Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 29, 2018

Casa Debbio in 2018

My year at Casa Debbio, our Tuscan mountain house,  began in February. It was cold and wet. Winter seemed to drag on this year and spring was reluctant to show its face.

On the up side, winter does make for some spectacular views from Vergemoli, the gorgeous village which is the home of Casa Debbio.

Casa Debbio

 

This is Vergemoli from our house.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio looked forlorn without its lovely garden.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

When spring finally began things seemed to turn green and bloom over night.

Casa Debbio

 

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

 

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

The Frassino or Flowering Ash trees put on a spectacular show this spring. The mountain sides were dotted with white for a few weeks.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

We had reasonable rain this year, unlike 2017 which brought drought conditions.

Our garden thrived. We did lose a couple of trees. The lovely old fig tree was lost in a storm.

Casa Debbio

And the magnolia in front of the house was snapped off and blown away in strong winds.

Casa Debbio

We planted grass in front of the house, finally getting rid of the grey stones I disliked intensely. The down side is we no longer have an effective alarm. The grass allows visitors to approach silently.

Casa Debbio

Our wisteria has grown well and might cover the pergola in 2019.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

We grew so many peonies this year I picked bunches of them to give to friends. We have 65 plants and some of them have doubled in size since I planted them.

Casa Debbio

Geraniums thrived this year and loved their new big pots we put behind the barbecue.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

I had to leave all this loveliness behind in June to return to Australia. A delightful French family rented the house in summer and loved it.

When I returned in autumn the garden was still looking beautiful.

Casa Debbio

How lovely it is to sit and watch the seasons change at Casa Debbio.

Casa Debbio

My last job before leaving in November was to cut the lavender. This is from just a couple of plants. We have around 350 lavender plants now. They grow well in our garden.

Casa Debbio

I will be back soon to encourage the garden again in 2019.

We would love to share our beautiful Tuscan mountain house next year. Send me an email at debrakolkka@gmail.com if you are interested and please share this post with anyone who might like to enjoy the peace and solitude of a Tuscan mountain holiday in 2019. Tuscany is more than Chianti. Our glorious mountains are dotted with hundreds of authentic villages waiting to be explored.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 22, 2018

Hans Christian Andersen was here

While in Denmark we visited the charming town of Odense, where the writer of wonderful children’s stories, Hans Christian Andersen, was born in 1805.  He wrote 3381 works, mostly, but not all for children.

I remember reading The Little Matchgirl in primary school and later on The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea and many more.

His likeness and some whimsical characters are dotted around the town.

Odense

Odense

Here is his house, which is now a museum.

Odense

It was closed when we were there, but we enjoyed wandering through the surrounding streets lined with charming and well kept houses.

Come for a walk through Odense.

Odense

 

Odense

Odense

Odense

Odense

Odense

Odense

Several houses in this street had mirrors outside their windows to enable those inside to look up and down the street.

Odense

Linden trees were in bloom overhead.

Odense

There is an enormous brick church. Construction work in front meant we couldn’t stand back to get a good view of the front.

Odense

 

I might have to go back and read some of his stories again after seeing his delightful home town.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 16, 2018

A writer in Pietrasanta

I came to know Jacqueline Falcomer through her wonderful newsletter. She is from  South Africa, but has lived in Pietrasanta for the last 10 years. Her description of her adopted home town is far more eloquent than mine could ever be.

“The medieval town of Pietrasanta was designated in 1841 as The Noble City of Art. It is nestled at the base of the hills leading to the majestic Apuan Alps. The town boasts a square reminiscent of a Federico Fellini film set, pedestrian only streets filled with restaurants, shops and art galleies.

True to its name, a mesmerising array of marble and bronze works by famous and getting-to-be-famous artists, are visible at every turn. So it is not surprising that Pietrasanta is considered the Mecca of Sculpting to which sculptors flock, where in any one of the marble-carving studios, they hone their skills and bring a dead piece of marble to glow with life. Not only are sculptors drawn to this unique Tuscan town. Other artists; painters, potters, film directors, film and television stars and writers live here too.”

Pietrasanta

 

Pietrasanta

I had the pleasure of meeting Jacqueline just before I left Italy for Australia. We arranged to meet at Bar Michelangelo in the piazza. It was so named because Italy’s famous artist stayed on the site when he came to choose his marble. The town has been popular with artists for centuries.

Jacqueline lives just outside the town in tiny house (a converted cow barn) hugging a hillside, set in an orchard and with a sublime view of the Mediterranean. We had not met before but she was instantly recognisable with her shock of unruly curls.

Jacqueline Falcomer

Over lunch we chatted about her novels. Her first 2 books, Forget Me Not and Love Me Not are published and have received great reviews. When asked when the third book in the trilogy will be written she replied that she hopes to complete it in 2019.  Even though the final book will complete the trilogy each book is a stand-lone and they can be read in any order.

The first book is set in Mexico, USA, England, Spain, Morocco and Pietrasanta. The second is focused on the tiny hamlet where she lives. The third one, Tell Me Not was to be set in the Italian Alps and Salzburg but Jacqueline decided to bring it closer to home. The characters are different in each book.

Food plays a big part in Love Me Not, with Tuscan and regional dishes being featured. With so much delicious food on offer it makes sense to delight us with taste sensations along the way.

Jacqueline writes in the genre Magic Realism. She is a fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez who she believes is the master of this genre. Everyone has a different idea of Magic Realism. Jacqueline’s is to take a common place event, add in other details turning the ordinary into a seemingly impossible or unlikely event. The trick is to do it in a manner where readers are willing to suspend belief and continue reading, caught up in the wonder and magicalness of it all.

Jacqueline says her books are not planned. Her fingers hit the keyboard the the words flow. She writes for the love of writing, making money from the process would be thrilling.

You can find Jacqueline on her website: http://www.jacquelinefalcomer.com. Listen for free and or read the first chapters of Forget Me Not and Love Me Not.

Ebooks and paperbooks are available from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Forget-Tuscany-Lovers-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00US7J5OM

It was a delight to meet Jacqueline. I wish her every success and I look forward to reading the next book and finding little bits of Pietrasanta in it.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 8, 2018

A Danish house

Earlier this year we stopped in Copenhagen on our way back from Italy to Australia. While staying there we were invited through friends to visit a beautiful home in the Danish countryside. It was absolutely enchanting and just what I imagined a Danish summer cottage should look like.

Danish cottage

Danish cottage

Danish cottage

The cottage dates from the 16th century and has the most exquisite thatched roof. We were told it was replaced in the traditional way 16 years ago and is expected to last another 20 years. The roof is made from dried reeds growing nearby.

Danish cottage

Danish cottage

As well as the main house, there is a smaller one beside it, which provides a couople of extra bedrooms for guests.

Danish cottage

The garden was of particular interest to me. Some of the plants were familiar and some not. It was delightfully inviting, begging to to sat in and admired.

Danish cotrage

Danish cottage

I think I need a greenhouse just like this.

Danish cottage

There is not a straight line in the interior of the house…adding to the charm.

Danish cottage

Each room has been thoughtfully and beautifully decorated.

 

Danish cottage

Danish cottage

 

Lunch was delicious too, with lots of the ingredients coming from the garden. Who could want more from a summer cottage?

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 28, 2018

Sitting with my aunt

While I was in Italy one of my favourite people had health issues. My lovely Aunty Shirley has been in hospital for seven weeks. She is my father’s sister and has known me longer than just about anyone on the planet.

When I was born I lived a few houses away from my aunt. I was an early walker and talker and each morning I would leave home and walk to her house where I would spend the day with her and my grandfather who lived there too. I loved standing at the huge window in the living room from where I thought I could see the whole world. My earliest memories are from that house. My grandfather, father and uncle built the house and the one we lived in as well.

Aunty Shirley likes a chat and I have been delighted to hear about her early life. I didn’t know my grandmother, Dorothy known as Dolly. She died before I was born.  By all accounts she was a gentle, kind soul loved by everyone who knew her. She came from England with her family as a young girl and she met my grandfather who arrived in Australia from Finland in 1912. According to my aunt there was never a cross word between them. I wish I had known her.

Wedding of Matti and Dolly

Grandfather built a house for his family on 5 acres of land in Manly, Brisbane. He planted fruit trees and vegetables and they had a road side stall. He also worked in the area as a builder, a job both of his sons would take on, and later my brother.

Grandfather's stall

During  WWII he should have been interned as an enemy alien, but his boss spoke up for him and as building was considered an essential industry he was allowed to stay at home. However, someone came to his house and took away his atlas and a lantern.

The farm was sold and my grandparents bought a cafe on the waterfront in Manly where they served fish and chips, steak and chips and milkshakes to the sailing enthusiasts. After the war when petrol rationing finished people started going to the Gold Coast.(before it was called that) The sailing crowds diminished and they sold the cafe. It is still there and is now a great seafood restaurant.

My mother worked there sometimes when she was a young teenager and that is how she met my father. I particularly love to hear tales of my father’s youth. He excelled at sport, especially running and could sing and play the piano by ear. (Traits I did not inherit) Aunty Shirley remembers him being sent off for lessons, but he soon continued by himself after just a few.  Today is his birthday. He would have been 92.

I am happy to say that my aunt is on the mend and will soon be going home to join her husband.

It has been a delight and a privilege to spend this time with Aunty Shirley. The hospital is not far from my home and I have spent most afternoons with her. I will continue with visits to her home, but this time has been special.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 25, 2018

Movida at Curly Flat

Movida is one of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne. When I heard they were coming to Curly Flat (my sister’ s vineyard and winery) to do lunch I knew I had to be there.

The day of the lunch turned out to be beautiful. Vintage Hall, the tasting room at Curly Flat is looking wonderful in spring.

Curly Flat

Curly Flat

Curly Flat

Curly Flat

I walked up to the vineyard to see how the new grapes are growing.

Curly Flat

Curly Flat

Only 2 of the guinea fowl would stand still long enough for a photo. They help to keep snakes away and eat a few pests in the vineyard.

Curly Flat

 

The sun disappeared occasionally behind clouds, but stayed out long enough for some great views.

Curly Flat

 


Curly Flat

 

The vines are growing well and there are bunches of tiny grapes.

Curly Flat

When I got at back to Vintage Hall, Frank Camorra, the charming head chef from Movida was busy preparing the fire pit where the paella would be cooked.

The fire was lit.

Curly Flat

The huge frypans soon contained the first ingredients.

Curly Flat

Curly Flat

Saffron was added.

Curly Flat

More adding, stirring and tasting.

Curly Flat

Curly Flat

Looking good. The rice would be added 20 minutes before the dish was served.

Guests arrived.

Curly Flat

The tables were ready.

Curly Flat

Curly Flat

Lunch began. I was very fortunate to sit opposite Emily, Frank’s delightful wife.

Curly Flat

 

The menu.

Curly Flat

 

The delicious food.

Curly Flat

Curly Flat


Curly Flat

Curly Flat

Frank and his excellent team came to chat to guests and answer questions.

Too soon it was all over and the buses took guests away.

There will be another Movida lunch in February. Get in early if you are interested. This one sold out in about 15 minutes.

Thank you Movida and the excellent Curly Flat team for a fabulous day.

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 20, 2018

Giacosa gone

It seems to be final, Caffe Giacosa in Florence has gone. Giorgio Armani took over the space after Roberto Cavalli closed. The caffe became part of the Cavalli shop after the original one closed.

Giacosa Florence

Giacosa Florence

The Armani renovation took months. I was hoping that they would save some room and continue Giacosa. It has been my favourite place to go for coffee in Florence for 14 years quite apart from the fact that it has been a part of Florence for a couple of centuries.

Armani Florence

The Armani shop is just a shop and I think it was a lovely opportunity lost.

I have been on the hunt for a new place to start my day in Florence and the obvious place to start was Caffe Gilli on the Via Roma corner of Piazza della Repubblica. It is the oldest cafe in Florence, opened in 1733.

Ditta Artigianale

The interior is elegant and full of delicious treats. If you stand at the counter your coffee and pastry will cost only around €2.50. The toilets are great too. (This is important, public toilets are few and far between in Florence)

Caffe Gilli

I found another great spot on the other side of the Arno in Via della Sprone in the Santo Spirito area. Ditta Artigianale is just a few years old and a completely different style. They serve excellent coffee and snacks at good prices.

Ditta Artigianale

I still miss Giacosa, but I think I will get by.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 14, 2018

What’s new at Sarva?

I am now back in lovely Brisbane for a few months. I would normally do a Pop Up shop soon, but I have changed the way I am going to do it. Instead of a Pop Up a couple of times a year I am going to open the door at Sarva once a week. I will open every Saturday from 10.30am  until 2.30pm.

The foot traffic in the street has increased since a couple of new restaurants have opened beside us. In the last few Pop Ups I have noticed more locals dropping in, which is great.

Sarva and I will be making new things each week and we hope you will come to visit us. Sarva is busy every day making to measure and doing alterations and normally you need to ring the bell to enter the shop, but on Saturdays I will be there with the door open.

Here is what’s new at Sarva this week.

Sarva Pop Up

We still have linen and cotton summer clothes for sale, with more coming each week.

Come and say hello on Saturday from 10.30 until 2.30 at Sarva.

Cnr Boundary Street and Corbett St, West End. (Beside Flora, vegan restaurant)

 

Sarva

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 9, 2018

Starbucks in Milan

I admit to being surprised and horrified that Starbucks would come to Italy. In my humble opinion I think Italy has the best coffee in the world. Why would they need Starbucks?

On the way back to Australia I stayed a couple of days in Milan so I decided to see for myself what the new addition to Milan’s coffee scene looks like.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery opened on 7th September in the stunning Poste building in Piazza Cordusio in the centre of Milan, not far from the glorious Duomo.

We arrived on a Saturday afternoon to find a queue that stretched around the corner. We didn’t join it.

Starbucks Milan

Starbucks Milan

The following morning we went back early and found it almost empty.

Starbucks Milan

The interior is huge and amazing. No expense has been spared. It is said to be the most beautiful Starbucks in the world. I have only visited a few fairly ordinary looking Starbucks in New York, so I can’t really compare them, but the Milan offering is spectacular.

There is a giant fully functioning coffee roaster, an enormous main bar, a mezzanine bar where specialty cocktails are made and a bakery with wood fired oven…a lot to take in.

Starbucks Milan

Starbucks Milan

 

Starbucks Milan

Starbucks Milan

Starbucks Milan

Starbucks Milan

Starbucks Milan

A clackerboard lets you know what type of coffee is being roasted.

Starbucks Milan

A floor to ceiling brass wall is engraved with a representation of Starbucks history.

Starbucks Milan

In front of the wall is Starbucks merchandise for sale.

Starbucks Milan

Starbucks Milan

The seating is either on high stools or on chairs with low tables, neither of which appeals to me.

Starbucks Milan

Starbucks Milan

The pastries looked delicious.

We ordered a plain croissant and one filled with frittata, both were excellent.

Starbucks Milan

The coffee came in a large mug. I prefer a smaller cup as there is far too much milk in a mug. At least it wasn’t served in a huge paper cup. The 2 croissants and 2 coffees cost €18. At my local cafe in Bagni di Lucca the same things would have cost around €5. I guess you are paying for the experience.

The staff appear to be chosen for their good looks and ethnic diversity. They were cheerful and eager to please.

We went to the bathroom downstairs with its impressive wash basin which sits between 2 rows of toilets.

Starbucks Milan

Strangely there are only 4 female and 4 male toilets for a place that holds a lot of people. There was already a queue before we left as the building filled up quickly in the short time we were there.

There is far too much to take in on one visit and the photos don’t do it justice. I will probably return for another look out of curiosity, but I prefer smaller bars where after a couple of visits the barista gets to know you and you become a local. It will be interesting to see how Starbucks fares once the novelty wears off.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 31, 2018

Things I will miss in Italy

It is time to make my way back to Australia. I will miss lovely autumn in Bagni di Lucca.

Bagni di Lucca

 

Bagni di Lucca

 

Bagni di Lucca

Bagni di Lucca

Bagni di Lucca

Bagni di Lucca

Bagni di Lucca

Bagni di Lucca

 

I will miss the stunning drive to Vergemoli.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

…our road to Casa Debbio.

Casa Debbio

And of course I will miss my beautiful house and garden.

Casa Debbio

We have pomegranates, persimmons and lots of chestnuts this year.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Most of all I will miss the views from Casa Debbio, even the stormy ones.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

See you next year Casa Debbio.

Casa Debbio

 

I will return in February to winter…I love that too.

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