Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 26, 2015

Florence leather market

The street markets around San Lorenzo in Florence are popular with tourists for lots of reasons. It is possible to buy all kinds of souvenirs from colourful stalls that wind through the streets. Most stalls are in Via dell’Ariento where you will also find the wonderful Central Food Market.

Florence leather market

Florence leather market

There are leather jackets, handbags, wallets, belts, key rings, clothes, scarves and paper goods…among other things. The stalls are often fronts for the shops behind them.

Florence leather market

Florence leather market


Florence leather market

Florence leather market

If you like to bargain you will probably have fun here. It is a great place to find gifts to take home…you are bound to find something you like.


Voting in the Italy Magazine Blog Awards closes on 28th February. If you haven’t already voted (even if you have…it seems you can vote as many times as you like) I would love it if you click here and vote for Bagni di Lucca and Beyond in the Best single Art and Culture Post.

Winners will be announced 3rd March. I will let you know as soon as I do.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 24, 2015

Viareggio Carnevale 2015

Fortunately I arrived in Italy in time to revisit the dazzling Carnevale in Viareggio.

As usual politicians come in for some ruthless comment. On the first float I saw poor Angela Merkel dressed as a showgirl. Occasionally she would give birth to a little naked man, (I think it is Renzi) while being led by an army of sperm…poor Angela.

Viareggio Carnevale 2015

Carnevale Viareggio 2015

World leaders warming their hands on a burning globe was a standout float. I was most impressed by Putin’s blue eyes and lips and Obama’s blue eyelids, shown off when he blinked.

Carnevale Viareggio 2015


Renzi looks cheerful…

Carnevale Viareggio 2015


Politicians and the Pope always make an appearance.

A 2 sided theatre showed a happy, colourful side and a dark, sinister side.

Carnevale Viareggio 2015

Pinocchio gets some dark treatment.

Carnevale Viareggio 2015

Some themes are a bit obscure. Maybe I need to know more about current affairs in Italy.

Burmalacco made an appearance.

Carnevale Viareggio 2015

Dinosaurs are always popular.

Carnevale Viareggio 2015

A city changes from from black and white to full colour.

Carnevale Viareggio 2015

A cake opened up to reveal a lively centre.

Carnevale Viareggio 2015

…a complicated one.

Carnevale Viareggio 2015

…a clever clown.

Carnevale Viareggio 2015

There was a very impressive elephant.

Carnevale Viareggio 2015

This is a wonderful event. It seems chaotic. People wander in and out and all around the floats while they are trundling down the street. There is loud music, confetti, children, dogs…all together having fun.

Some of our very carefully choreographed events in Australia could learn some lessons here.

Take a look at Bella Bagni di Lucca for some Carnevale faces.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 20, 2015

A little bit of London

I had a couple of cold, damp days in London on the way to Italy. I stayed near Marylebone High St, one of my favourite areas in the city.

Marlybone High St London

It has some great places to eat. I was torn, but in the end I went to the one I know, La Fromagerie.

La Fromagerie Marlybone High St London


Daunt Books is one of the most beautiful bookshops I have ever been to. I managed to add to the already heavy collection in my suitcase.

I love the rooflines in London, there are some wonderful old, and not so old buildings.

London buildings

I included the last one because it is an amazing shade of lilac.

I came upon the lovely horse, called Fire, in the Mount St Gardens.

Sculpture in Mount St Garden

…and this sculpture outside the Connaught Hotel,  given by Italy to London.

Sculpture at the Conaught


This fountain in Hyde Park was without water, but still managed to look joyous.

Hyde Park fountain

…with and without pigeons.

Hyde Park sculpture

Hyde Park fountain

In beautiful Berkeley Square garden there were no nightingales, but the huge trees look spectacular even in the dead of winter.

Berkley Square


Berkeley Square

The war memorials in Green Park are impressive.


Despite the weather I covered quite a bit of territory on foot…the best way to see a city.

My next stop was Oxford, to catch up with my good friends Anup and Poorna…more on that soon.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 17, 2015

A fine February day at Ponte a Serraglio

I have arrived in Ponte a Serraglio to fine winter weather.

It is cold and the sun doesn’t appear in the village until mid morning, but it did appear today, making the river sparkle.

Ponte a Serraglio

Ponte a Serraglio

I took a short walk up the hill opposite the apartment to take in the sun…and the view.

Ponte a Serraglio

Ponte a Serraglio

Ponte a Serraglio


Ponte a Serraglio

It is good to be back. I love the wintery landscape…and soon it will be spring.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 11, 2015

A February day in Helsinki

I hit the jackpot yesterday in Helsinki. It was a glorious blue sky day and the temperature zoomed all the way up to 7 degrees. There was a bit of snow about just to make things interesting. I started the day at the harbour for the last of sunrise.

Helsinki sunrise

Esplanadi was just coming to life.

Esplanadi Helsinki



I took advantage of the sunny day and went for a walk around Toolonlahti.

Toolonlahti Helsinki   Toolonlahti Helsinki
Toolonlahti Helsinki


The days are getting longer with the approach of spring, but evening still comes early.




The evening light turned the beautiful white church a pink blush.





For more on heavenly Helsinki go to my other blog, Beautiful Helsinki. There is a link on the right side of the page.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 9, 2015

Leaving on a jet plane

It is time to leave Brisbane and make my way to Bagni di Lucca.

Brisbane airport

I have left Brisbane’s blue skies and am currently in foggy Hong Kong waiting for my flight to Helsinki. I am hoping for some snow, before heading off to London and Oxford for a few days.

Here is what I am leaving behind for a while. I think Brisbane is a beautiful city.

Brisbane city

# Brisbane city

Brisbane city#

It has been a hot, steamy summer so far, which doesn’t really suit me. I prefer cooler weather. The heat does have some compensations…

It is great for the beach.

#Burleigh Beach

There are gorgeous flowers everywhere.

# summer flowers


summer flowers

Many of the poincianas have finished flowering and enormous seed pods have formed.





Our balcony is teeming with wildlife. Noisy birds wake us up early in the morning, frogs are croaking after the rain and we have had an occasional visit from a possum who feels quite at home in our living room.

Our possum

Our possum

When I return to Brisbane it will be winter, my favourite season at home in Australia.

Until then I look forward to sharing my new travels with you.



Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 6, 2015

Cappuccino senza schiuma

A cappuccino senza schiuma is equivalent to an Australian flat white…a cappuccino without the foam. It has less milk than a latte , not quite as much milk froth as a cappuccino and no chocolate sprinkled on top. (By the way, if you order a latte in Italy you will get a glass of hot milk, you must ask for a caffe latte)

It seems that the flat white is spreading around the world. Australian coffee culture was started by Italians (thank you) but has developed a life of its own and now we are sharing our coffee style with coffee lovers in other places.

There was an article in our local paper (in Brisbane) recently telling of the introduction in the 1980s of the simply named “flat white”. It has spread like wild fire here and now it has moved to London and Paris and is heading to USA via Starbucks.

I would never order a cappuccino senza schiuma in famous Italian cafes such as Tazza D’Oro, Caffe Greco or Caffe St Eustacchio in Rome, or the wonderful Giacosa in Florence, their coffee is perfect,  but if I am in an unfamiliar place I do. I don’t like to get half a cup full of froth.

Coffee at Giacosa

Coffee at Giacosa

cappuccino at Caffe Greco

Caffe Greco Rome


Tazza D'Oro Rome

Tazza D’Oro Rome

cappuccino senna schiuma and apple sfoglia at Il Monaco in Ponte a Serraglio

cappuccino senna schiuma and apple sfoglia at Il Monaco in Ponte a Serraglio

So…if you are an Australian accustomed to drinking a flat white, ask for a cappuccino senza schiuma in Italy. You may be looked at a little strangely, but it will happen.

Many years ago, when I lived in a tiny village near Sorrento, my then husband’s sister in law used to bring me a delicious espresso topped up with milk still warm from their cow…that was a good coffee.

How do you like your coffee?

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 3, 2015

Italy Magazine Blog Awards

Thanks to you, Bagni di Lucca and Beyond has been shortlisted for the Italy Magazine Blog Awards 2014.

Bagni di Lucca and Beyond has been shortlisted for Best Single Post Art & Culture Blog for a post I did called The Massacre at Sant’Anna di Stazzema.

Sant'Anna di Stazzema

I would love it if you go to and vote for the post.

My other blog, Bella Bagni di Lucca, has also been shortlisted in the same category for a post called

An old tradition in Bagni di Lucca


Arte Barsanti Bagni di Lucca

Bella Bagni di Lucca was also shortlisted for

Best Single Travel Post for a post called Pinocchio Park.

Pinocchio Park

Yes, I would also love it if you voted for these posts. Voting will continue until February 27th.

Here is the link to the Pinocchio Park post…


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 30, 2015

Making Italian shoes

Italy is famous for its shoes. I have quite a collection myself. On my last trip to Italy I went with Margie from Margie in Italy  to visit Italian Shoemakers at their factory near Lucca.

Italian Shoemakers Lucca

Our lovely guide, Louisa, gave us a guided tour through their showroom and factory where their shoes are designed and the samples made by hand.

It was great to see the design process and I loved the room full of trims for the shoes. I would love to get my hands on some of the gorgeous bits and pieces.

We met the lovely team putting the samples together.

Louisa then took us to a nearby factory where trims are made. It is quite amazing to watch these things being pushed out of machines.

The third factory we went to assembled the various parts into the finished shoe. Everyone had a particular job to do and it was interesting  to see the shoes finally come together.

Making a pair of shoes is an extraordinarily complicated process. Components come from all over and dozens of people are involved to produce a shoe. I will now appreciate mine even more.

Shoes head off from these factories to North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and South America. They appear under several different labels.

Thank you to Italian Shoemakers for a very interesting day.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 25, 2015

An Italian long table lunch

What could be better than an Italian lunch in the barrel room of an Italian winery? Not much I hear you say.

The Puglisi family has been cultivating grapes and making wine for more than 80 years. The first vintage was released in 1932 after Savlatore Cardillo and his young daughter Giuseppa came to settle in Ballandean. Father and daughter planted table grapes on their farm and from these made quantities of bulk red wine. Through war and tough times, together they created a life and a business.

In 1940 a young Italian widower, Alfio Puglisi, met and married Giuseppa. They and their 3 children have continued to expand and improve the vineyard and winery and today it is a thriving business with award winning wines.

Occasionally they hold a long table lunch in their barrel room. We thought it a good idea to attend.

The table below was just one of the long tables.

Long table lunch Ballandean Estate

The enormous barrels dominate the room.

Long table lunch Ballandean Estate


Lunch was accompanied by some great Italian music.

Long table lunch Balandean Estate

…and the food.

Long table lunch Ballandean Estate

Long table lunch Ballandean Estate

Long table lunch Ballandean Estste

Long table lunch Ballandean Estate

Long table lunch Ballandean Estate

Long table lunch Ballandean Estate

Long table lunch Ballandean Estate

Long table lunch Ballandean Estate

You may be thinking that this lunch took place in Italy, but it was actually at Ballandean Estate near Stanthorpe on the Granite Belt in Queensland, Australia. Take a look at the beautiful vineyard.

Ballandean Estate

Ballandean Estate

Ballandean Estate

The 26th January is Australia Day, a day to celebrate all things Australian, including all of the wonderful people who have recently made it home. This weekend is a long weekend, giving us a bit more time to see our beautiful country.

Here is some gorgeous Australian scenery for you to enjoy.

Granite Belt Queensland

Granite Belt Queensland


Granite Belt Queensland


I managed to get a few members of the local wildlife to sit still for a minute.

The blue skies must be seen to be believed.

Granite Belt Queensland

Granite Belt Queensland

Happy Australia Day! Thank you to all the people who make Australia the diverse and amazing place that it is.

We stayed at Cypress Ridge Cottages at Ballandean, not far from Ballandean Estate. The cottages are lovely and set in the beautiful bush.

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