Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 29, 2017

The best pastries in Lucca?

I have heard several times that the best pastries to be had in Lucca are at Buralli…time to find out.

Buralli is outside the walls on the outward bound road towards the entrance to the Autostrada. It isn’t the most convenient place to get to and car parks are as scarce as hen’s teeth, but we were on a mission.

The style is modern.

The pastries look very good indeed.

There are savoury items too.

The verdict? My Sicilian cannoli was excellent, every bit as good as those I tried in Sicily and Jim’s cream filled cornetto was also given the thumbs up.

The coffee was good and the service friendly. We will be back.

Buralli Pasticceria…Viale Europa 797.

Closed Monday (Our first visit. We wondered why the car park was almost empty)

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 25, 2017

Blood in the hills

We try to drive through the beautiful hills of Tuscany each time we come to Italy. There is a road south of Siena that takes you through Asciano and on to Montalcino and Pienza. It is stunning even on a slightly hazy early spring day.

We stopped at a lookout point and found this sign.

It was erected last year by the residents of Asciano to remember the death of 20 people and the injury of 5 in 1944 when the bus they were travelling in was bombed. 13 were from Asciano. It happened on Easter Monday in this beautiful place…what a terrible waste. Imagine the devastation to lose all those people from one small village.

Today, 25th April,  is Liberation Day in Italy and Anzac Day in Australia. It is a day when people remember the horror that is war…a time to celebrate to lives of the men and women who fought for freedom and hope that we don’t have to live through another one.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 24, 2017

Flowers at Casa Debbio

Despite a recent cool change, spring is bringing changes at Casa Debbio. Everyday something new appears. Daffodils and cherry blossoms have gone and now we have a steady stream of new loveliness.

Our ginestra, broom, has put on a spectacular show and is now on the way out.

Some wisteria has bloomed and some is still to open.

I now have 55 peonies. A few have bloomed but many are still to appear.

Ants love the sticky flowers buds and are very busy right now.

I spotted some furry bugs burrowing into the centre of the peonies. They seemed to roll about covering themselves in pollen before flying off in a drunken daze.

Bees love my peonies too.

When the peony flowers are finished these interesting bits are left.

Lilac has bloomed.

The creamy white pom-poms on the ricotta bush are looking fabulous.

Tiny aquilegias are blooming everywhere.

Violets are scattered all over the garden.

Bleeding hearts surprised me with an appearance.

The fig trees are laden with tiny fruit. I hope some ripen before we leave. No doubt our guests will enjoy them this summer, along with the cherries and raspberries.

Wild daisies are growing on the slopes between the terraces.

The garden is growing well, but we need some rain, then some sun. We had some warm weather early, but cool days have returned.

It is a joy to walk out every morning to see the new growth.

If you know anyone who would like to stay in a gorgeous mountain house in Italy this summer, please share this post.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 22, 2017

Take the ferry to Elba

We took the ferry to Elba, leaving from Piombino. We booked the Moby Ferry on line at   http://www.mobylines.com. We probably could have waited and bought tickets from one of the many ticket offices near the port, but as this was our first time we thought it best to book ahead.

In glorious sunshine we took our place at the dock to wait for our huge ferry to arrive. We could see it in the distance. As it got closer it did an about turn and the stern of the boat backed into the dock.

.

The cars from Elba drove off and it was our turn to drive on.

We took a seat in one of the bright lounge areas.

There are play areas for children.

The views from the boat are impressive. Soon Elba came into view.

We returned to our car and as soon as the doors opened we drove off.

The trip from the mainland takes about 1 hour.

This is our second ferry experience in Italy. We also took the ferry to Sicily last year. The process is very well organised and we were very happy that all went smoothly on both occasions.

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 19, 2017

Delightful Elba

We stayed in Portoferraio, Elba, the place where most of the ferries come in. It is not the most beautiful part of the island, but very convenient for our first visit because it is central to everything.

The port is impressive.

The town is worth spending some time in. We climbed up to the fort at the top only to find it closed…not to worry, it was an interesting area.

Our first discovery after Portoferraio was hilltop Capoliveri. We arrived at mid afternoon to find most things closed, but even when asleep the town is charming. The lovely piazza was no doubt bustling with people over the Easter break.

Marciana Marina is a lovely seaside town. There are some great shops and lots of restaurants to choose from.

Here I found the most gorgeous Aqua del Elba shop. The perfume and skin care shops are all over the island. The shops are blue…all over, just like the sea around the island.

Poggio is a seriously cute village high in the hills.

We had a lovely experience in Rio nell’Elba, a tiny town in the hills above Rio Marina.

A friendly man packing up his vegetable stand wanted to sell us some tomatoes. When we told him we had no kitchen he quickly offered to make us some lunch with them. He made delicious bruschetta and we were served at the bar beside his stand…wonderful Italy.

 

Porto Azzurro was our absolute favourite town on Elba. It is a little bigger than most of the other places we found. It is like Sorrento, Amalfi and Portofino all rolled into a tiny package. We will definitely be back to stay for a few days.

Here are some random photos from our stay on Elba.

We will return.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 17, 2017

Able I was ere I saw Elba

This wonderful palindrome is attributed to Napoleon. He is supposed to have said it while in exile on Elba. It is unlikely that he did say it, his first language was not English for a start…but it is a good story.

Elba is an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Tuscany. It is probably best known as Napoleon’s place of exile. He was on Elba for 300 days between 1814 and 1815. He kept himself busy while he was there organising economic and social reforms to improve the quality of life for the locals, as much to keep himself busy as a genuine desire to help.

He had 2 houses in Elba. Both are now open to the public, but were not open when we visited. Here is one from the outside.

The gates look very imperial.

Our friends stayed a little longer and managed to get inside the houses. They took these photos of the lovely interior of one.

 

Elba is part of an ancient tract of land that once connected Corsica to the Italian Peninsular. There are rich seams of iron ore thrust to the surface in geological changes. This iron ore attracted many interested parties. The island has been inhabited since ancient times.

It was known by travelling Greeks, the Argonauts rested there, Etruscans invaded and later the Romans, followed by the Ostrogoths and Lombards. It became a possession of the Republic of Pisa, the Visconti of Milan. Barbary pirates invaded, Cosimo I di Medici fortified Portoferaio and renamed it “Cosmopoli”. Philip II of Spain captured Porto Azzurro and had 2 fortresses built there. In 1802 the island became a French possession.

In the Congress of Vienna the island was restored to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. In 1860 it became part of the new unified Kingdom of Italy.

…and on a warm spring day in 2017 we arrived.

The terrain is varied, with a mountainous area to the west with some dramatic coastlines.

The central part of the island is a flat corridor where the main centres can be found and there is a hilly section to the east.

Elba is a popular holiday destination these days because of the beaches. Most brochures show them from above to show the pretty little coves and bays and the gorgeous azure sea.

On closer inspection we found them somewhat lacking. Some had sand, but it was not white like our sandy beaches in Australia. I almost preferred the pebble beaches.

This is not a complaint, we don’t come to Italy to go to the beach. We loved Elba and in the next post I will show you some of the lovely places we visited.

See here and here why I prefer the beach at home.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 14, 2017

A shoe box

I am a big fan of the designs of Dolce & Gabbana, so I was delighted to find a pair of thongs (flip flops, not underwear) for less than half price at the Barberino outlet north of Florence.

When I told the sales person I would take them she said she would get the box. I told her I didn’t want the box. She looked surprised and said, “Signora, you will want the box” and went to get it.

She was correct, I did want the box…who could resist this??

 

The thongs also came with their own red satin travelling bag.

It seems a shame to put them on my feet and wear them in case they get dirty.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 10, 2017

Rovinj, Croatia

Our next stop after Pula in Croatia was Rovinj. The 3rd century town looks stunning from a distance. It sits on a headland off the coast of the Istrian Peninsular. The majestic church of St Euphemia with its towering steeple keeps watch from the highest part of the town.

Rovinj has had a chequered past. It was a settlement of Illyrian tribes before being captured by Romans. The town’s rule changed many times before becoming part of the Austrian Empire before WWI. It then belonged to the Kingdom of Italy from 1918-1947 when it was ceded to SFR Yugoslavia, as part of SF Croatia. The name Rovigno was changed to Rovinj. After WWII many Italians left the town.

The town was an island until 1763 when the channel that separated it from the mainland was filled in.

The headland is not very big and there is a car park well situated at the edge of town. From there it is just a short walk to the centre. Our very nice accommodation, Zig Zag Apartment was close to the car park.

The port area is delightful and there are lots of cafes and restaurants to choose from. The square beside the water has a 12th century tower which has been added to many times. The clock with its Venetian lion dates from the mid 19th century.

I particularly liked the little fisherman fountain. It is not particularly old. It was erected in 1959 to celebrate the final arrival of the government funded water system.

We wandered around the harbour before heading through one of the old gates to the town up the snaggle of narrow cobble stone streets to St Euphemia.

The Baroque church was built in 1736 over the remains of older early Christian structures. The current facade dates from 1883.

The bell tower resembles the tower of  St Mark’s in Venice and was built between 1754-1680.

St Euphemia serves as a weather vane on top of the 60 metre tower.

The interior is elegant and boasts a statue of St George and the dragon and the new Saint Theresa.

We stopped for lunch on the way back down the hill where we had some delicious local salami and cheese with truffles.

We took a boat trip around the coast. There are lots of tiny islands scattered along the coastline…what a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

Rovinj looks stunning from any angle.

 

The coastline is rugged, beautiful and the sea is sparking blue. There were even a couple of early sunbathers.

Later in the evening we walked around the edge of town and found some more lovely streets, old entrances and sunbathing platforms.

We discovered a gorgeous restaurant with views over the rocky edge. I can imagine that the area is packed with people in summer.

The food and the views were excellent.

There was a gorgeous sunset.

It was raining as we left Rovinj, but it looked beautiful even when wet.

Rovinj is a stunning place.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 6, 2017

Pula, Croatia

Croatia has done an excellent job of marketing itself. It is on all kinds of travel recommendation lists. So, we thought it was time to visit.

I chose 2 towns not too far from where we live in Italy, within reasonable driving distance (about 7 hours). Pula is on several lists as one of the best places to visit in Croatia. It is at the southern tip of the Istrian peninsular. Several writers waxed lyrical about Pula’s charms. It is best known for its well preserved Roman amphitheatre.

It looks great from the air…not my photo.

Pula with Roman time arena in Pula, Croatia. UNESCO world heritage site.

We were very disappointed when our Sat Nav lady told us we had reached our destination. It was a very ugly street. We pressed on a little further and came to a slightly better location, right in front of our booked accommodation. The studio apartment was great. D&A Center Apartments.

We set off to explore the town, beginning with the amphitheatre…very impressive indeed.

Things went a bit downhill after that. There are a few other ruins scattered around the town, but they weren’t all that interesting and some were not well looked after.

The arch at the entrance of the old town was excellent.

There was a well preserved Roman tiled floor from an ancient house, but to get there we had to work our way through a ratty car park at the back of a group of houses.

There was a pretty park.

It was facing the container ship port.

Here is the best of what I found in the town.

On our second morning we found the outdoor market in the centre of the newer part of town. The produce looked good, especially the wild asparagus, peonies and local honey and olive oil.

As we left Pula we drove to the nearby coast where there were some pretty beaches and parks. The rocky beaches were clean and the water clear and sparkling blue.

I was particularly interested in an old bathing resort, probably from the 1920s. It would look amazing if it was restored.

I don’t usually write negative posts, but we drove a fair distance on the strength of several reviews which gave Pula an excellent rating. It wasn’t all bad. The apartment was great and quite inexpensive, we had a very good meal at Kantina, and everyone we met was friendly and helpful and spoke good English. (which was great because we speak no Croatian) Other people must be impressed, the car park was full of tourist buses, but I was not.

My recommendation for Pula would be to fly over it and admire it from above, then go somewhere else.

The square in front of the arch looked lovely at night.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 4, 2017

We have cherry blossoms

Our weeping cherry has finished flowering and is now growing leaves. I wish the blossoms lasted more than a couple of weeks.

Our cherry tree is covered in blossoms. It was a huge old tree with branches too high to reach so Filippo pruned it a couple of years ago. Last year it was still recovering and we got no cherries. I think we will this year. I will be up there fighting the birds for some fruit.

We also have rhododendron flowers.

The ginestra is starting to bloom.

Wisteria flowers are coming.

All but one of my peonies have appeared and some of the plants have buds already.

 

Some of the lavender is in fine form.

…and a plant the locals call ricotta is about to flower.

It is all going to look amazing soon.

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