail of the construction…it was built to last.

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

The pathways give a wonderful perspective of the layout. The original structure was on three levels, the outer quadrangular base, the massive cylindrical core covered with green vegetation from the centre of which rose another smaller cylinder. This was surmounted by a quadrilateral, a four horse chariot bearing the emperor. It must have looked spectacular…it still does.

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

The statue of Michael the Archangel displayed in the courtyard is by Raffaello da Montelupo. It is 3.3 metres tall and its copper wings have perforations to reduce wind resistance.

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

There is a very cute cafe.

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

There are amazing views from various vantage points.

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

I find it incredible that we can walk in the footsteps of Roman emperors…don’t you?

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 2, 2016

My grandfather’s gift

About 50 years ago my grandfather gave me a Bernina sewing machine…in a roundabout way. I think he bought it from some friends returning to Finland. They couldn’t take it with them and he helped them out by buying it.

He gave it to my mother, but she already had a machine she liked, so I got it. I remember the first thing I sewed on it when I was about 13. My mother took me to the fabric shop to buy a pattern and some fabric. It was yellow and orange check (it was the 60s). The pattern was for an empire line dress with puff sleeves.

My mother set me up and told me to just do it. I got stuck on the zip and she helped me with that.

I was off and sewing. I made most of my clothes as a teenager. I would make something on Saturday morning to wear that night. I made clothes for my friends.

Later on I made all my son’s clothes until he went to school and it wasn’t cool to have clothes your mother made. He did relent when he was older and left home and had to buy his own clothes.

Later still I made all the garments I sold in my shop in the Brisbane Arcade. When I closed the shop I returned to just making things for myself and friends.

Just recently I put my retail toe back in the water with my Pop Up shop and the Bernina fired up again.

A couple of weeks ago my sewing machine stopped working. I took it to the repair shop with trepidation. I felt as though I was taking a sick pet to the vet, terrified I was going to be told it would have to be put down. I left it behind with the feeling I had lost my right arm. My Bernina has been with me for most of my life, longer than my youngest brother.

I am happy to report that the Bernina is alive and kicking. The repair man told me that the carbon brushes had disintegrated. He said “That ‘s when I knew the machine had worked hard”.  He assured me that it would outlast me and sews better than most of the new machines on the market. He also said that the only thing my machine and some others have in common is that they are called sewing machines and that in some cases I might as well use a staple gun…obviously a tried and true Bernina man…just what you want to fix an old friend.

I think my grandfather would have been delighted to know how treasured his gift has been.

My Bernina

You can see that it has been well used. It has a few battle scars.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 30, 2015

2015 at Casa Debbio

It has been a busy year at Casa Debbio. There was snow in late December 2014 and January 2015.

snow at Casa Debbio

I arrived in February, keen to start work on the new garden on the terrace below the house, but I had to wait a while for plants to arrive in the nursery. Meanwhile daffodils began to appear.

Casa Debbio daffodils

As soon as I could I began buying new plants.

new plants for Casa Debbio

In April things started to move in the garden. My weeping cherry put on a great spring show.Weeping cherry at Casa Debbio

Tiny figs began to appear. We have a couple of old fig trees that have been on the property for years and we have planted several new ones.

Casa Debbio figs

The magnolia produced flowers. I am hoping this tree will provide shade at the front of the house in a year or two.

Casa Debbio magnolia

The aquilegias grew lots of flowers and they stayed for months.

aquilegias at Casa Debbio

The bleeding hearts look amazing.

bleeding hearts at Casa Debbio

The terrace below the house began to take shape.

Garden at Casa Debbio

I grew a big fat, pink peony.

my big fat pink peony

There was at least one spectacular moon.

Casa Debbio moon

…and a rainbow or two.

Casa Debbio rainbow

Our lavender went crazy this year.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio lavender

We had wild daisies everywhere for a while.

wild daisies at Casa Debbio

It was a very dry spring and the plants needed lots of watering, but the terrace below the house gradually started to fill up. It is going to look stunning by the end of spring 2016.

Casa Debbio in spring

We we will eventually have beautiful fruit trees behind the house. We have planted about 40 trees, apples, figs, cherries, peaches, quince, pomegranate, persimmons and pears.

Casa Debbio

Another of my peony plants produced blooms…22 just like this.

Casa Debbio peony

I had to drag myself away in June to return to Australia while Casa Debbio welcomed guests from Australia, Belgium, Germany and England over the summer.

I returned in September to find the garden to find all the figs had been eaten, (I hope not all by birds) but lots of tomatoes and raspberries left.

Casa Debbio tomatoes

I had my very own pomegranates.

Casa Debbio pomegranates

Hydrangeas were still in bloom.

Casa Debbio hydrangeas

The geraniums around the barbecue did very well…thank you to Filippo who was at the house every other day at 6.00am to water. It was a long, dry, hot summer. He managed to keep just about everything alive. The only plants I lost were the ones I planted too late in the spring. It was just too hot for them.

Geraniums at Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

I gathered huge bunches of lavender from the garden. We have almost 200 hundred plants now. Every room in the house has vases full of lavender. Then I pruned them so they will keep their shape next year.

We finally got some much needed rain and the garden loved it…so did I. It saved me hours of watering.

rain at Casa Debbio

There was time for several lunches in the terrace.

lunch at Casa Debbio

…and time to just admire the view.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Filippo and Ricardo built a pergola beside the house, which I hope will be covered with wisteria next spring. They laid some beautiful hand made terra cotta tiles around the house and next year will build another pergola in front of the house to provide shade. I will be back in February to get this underway.

As I left Casa Debbio for the last time this year in late October the yellow leaves were falling from the trees on the way out of Vergemoli…it was difficult to leave.

Autumn in Vergemoli

My friends in the village have told me that the weather there right now is warm and sunny, but winter is expected to finally arrive in the next week or two.

There will be more planting, weeding, watering, building, lunching and enjoying when I return in 2016…can’t wait.

We now have an official website I have a bit of work to do on it, but there is lots of information for anyone wanting to rent a gorgeous house in a magnificent mountain setting.

Please share with anyone who might be interested.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 26, 2015

A year of travel

2015 was an interesting year of travel for me. Here are some of my favourite places visited this year.

If you click the highlighted words the original post will appear.

In January we drove to the beautiful Granite Belt to stay near Stanthorpe for Australia Day. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at a local winery and the Australian bush.

Australian bush

My lovely friend Poorna is studying in Oxford and invited me to spend a few days with her on my way to Italy in February. The city is full of amazing things…and I met my first robin.


Oxford robin

I arrived in Italy in time to see the fabulous Viareggio Carnevale. I go every year if I can. It is a spectacle not to be missed.

Viareggio Carnevale

Bagni di Lucca was hit by a freak tornado in March, not long after I arrived. The noise of the wind was terrifying in the middle of the night and we awoke to destruction in some of the villages.

Tornado in Bagni di Lucca

Lucca is just 30 minutes from Bagni di Lucca and I visit often…even in the rain.

Lucca in the rain

I headed off to Verona with a friend in April. It is one of my favourite cities in Italy.


Spring finally arrived at Casa Debbio and my plants began to grow. There were fruit blossoms on all the trees and my newly planted terrace started to take shape.

Blossoms at Casa Debbio

I visited a magnificent garden in Tuscany. La Foce was begun in the 1920s by Iris Origo and it is now open to the public on certain days…I will be back, I loved this garden.

La Foce

May was a busy month. The Giro d’Italia came through Bagni di Lucca, right past our apartment, causing much excitement.

Giro d'Italia in Bagni di Lucca

Soon after came the most beautiful road race in the world, the Mille Miglia. Once again, it came past our place.

Giro d'Italia

We visited Poppi, Castiglion Fiorentino , Cortona and Arezzo, a firm favourite. I don’t know why more tourists don’t visit Arezzo, but I’m pleased they don’t.


In late May we drove to Barcelona, stopping at Arles along the way. It has one of the biggest food markets I have ever seen.

Arles food market

The town of Arles is quite lovely, no wonder Van Gogh was drawn to it.


Everyone should go to Barcelona at least once. It is worth a visit for Gaudi alone…but don’t miss the great food at the Boqueria markets.

Gaudi in Barcelona

On the way home from Barcelona we stopped at the sea side town of Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer.


We stayed the night at Eze, a beautiful little town perched on top of a rock overlooking the sea near Monaco.


Then it was home to Brisbane for a while to enjoy our lovely winter.

Brisbane City beach

It was back to Bagni di Lucca in September in time to renew my drivers licence. Official things are always fraught with difficulty, but they must be done. It is just as well Italy is beautiful and we can forgive it for these things.

Ponte a Serraglio

I took myself off to Padova to the the Giotto frescoes and fell in love with this underrated city.


Florence is an easy day trip from Bagni di Lucca. I go often and it is always fun to see the shop windows full of fabulous designer fashion.

Roberto Cavalli Florence

My sister showed her Curly Flat wine in shows in Stockholm and Helsinki, so I went up to help. Stockholm is a gorgeous city.



I can never get enough of Helsinki.


Autumn is a time of chestnut festivals in the Garfagnana and one of the best is in Cascio. It was a glorious day in the mountains.

Cascio chestnut festival

I had to leave my garden at Casa Debbio in late October. I shut down the house for the winter and dragged myself away.

Casa Debbio

I had a brief stop in Rome on the way back to Brisbane and explored the Jewish Quarter behind  Teatro Marcello.

Teatro Marcello Rome

Back home we went to the beach…a good reason to be in Australia.

Main Beach

My Pop Up shop went well. It was great to see some faces from my days in retail in the Brisbane Arcade. I am now busy sewing for my next one at the beginning of February.

Pop Up shop

Now 2015 is almost over and it is time to start planning next year’s travels. I will be back in Bagni di Lucca in mid February. I can’t wait to get back to Casa Debbio to continue with our garden.

We are planning to go to Sicily in spring. We will drive down, stopping in Naples and Calabria on the way. I hope you will all come along for the ride.



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