Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 20, 2017

The end of winter

I have arrived in Italy to glorious winter weather. It is sunny and clear and not too cold…the perfect weather to be out walking.

Ponte a Serraglio looks wonderful.

Ponte a Serraglio

Ponte a Serraglio

As soon as I could I headed up to Casa Debbio to see how it has survived the winter…all is well. Casa Debbio is waiting patiently for spring.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

There are some signs that spring is not too far away. Daffodils will soon be open.

Casa Debbio

There are buds on the wisteria.

Casa Debbio

I can see signs of new life everywhere…I will keep you posted.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 17, 2017

Hello cold

I arrived in Helsinki to zero degrees. The early morning sky was overcast, but there was no wind and it was actually quite pleasant to be rugged up in my warm coat and walking around the city. I arrived at 7.00am and couldn’t get into my hotel until a bit later.

The days are growing longer and it was becoming light by the time I got to Espanadi Park in the centre of the city. Most of the snow is gone from the streets.

Helsinki

Helsinki

Helsinki

This lovely boat is moored beside the harbour.

Helsinki

Helsinki

I did try to go back later for lunch, but there was nobody around.

The water at Toolonlahti is still frozen. People were cycling across, dogs were out walking…cold weather doesn’t keep Finns inside.

Helsinki

Helsinki

Helsinki

Helsinki

Helsinki

Helsinki

A small group of ducks stay behind for the winter. The white duck I spotted last year is still around. They have trained people to feed them.

Ducks Helsinki

White duck Helsinki

Ducks Helsinki

Tomorrow I will be in Italy where the temperature in Bagni di Lucca should be around 18 degrees, with sun…perfect.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 14, 2017

Goodbye hot

Tomorrow I leave behind this…

Main Beach

for this…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and then this…

Ponte a Serraglio

I can’t wait to get away from the heat wave we have been sweating through here in Brisbane.

We have lots of great plans for the next few months in Italy. The garden at Casa Debbio is calling me. I hope it has survived the winter and I look forward to watching things spring to life in the next few weeks.

We are planning trips to Naples and surrounds, Greece, Croatia and lots of days trips in gorgeous Italy. I hope you all come along for the ride.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 4, 2017

Ferrara, things to see and eat

I read a book about the Borgias, the infamous family that included a Pope, a murderous son and Lucretia of the poison ring stories. The book inspired a visit to Ferrara where Lucretia went to live in 1502.

Ferrara is in Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy. It is 50 kilometres from Bologna and just over 100 kilometres from Venice. It seems to sit in the shadow of both and doesn’t attract as many visitors as it probably should. It has much to offer.

Ferrara’s most famous building is the Este Castle. Duke Ercole 1 converted a defensive fortress into a castle refuge for his family. The Este clan were rivals to the Medici from Florence in power and prestige. The castle was built in 1385 and is surrounded by a moat. It has 4 bastions and towers which were added to in the 16th century.

Ferrara

Lucrezia Borgia is the most famous resident of the castle. I think she is badly treated by history with tales of murders and poison rings. She was the daughter of the corrupt and vicious Pope Alexander VI, otherwise known as Rodrigo Borgia, and one of his mistresses, Vanozza dei Cattanei. She was married off as a teenager to further her father’s career. He had this marriage annulled when it no longer suited him. Her second husband Alfonso of Aragon was killed, probably by her murderous thug brother, Cesare.

Her third marriage at the age of 22 was to Alfonso d’Este of Ferrara. Her new husband to be rushed to the Ponte Poledrano Bentivoglio Castle to meet her…it was the beginning of a love story. At the wedding ceremony the subjects were won over by the bride when she fell from her horse. She quickly regained composure, and getting to her feet, she smilingly mounted one of the mules in the procession. Poor Lucrezia went on to have 8 more children and several miscarriages. She died shortly after the birth of her 10th child at the age of 39.

It seemed quite strange to be walking through her house and wondering what her life was really like. It seems that her marriage was filled with love even though both partners had a roving eye.

There is much to see near the castle. Girolamo Savonarola keeps stern watch over the piazza named for him. He was a Dominican friar from Ferrara who was murdered in Florence in 1498.

Ferrara

Teatro Comunale stands in front of the castle. The theatre was inaugurated in 1798.  I didn’t go inside, but I was impressed by the elliptical courtyard, which in earlier times provided passage for carriages.

Palazzo Comunale was the original Este residence. It was begun in 1245, but has had many transformations. The columns support statues of Marquis Nicole III on horseback and Duke Borso on the throne. The originals were destroyed in the French invasion in 1796. Copies were created in 1927.

Ferrara

The cathedral is dedicated to Virgin Mary and St George, Ferrrara’s patron saint. The facade has Romanesque features from 1135 and Gothic from the middle 13th and 14th centuries.

Ferrara

I liked the carvings on the facade, particularly the animals.

One clearly foretold of the emergence of the bicycle (I have never seen so many in an Italian city) as a popular means of transport…and also provides a good parking spot.

Ferrara

The interior of the cathedral holds several ancient works of art but I found it quite gloomy.

At the back of the cathedral is an interesting interpretation of the maddona and child. It is tucked into a little alcove opposite the bell tower in the next photo.

Ferrara

The side view of the cathedral with the campanile is lovely.

Ferrara

A little out of the centre of the city is the Palazzo Schifanoia. Its main feature is the Hall of Months with beautiful frescoes commissioned by Duke Borso.

The adjoining room called the Hall of Virtues, or Hall of Stuccoes, has rich decoration on the ceilings and higher parts of the walls.

In a different direction is the Palazzo dei Diamanti, Diamond Palace, named for the diamond shaped blocks on the facade. It is now the National Picture Gallery.

Ferrara

Ferrara

Off in another direction is Casa Romei, the best preserved Renaissance building in Ferrara. It was the residence of Giovanni Romei who was related by marriage to the Este family. It later became the home of the nuns of Corpus Domini, which probably saved it from destruction. This beautiful house was my favourite thing in Ferrara. I happily wandered for some time in the beautiful rooms.

Ferrara

 

Parts of the old Ferrara wall survive and they reminded me a little of Lucca’s magnificent walls. They provide a lovely walking area on the edge of the city.

Ferrara

I found a pretty park near the wall.

There are some delightful back streets to discover.

It was in this area I found a couple of charming restaurants…Trattoria da Noemi.

Ferrara

…and Trattoria il Mandolino.

Ferrara

A speciality of the area is cappellaci di zucca…pumpkin filled pasta…delicious.

Ferrara

Keep and eye out for coppia Ferrarese, a twisted bread first created at a dinner for the Duke of Ferrara in 1536.

Ferrara

I also had a wonderful meal at Hostaria Savonarola.

The selection of local cured meat was excellent.

Ferrara

This is a type of sausage particular to the area. It is made with red wine.

Ferrara

The shopping is good in Ferrara. There are some stylish shops with lots to tempt shoppers.

There is much to see in Ferrara. The interesting sites are a little spread out, so you may need to stay a couple of nights to make the most of what the city has to offer. Make sure you don’t get run over by a bicycle.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 2, 2017

To market

I know I rave on about the wonderful food markets in Italy, but Australia does them very well too. I went to the Queen Victoria Market recently and the range of fresh produce was stunning.

This fresh produce is in the open air section of the market, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. There is also an excellent covered section with delicatessens, butchers, bakers, seafood and much more.

Queen Victoria markets

Queen Victoria markets

Queen Victoria markets

The market was begun in 1878 and was named, not for Queen Victoria, but because it is on the junction of Queen and Victoria streets.

The old building looks quaint among the ever growing towers which seem to be creeping closer.

Queen Victoria Market

 

The people of Melbourne are lucky to have this wonderful market in the city.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 30, 2017

At the beach

In a couple of weeks I will be heading back to Italy. One of the things I miss about Australia when I am there is the beach. I think we have some of the best beaches in the world here. One of my favourite beaches is Noosa, not far from home.

Take a look…I am sure you will agree that is is an excellent beach.

Noosa

Noosa

Noosa

Noosa

The beach is lined with restaurants and places to stay. There is nothing over 3 levels and I think it looks great. Beaches in Australia are free and everyone has access.

Noosa

The water is clean and clear.

Noosa

On my early morning swim I looked down to see whiting and  bream swimming by. I can’t show you because I don’t have a waterproof camera, but I could have reached out and touched them.

Around the headland is Little Cove…a little slice of heaven.

Little Cove

We booked our stay at the end of the summer holidays here in Queensland. Children have gone back to school and the beach is now quiet…the way I like it.

Noosa is an excellent place for holidays by the sea. The beach is beautiful, the sea is relatively safe with no huge waves and there is a lovely walk around the coast. Care has been taken to provide wooden boardwalks beside the sea to help preserve the trees and vegetation. It is not unusual to see a koala in the eucalypt trees along the path. We walked along the path this morning.

Noosa

Noosa

Noosa

There is a great view from the path back to the main beach.

Noosa

Noosa

Noosa

There is also a view of a fabulous house on First Point…the best position  in town.

Noosa

There are some lovely rain forest walks along the path.

Noosa

We took a boat down the Noosa river to Tewantin. There are some enormous, expensive houses on one side of the river and national park on the other side. Dozens of houseboats are anchored…I even found one for sale for you.

Noosa

The river is lovely, I recommend the boat ride.

Noosa

Noosa

I hate to drag myself away from Noosa, but it will still be here when I return from Italy. I have been visiting Noosa since the 1960s and I hope to continue for some time to come.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 26, 2017

Tapas

I have not been a huge fan of tapas until I went to Movida in Hosiers Lane in Melbourne. It is not easy to get a booking at this popular restaurant, but if you go just as they open at midday it is usually possible to find a spot at the bar.

I was alone, so I only have 5 delicious tapas to show you.

Anchovy on crouton with smoked tomato sorbet. This explodes with flavour in your mouth.

Movida

Duck liver pate with pickled cucumber on grilled sourdough.

Movida

Pressed pork sandwich, tomato jam and quail’s egg.

Movida

Baby cos with anchovy and pickled garlic.

Movida

Fried zucchini flower filled with scallop mousse served with bisque mayonnaise.

Movida

I have enjoyed good tapas in Barcelona, but the Movida take on this is stunning. I think they need to open a branch in Brisbane.

If you are in Melbourne you must try Movida.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 23, 2017

Twelve Apostles

The 12 Apostles are a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park on the southern coast of Victoria, 275 kilometres west of Melbourne. The name is a little curious as there were only ever 9 stacks. There are now 8 left after one collapsed in 2005.

We drove along the spectacular Great Ocean Road to reach the 12 Apostles. The coast is rugged and beautiful and the countryside dramatic. I would show you more, but almost every time we stopped the car to take photos it began to rain.

Great Ocean Rd

Great Ocean Rd

Great Ocean Rd

A howling wind greeted us as we stepped onto the viewing platform. I could barely stand, let alone hold the camera still, but I managed a few photos.

12 Apostles

12 Apostles

12 Apostles

12 Apostles

The Apostles are created by erosion. The harsh and extreme weather conditions from the Southern Ocean gradually erode the soft limestone cliffs to form caves, which then become arches. These then collapse and leaving rock stacks up to 50 metres high.

It is possible to see the effects of erosion on the nearest stack. The rate of erosion is about 2 centimetres a year. Wave action and wind is likely to produce more stacks in the future.

12 Apostles

12Apostles

12 Apostles

The cliffs were certainly taking a beating the day we visited.

12 Apostles

The viewing area is very well set up. There is an enormous car park beside the highway with an information centre. Access to the platform is via an underpass, making the car park a discrete distance from the 12 Apostles.

The Great Ocean Rd is an Australian National Heritage listed 244 kilometre stretch of road along the south east coast of Australia between Torquay and Allanford.

It was built by approximately 3,000 returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932 and dedicated to soldiers killed during WWI. Construction was done by hand; using explosives, pick and shovel, wheel barrows and some small machinery. It is difficult to drive along the road without thinking of the soldiers and the hardships they endured.

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 20, 2017

A wallaby eating a chip

On the way to the viewing platform for the Twelve Apostles on the southern coast of Victoria we spotted a wallaby. He was completely unafraid of people and left the long grass to hop towards the path.

wallaby

We soon saw what he was after. Someone had thrown some potato chips to the ground.

He carefully picked up a couple and ate them, had a look around and hopped off.

wallaby

wallaby

wallaby

wallaby

wallaby

wallaby

wallaby

He was covered in prickles, which didn’t seem to bother him.

wallaby

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 18, 2017

An afternoon at the gallery

I am in Melbourne to visit my son and sister…and to escape a bit of Queensland heat. I also came to see 3 exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria.

I was dropped off at Flinders St Station, a wonderful Melbourne building.

Flinders St station

Flinders St station

I crossed the mighty Yarra river and made my way to the gallery. Some unkind people have remarked that the Yarra flows upside down, but on this sunny summer day it looked clean and sparkling.

The Melbourne skyline looks impressive from Southbank.

Melbourne skyline

Some seagulls were enjoying a bath outside the gallery.

The first exhibition I saw was David Hockney. 1200 works  of the 79 year old artist are on display from the last decade. There are paintings, digital drawings, photographs and videos.

David Hockney

David Hockney

On display are 600 sometimes animated IPad drawings of still life compositions and portraits. I love the flowers and faces.

David Hockney

David Hockney

David Hockney

One huge room is dedicated to “Bigger trees near water”, 50 oil on canvas paintings on one wall. The other 3 walls display 1:1 digital versions of the same work.

 

David Hockney

There is a 60 metre long gallery lined with 80 recently painted acrylic portraits of the artist’s family, friends and notable subjects. The artist tells that the portraits took him 2 years to complete and that he considers the collection one work.

David Hockney

David Hockney

David Hockney

The video of the artist talking to us was especially interesting. It seemed like a private conversation to explain his motivation.

From David Hockney I went to the Viktor and Rolf exhibition. Viktor and Rolf are 2 Amsterdam fashion designers. This exhibition features their landmark haute couture collections.

Viktor & Rolf

First is The Russian Doll collection, originally presented on a single model, dressed in layer after layer by the designers on stage.

The detail in the work is incredible.

Viktor &a Rolf

Are they artists working in fashion, or are they fashion designers? You decide.

Viktor & Rolf

 

Viktor & Rolf

Viktor & Rolf

The wallpaper is digitally composed from hundreds of Viktor and Rolf’s hand drawn sketches.

Viktor & Rolf

In 2008, on the occasion of their solo exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery in London, Viktor and Rolf commissioned a Belgian doll maker to create a series of dolls dressed in intricately made miniature versions of their key works.

I could have sat for hours looking at the videos of the shows.

Beside the exhibition is an area where children can create there own designs. What a great idea! Perhaps some will be inspired to create works of art in the future.

Here are 2 happy kids trotting off in their paper creations.

I don’t mind the odd emerald, so it was upstairs to the Bulgari Collection. From a single jewellery shop, opened in Rome in 1884 by Greek silversmith Sotiro Bulgari, the firm has evolved into an emblem of Italian excellence as well as a global player in the luxury goods business….and they make gorgeous things!!!

The beautiful pieces were behind glass, making them easy to admire, but difficult to photograph. The necklace below is versatile, the large piece at the bottom comes off to create a separate jewel. Elizabeth Taylor wore it well.

Bulgari

Bulgari

The large photos of famous beauties wearing the jewels brought them to life.

Elizabeth Taylor liked to wear her jewels on the sets while she was making movies. She was quite an expert on wearing jewels.

Here are a couple of photos of my favourite pieces…taken from posters. I like snakes and emeralds.

If you can, find your way to Melbourne for these excellent exhibitions.

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