Posted by: Debra Kolkka | September 9, 2022

Changing view at Casa Debbio

I am back at our house in the Garfagnana mountains briefly. We have guests arriving tomorrow and I am here to get everything ready.

I don’t really have much to do. Filippo has done an amazing job looking after the garden. It has been an extremely hot summer with almost no rain and it has been a full time job keeping everything alive. Lovely Elena from the village has also done a great job looking after the house for the summer guests.

We have had a bit of rain, not enough, but it means I don’t have to do much watering.

The view from the house changes constantly.

Rain is on the way.

It didn’t rain much during the day, but overnight the fall was heavier. I was happy to be sitting outside to see the lovely sunset.

I woke up early and looked out of the window to see this.

For a time mist obscured the view.

This is over the course of 24 hours. The view is constantly changing and always fabulous.

You can see in the photo below the damage the summer heat has caused. The brown trees are not changing colour for autumn, they have been dried out with the relentless heat.

The pergola offers the perfect place to keep an eye on the changing view.

Or perhaps sitting under the weeping cherry offers a different view.

This is the view of the garden at the side of the house from the top floor. The stone wall on the right is part of the original house that was here. The barbecue was added.

This is looking down on the new stone walls in front of the house. The grass in front was destroyed with all the hauling of stone during the build, but it is slowly growing back. The plants I put in just before I left grew and are tumbling over each other. I will be more selective next spring.

I was here at Casa Debbio last year when the news came that Prince Phillip had died and I am here again to hear the sad news that Queen Elizabeth has gone. I was born the year of her coronation and while I don’t think a monarchy is what we need, I think she did a brilliant job for 70 years and she will be missed.

She has always been there and part of our lives. I had a Princess Anne doll when I was little. I saw the Queen and Prince Phillip when I was a volunteer at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. The Prince winked as he walked by and I waved back. He always reminded me of my father. Dad was prone to saying what he thought. I can only imagine how sad the Queen’s actual family is right now.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | September 6, 2022

Happy in Helsinki

I always love my visits to Helsinki. I feel at home in this beautiful city. At the end of summer the temperature is beginning to cool, perfect for walking for hours.

Blue sky made a perfect backdrop for my favourite sights.

Esplanadi never disappoints.

The garden beds are still beautiful.

Kappeli is a great spot for a delicious salmon soup.

Havis Amanda keeps watch beside the harbour.

Tuomiokirkko appears between buildings.

I walked past the Russian church to the Katajanokka area beside the harbour with its beautiful art nouveau buildings.


Who wouldn’t want a row of owls above their doorway, or perhaps a crustacean.

I walked back past the Helsinki cathedral.

Past the railway station.

Nearby is the amazing Oodi library.

I stayed at the beautiful Haven Hotel beside the harbour. It is in an excellent position near the harbour and close to everything in the city.

I had 2 wonderful days in Helsinki. Next stop Bagni di Lucca.



Posted by: Debra Kolkka | September 2, 2022

A beautiful Sicilian beach

San Vito lo Capo is a stunning seaside town on the north east coast of Sicily. We dropped in on our way from Marsala to the airport in Palermo on our April trip.

The town sits at the foot of Monte Monaco, a dramatic backdrop for the gorgeous 3 kilometre strip of white sand beach. We drove past this impressive rocky outcrop on the way into town.


The photos don’t do the beach or the sea justice. The water is crystal clear and the most gorgeous turquoise colour.

The lighthouse opposite the beach dates from 1859. It is possible to visit.

The town centre has parks, lots of restaurants, cafes and shops. Plenty to keep visitors busy.

We enjoyed our final Sicilian lunch before heading off to the airport.

We couldn’t help admiring the effort put into this front yard near the beach.

Swimming is the main activity for visitors to San Vito lo Capo. The Sicilian word for those who spend hours in the sea is arripudduti, wrinkly people. I have fond memories of my prune like fingers after surfing for hours in my youth.

We were in this lovely town for only a few hours. On a return visit we will be sure to see more.

On the list of things to see next time is a fortress dedicated to the martyr San Vito in the centre of town, the nearby nature reserve, Riserve dello Zingaro and Bue Mariano’s Cove, named the most beautiful in Italy in 2015.

The photo of the cove is not mine, but I wish it was. I would love to explore this gorgeous place.

If you go in September you will find the annual Cous Cous Festival, 10 days of fun and feasting.

I think late spring would be the best time to visit. The summer crowds would spoil the beach experience. I can see why this is a popular place for beach lovers. I would love to return and dive into the clear turquoise water.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 25, 2022

Marsala, more than Marsala

Marsala takes its name from Marsa Allah, meaning Port of the Gods, given to it by the Arabs. The city was founded by Phonecians. After the first Punic War in 241 BC it surrendered to the Romans who made it one of the main ports in the Mediterranean.

The city is built on the ruins of the ancient Carthaginian city of Lilybaeum. It is famous for the docking of Giuseppe Garibaldi on May 11, 1860 and for its Marsala wine.

Garibaldi landed with his troops to begin the unification of Italy. Hundreds of locals joined his army.

In 1773 an Englishman named John Woodhouse came to town and decided he liked the local wine. He thought it might be popular back home. He fortified the wine with alcohol to help it survive the sea journey and Marsala was born. He returned permanently in 1796 and began mass production.

Marsala was our next stop after Trapani on our April visit to Sicily. The historical centre is pretty, with lots of interesting buildings, cafes, shops and restaurants.

On the way into town we came across Salina Genna, a salt producer since the 15th century. Their salt is still produces in a totally natural way. It is possible to walk around the salt pans and take a small boat around the lagoon.

Our hotel,Dimore di Charme, was excellent, right in the centre of town, comfortable and spacious.

The town centre is quite compact and easily explored in a day or two.

Porta Garibaldi is one of the remaining ancient entrances to the city. It was originally named Porta di Mare.


There are others.

Piazza della Republica in the centre is the home of Chiesa Madre, dedicated to Saint Thomas of Canterbury.

There are some stunning building lining the lovely streets.

The town shines at night.

There are lots of places to sample Marsala and other great food and wine of the area.

Marsala is much more than its favourite beverage and well worth a visit.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 13, 2022

Ancient ruins in Selinunte

Selinunte Archeoligical Park is the largest Archeological area in Europe…270 hectares with 7 temples, some in good condition. Selinunte was founded in the middle of the VII century BC. It developed over the next few centuries until it was destroyed by the Carthaginians in 409 BC

We visited on our recent trip to Sicily. We have been to several archeological sites and this one is not our favourite. The ticket office gives little indication of how to tackle the area. It is possible to take a ride around the park. We opted to walk, but once inside regretted that decision.
The temples are a long distance apart and on a hot day it would be a bit of a drag. We actually gave up after the first couple of temples.

The first one we came to was spectacular…Heraion Temple. It was discovered in 1823 then left until the 1950s when it was partially rebuilt.

The second, beside it, is a wonderful mess of fallen stones. The size of these bits makes you realise how amazing these workers must have been.

We could see another structure in the distance and started walking there, but gave up.

Agrigento offers a far better view of ancient life. It is much more compact and more interesting…It’s all Greek to me

Segesta is also an interesting place with a temple and an amphitheatre…Segesta…a temple in Sicily

We have also been to the Acropolis in Athens…Acropolis now

I guess we are a bit spoiled. If you go I would strongly suggest taking the transport.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 7, 2022

Pietrasanta again

Pietrasanta is one of my favourite towns in Italy. It is on the Versilia Coast and is an easy drive from our apartment in Bagni di Lucca. We usually go just for the day, but before we returned to Australia in June we decided to stay overnight to see a different side of the town.

Even though I go often to Pietrasanta I am still delighted by the lovely streets with hidden corners, great shopping, restaurants and a stunning piazza usually filled with art installations.

We checked into Hotel Paridis and set off to explore the town.



We loved our aperitivo in the piazza.

The town looks lovely at night.

The hotel was wonderful, take a look inside. It has a restaurant, 2 bars, an internal terrace a terrace facing the square.

A turret which formed part of the original defensive walls around the town is incorporated in the hotel.

We walked through it to the outside terrace where we had dinner.

The food was excellent.

The next morning breakfast was on top of the turret.

I think you can see why I love Pietrasanta. The historic centre in a little inland from the beach. There is another part of the town beside the seaside. One day I will venture there, perhaps when I return to Italy in September.

There are lots of posts about Pietrasanta…

Art and lunch in Pietrasanta

Medieval fun in Pietrasanta

Botero in Pietrasanta

Wet art in Pietrasanta

Pietrasanta revisited

Art and food at Pietrasanta

Art in Pietrasanta


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 30, 2022

Marvellous Montefalco

Earlier this year we visited Montefalco. It was in early spring before the busy season began. It is  a tiny hilltop town in Umbria. The town has been settled since pre-Roman times. Now the area is known for its wine, Montefalco DOC. The red wine comes from the highly localised Sagrantino grape. The Montefalco district is part of the food and wine itinerary of the Sagrantino Wine Route.

We parked at the bottom of the town and admired the view over the beautiful hillsides covered with vines and olive trees.

It is a short walk up from the car park to the centre of the town.

The main square, Piazza del Comune, is lined with the Palazzo Comunale from 1270, Palazzo Pambuffetti and Palazzo Senili, 14th century, Palazzo Santi-Gentili, 15th century and Palazzo Langeli and Palazzo de Cuppis from the 16th century.

The town is full of marvellous old stone buildings and remnants of fortification walls. It is worth a walk away from the main square to discover the delights of the town.

There are a lot of restaurants and shops in the town, surprising for such a small town. I was particularly impressed with a very large linen shop, even more so when I was told everything was from their linen factory nearby.

Obviously there are many wine shops and enoteca dedicated to the produce of the area, and this one, specialising in things to make you beautiful.


This wine barrel has been put to good use.

Montefalco was almost completely empty when we were there, but I could see lots of activity. Everyone was getting ready for the beginning of the season which lasts from Easter until well into October. The town is clearly prosperous and very well presented.

We were only in the town for a few hours, but it delighted me enough to want to return for a longer stay…the list of these places to return to keeps growing.

Here is my favourite photo from Montefalco. I poked my head around a corner to find this lovely narrow street.