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.



Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 22, 2015

Merry Christmas from Brisbane

We went, with thousands of others, to watch the Brisbane City Hall light up with a Christmas story. It was a beautiful sub tropical evening, after a hot and steamy day.

Being a techno-idiot, I have no idea how these amazing things are created, but I enjoyed watching the show. Here is our lovely City Hall, once the tallest building in the city.

Brisbane Christmas

Please note the solar powered Christmas tree.

Brisbane Christmas

…now for the pretty show.

Brisbane Christmas

Brisbane Christmas

Brisbane Christmas

Merry Christmas…I hope Santa is kind to all of you.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 18, 2015

In the ghetto

Like many Italian cities, Padova  had a thriving Jewish community. It was established in the heart of the historic centre of the city near Piazza delle Erbe.

Toward the middle of the 14th century numbers of Jewish people from Rome, Pisa, Bologna and Ancona established themselves as money lenders. The statutes of the community were liberal and the population tolerant. A synagogue was built and a cemetery laid out.

Things changed in later centuries and a ghetto was established in 1602. It continued until 1797 when the people were liberated by the French military.

Now the area has been transformed into a beautiful shopping and restaurant district. Come for a walk…

Jewish quarter Padova

Jewish quarter Padova

Jewish quarter Padova

Jewish quarter Padova

Jewish quarter Padova

Jewish quarter Padova

Jewish quarter Padova

Jewish quarter Padova

Jewish quarter Padova

I found a home decorating shop where I was sorely tempted to buy dozens of things for Casa Debbio.

Jewish quarter Padova

Jewish quarter Padova

The assistant was delightful and allowed me to photograph some of the beautiful collection to share with you.

Padova is a great place to visit. The city centre is a maze of narrow streets just waiting to be explored.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 16, 2015

Ghost ship

One of Stockholm’s most popular attractions is the Vasa Museum. It is a purpose built museum which houses the almost fully intact Vasa, a 64 gun warship that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628.

Once her valuable bronze cannons were salvaged in the 17th century, she lay almost undisturbed until she was located in the late 1950s. Vasa was salvaged in 1961 and housed in a temporary museum..go to Wikapedia for the full, fascinating history.

The construction of the present museum began on and around the dry dock of the old naval yard. Vasa was towed into the flooded dry dock under the new building in December 1988 and the museum was opened in 1990.

The first sight of this incredible ship in the subdued lighting will take your breath away. Vasa looks as though she might sail off at any moment with a ghostly crew.

The low light and the fact that the ship is so huge and fills the space makes it difficult to get good photos. You really will have to go there to appreciate just how magnificent it is.

Vasa Museum Stockholm


Vasa Museum Stockholm

Vasa Museum Stockholm

Vasa Museum Stockholm

The 3 metre long figurehead lion consists of several parts carved individually and fitted together with bolts.

Vasa Museum Stockholm

The intricate details on the carvings is amazing. Vasa must have looked stunning as she sailed out of the harbour.

Vasa Museum Stockholm

Vasa Museum Stockholm

There are several models showing what the ship would have looked like on her maiden voyage.

Vasa Museum Stockholm

I particularly liked the one showing a cross section of the ship and how the sailors worked their positions.

Vasa Museum Stockholm

Vasa Museum Stockholm

Vasa Museum Stockholm

There is a very good guided tour in several languages explaining the circumstances of the ship, the sinking and the salvage. Take time also to watch the film of the salvage. There are areas depicting life as it was at the time of the ship’s construction, with life size models in the dress of the time.

Allow a few hours to really appreciate this amazing ship and the work that has been done by many people to preserve it. There are several floors each giving a different perspective of the ship…don’t miss anything. I guarantee you will be fascinated.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 12, 2015

Stockholm’s food market

I love to look at food markets when I travel. It is fun to see the different types of food available and how people present it. I was in Stockholm in Ocober and was delighted to find the Saluhall in Ostermalm.

Saluhall Stockholm

The beautiful old brick building was begun in 1886 and opened by King Oscar II in 1888. It was purchased by the city in 1914.

There are around 17 traders in the building, many of whom are families with a long history with the market.

Saluhall Stockholm

Saluhall Stockholm

Saluhall Stockholm

Saluhall Stockholm

We had a delicious lunch Of rye bread and seafood.

Saluhall Stockolm


Saluhall Stockholm

Do you like to discover markets when you travel?

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 8, 2015

A living nativity

Local festivals in Italy are a wonderful part of life. I love to attend the festivals in Bagni di Lucca in particular. One that is especially good is the living nativity. It was held this year in Monti di Villa.

The village became a working piece of art and heritage. Visitors were invited to walk through the streets and see how life was in times past. The residents all play their roles to perfection.

There is music and dancing and food, of course…this is Italy.

I was not lucky enough  to be there this year, but 3 local photographers have captured the atmosphere beautifully.

First is Paul Anthony Davies,whose work I have shared with you before.

Paul Anthony Davies Presepe Vivente

Paul Anthony Davies Presepe Vivente

Paul Anthony Davies Presepe Vivente

David Bonaventuri also takes delightful photos…

David Bonaventuri Presepe Vivente

David Bonaventuri Presepe Vivente

David Bonaventuri Presepe Vivente

Valerio Ceccarelli was also there to capture the fun.

Valerio Ceccarelli Presepe Vivente

Valerio Ceccarelli Presepe Vivente

That was the donkey waiting to take his part in the final part of the event. Valerio captured the nativity scene.

Valerio Ceccarelli Presepe Vivente

Valerio Ceccarelli Presepe Vivente

Valerio Ceccarelli Presepe Vivente


Valerio Ceccarelli Presepe Vivente

Valerio Ceccarelli Presepe Vivente

Don’t you wish you were there to be part of things?

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 5, 2015

Christmas at the beach

Bagni di Lucca and Beyond followers who live in the northern hemisphere will be expecting a cold Christmas, possibly with snow.

In Australia, where I am now, it is hot, hot, hot. It is quite normal for Australians to have Christmas at the beach. As children, my brother and sister and I would be up at the crack of dawn to open our presents. One very good Christmas we got Coolite surfboards and we were immediately off to the beach to try them out.

We came home reluctantly for lunch, gobbled down our Christmas delights and headed straight back to the beach. I grew up at Main Beach, on Queensland’s Gold Coast, and we now have an apartment just one block from our old house, which has long gone.

We don’t go often enough, but I was there this morning for a very early morning walk on the beach. The surf was whipped up into choppy swell by the wind or I would have been in the water as well.

Main Beach Norfolk Apartments

I was on the beach before 6.00am and the mist was still heavy towards Surfers Paradise.

Main Beach Nolfolk Apartments

It was a bit clearer the other way, towards the spit.

Main Beach Norfolk Apartments

The seagulls were in a huddle against the wind…getting themselves ready for their busy day.

Main Beach Norfolk Apartments

This is what people in the cold north are missing out on. These are some photos of my favourite beach in all the world, taken over the last few years.

Main Beach Norfolk Apartments

On the way back to the apartment I spotted this little koala. Someone with a sense of humour had clipped it to a Frangipani branch in the garden.

Main Beach Norfolk Apartments

Now for a shameless plug. Our apartment in Norfolk Apartments, just across the road form the beach, has some vacancies over the Christmas holidays. We have a newly refurbished swimming pool and a delightful new property manager. He has arrived recently with his charming wife and their 3 little children to look after Norfolk for us. We are delighted to have them with us.

Here is the

Main Beach Norfolk Apartments

Our apartment  is number 8, but if that is booked, there will be others available.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 1, 2015

Pop Up thank you

My Pop Up shop has been very successful. Thank you to all those who came to visit and to those who shared it on their Facebook pages.

It was fun to catch up with some of my lovely customers from my Brisbane Arcade days and to meet some blog followers.

The shop will continue until Saturday, even though I don’t really have much left to sell. I will be in the shop from 9.00am until 2.00pm.

Soon I will begin working on things for my next Pop Up which will be at the beginning of February, just before I leave for Italy. The next couple of months will be hot here in Brisbane…a perfect time to sit in my airconditioned workroom and sew.

My friend Sam, who owns the shop, is interested in renting it for other Pop Ups. Next week, my friends Paul Hunt and Kellie Alderman will be there with their summer collection. I hope you will all come along from Tuesday 8th December.

If you are interested in your own Pop Up, contact Sam Argyrou. The shop is ready for you to just walk in and set up your stock. There is not a great deal of walk by custom, but if you have a good social media following, this could be the place for you…239 Boundary Rd, West End.

Call Sam on 0425972782

Or email…

Sarva's shop


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 28, 2015

Pimientos de Padron

I first came across these delicious little peppers in Barcelona where they are served as tapas in bars and restaurants. I couldn’t get enough of them and was delighted to find they I can now buy them in Brisbane.

I bought some yesterday at the West End markets.

Pimientos Di Padron

They are incredibly easy to prepare. I coated them in a little olive oil.

Pimientos de Padron

Then I cooked them in a hot pan for a few minutes.

Pimientos de Padron

Pimientos de Padron

…sprinkled them with salt flakes.

Pimientos de Padron

…and ate them.

They are sweet and delicious and very occasionally you get a hot one, which I did, but it wasn’t too hot.

Pimientos de Padron are a variety of peppers from Padron in northwestern Spain. They were originally grown in the 16th century by monks in the monastery of Convento Franciscano who brought them back from the Spanish colonies in South America. Since that time the peppers have been grown by the villagers…and their fame has spread.

Now they are also grown on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast hinterland by Richard Mohan and I can buy them at my local market…isn’t that wonderful?

Look at Richard’s website for more information.

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