Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 27, 2021

Artisans in Florence

Italy has around 784,000 family businesses, more than 85% of the total number of businesses in Italy. They provide 70% of employment in the country. Most of the businesses are totally managed by family members.

I am particularly interested in the small artisan shops tucked away in corners all over Italy, probably because I ran my own tiny business for many years. I designed and made most of the clothes in my shop and I was there every day to sell them. I can appreciate the work involved in hand made pieces and the effort required to be a sole trader. My fashion past

I was therefore delighted to be invited to visit some of the artisan shops in the Oltrano area in Florence that are part of a new venture called  In Bottega.

In Bottega is an organisation to help artisans reach clients. Most artisans are passionately involved in creating their pieces and don’t always have the time or the skills to market their products. By joining forces under one umbrella, connecting with clients all over the world will be possible.

With a group of friends I met Giovanna Bruno, a driving force behind In Bottega. She and her husband have MonnaLuna, a stunning jewellery shop in Strucciolo de’ Pitti, close to the Pitti Palace.


As well as showing us her beautiful jewellery and workshop where the jewellery is made, she introduced us to the concept of In Bottega and kindly took us to meet some of the artisans at work.

The first one we met was Alessio Petrachi, who has a soft furnishing shop opposite Giovanna. He does exquisite upholstery work, makes curtains and using the same furnishing fabrics, makes appliqué cushions. The Florentine lily, iconic buildings and things Italian feature in the appliqué work.


In the same street is the workshop of Pitti Mosaici. Here the brilliant artists create Pietra Dura, smooth mosaics that resemble paintings, an almost lost Florentine Renaissance craft. We saw the raw materials used to make the art pieces and the skilled men at work.


We watched as an artist cut the stone by hand using a wire cutter.

Another man was working on a portrait of a beloved pet cat, a special commission.

While another worked on a floral mosaic.

Later we went to visit their shop directly opposite Palazzo Pitti.


Our next stop was a jewellery shop in Via Maggio 71/r, called Extremida, run by a delightful couple, Debora and Flavio. They work together to create each hand crafted piece in their shop.



In Via Parione 35/r is the wonderful paper shop of Alberto Cozzi and family. We went to a smaller shop nearby to see the process of paper marbling.  Instagram…albertocozzifirenze


A family member showed us the amazing technique of paper marbling. We watched as paint was flicked onto a shallow pool and gradually blended. The paper is then carefully laid on top and just as carefully lifted off to reveal the pattern.

is a tiny hole in the wall in Via del Campuccio 46/r where Walter Morgante hand makes exquisite handbags, wallets and backpacks in leather. No sewing machines are used, everything is made completely by hand. His co-worker was there to show us this amazing work. Instagram…mortegan2015

We were not able to meet two other artisans perhaps another time.

Be Giuls…Luxury Handmade Clothing…

La Confetteria Firenze

In Bottega is an excellent idea. Artisans need to be supported. These skills need to be treasured. The best way to keep these skilled people in business is to support them by buying their wonderful products. I have spotted several things that need to come home with me. Many of these pieces can be made to order so you get exactly what you want. Thank you Giovanna and Andrina for introducing us to these delightful artisans. We were made to feel welcome wherever we went.

Here are links to In Bottega. There are short videos of some of the shops we visited, with more to come.


Simone Catelani and Andrea Brill…Instagram…firenzeprimaedopo

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 18, 2021

Truffle festival in San Miniato

I like to visit San Miniato, a beautiful hilltop town not far from Pisa. It is tiny, but has some excellent restaurants and food shops. Their annual Truffle Festival, which has been held for around 50 years, seemed like a good excuse to return to the town. It is held each year in November on the last 3 weekends of the month.

The hills around San Miniato provide the perfect environment for the growth of white truffles, Tuber Magnatum Picu. Thousands of people descend on the town for the event each year to taste truffles in a variety of ways. The whole town is taken over by stalls celebrating truffles and other Italian edible delights.

I went on the first Saturday of the festival and was lucky to have fine weather to wander the streets and take in all the delicious things on display.

The hero of the festival is the white truffle. In the last photo you can see a truffle being weighed and the price calculated. This one was the size of a walnut and was priced at €90.

I made a few purchases, including some truffle sausages, which have since been cooked and happily eaten. I sat down for lunch at Essenza, where I have eaten before. I had pici with a ragu of cinta sinese and fresh truffles…a perfect end to my San Miniato visit. I left just before the rain began.

I took the train from Pisa to San Miniato. On the Sundays of the festival there is a shuttle bus to the village from the nearby Pam store. All the car parks in San Miniato are closed for the festival, so if you drive, you need to park at San Miniato Basso and look for the shuttle bus to the top.

There are 2 more weekends of Truffle festival this November. Saturday 20th, Sunday 21st and Saturday 27th, Sunday 28th. It is a great day out.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 10, 2021

Autumn colour in the mountains

Recently I went with friends into the mountains near Bagni di Lucca. We drove up towards Abetone, but turned right towards Cutigliano and headed past the village into beautiful forests.

We went through chestnut forests and higher up, stunning beech forests. This is autumn colour at its best.



Trees are being cut, but I was told by my Italian friends that this is controlled. The large, older trees are left to grow and smaller trees are felled for timber.

We drove on until we were above the tree line and came upon bare mountain tops.

In the photo below you can see a track which goes to Lake Scaffaiolo…another day.

The views from the top are spectacular.

There is a war memorial near the top.

On the way back sun was shining through the tree tops turning them glorious gold and copper colours.

I am very lucky to have friends with local knowledge (and a powerful car). I would not be able to access these stunning places by myself.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 7, 2021

A glorious autumn day

After sitting watching rain falling from my window in Ponte a Serraglio I decided to take a chance on the weather and go out for the day.

The rain was needed after a dry summer, but after a while it gets a bit dreary.

Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day so I set off for Lucca. Blue sky is a perfect backdrop for lovely Lucca.



Autumn is my favourite time to walk in the Lucca wall. Some of the trees have lost their leaves already, some stay green and some are glorious gold.


The weather in the last few weeks has been all over the place in Ponte a Serraglio.

The flowers on the bridge are on the way out, but some are still putting on a good show.


On the way back from Lucca I looked up while stopped at a traffic light and saw what appeared to be snow on the mountains. It was cloud, but it won’t be long before there is snow. There have already been light falls at Abetone.

Even though the rainy days get a bit boring the misty, damp days are beautiful.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 1, 2021

A walk in an Oslo Park

Frogner Park is a magnificent green oasis in the city of Oslo. It is historically part of Frogner Manor and houses the Oslo Museum.

It is sometimes called Vigeland Park because of the Vigeland Installation, a permanent sculpture installation created by Gustav Vigeland between 1924 and 1943. Most of the statues are made of Iddfjord granite and were originally designed to stand in Eidvolls Plass in front of the Parliament of Norway. Frogner Park seems like a much better place to admire them in the lovely green setting.

The first statues we see are on a bridge leading  towards the Bronze Fountain and the Monolith.

Angry boy is one of the most popular statues. He is tiny compared to the adult figures and does appear to be quite angry. Anyone who has had children will recognise the fury.

The Bronze Fountain is adorned with 60 individual bronze reliefs and surrounded by an 1800 square metre black and white granite mosaic.


Monolith Platform has 36 figure groups on an elevation representing a ‘circle of life’. There were several school groups there and the children had a wonderful time climbing all over the statues. They are very smooth to the touch and I wouldn’t have minded climbing on them myself.

The Monolith is made from one piece of solid stone. Construction began in 1924. Gustav Vigeland modelled it in clay in his studio in Frogner. A model was cast in plaster.

In 1927 a block of granite was delivered to the park and a wooden shed built around it to protect it and the workers during construction. The plaster model was erected beside it for reference. The work took 3 masons 14 years to complete.

It is 14.12 metres high and is composed of human figures rising towards the sky.

From this high point there is a great view of the whole scene.

Frogner Park is a beautiful place to walk in. Oslo residents are very lucky to have this delightful place in their city. If I lived nearby I think I would be there every day.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 28, 2021

Oslo, old and new

I visited Oslo for the first time last week. I stayed with a friend who has a beautiful apartment in the centre of the city…how very lucky I am!

Oslo is the capital of Norway with a population of around 700,000. If the entire urban area is included it is 1.71 million. It is a modern, vibrant city, ranked number 1 in quality of life among European large cities in 2012. It is ranked as the second most expensive city in the world after Tokyo.

The city occupies an arc of land at the northern end of the Oslofjord. It is surrounded by green hills and mountains. The river Akerselva flows into the fjord dividing the city into East End and West End. There are 40 islands within the city limits and 343 lakes…much more than I could see in a few days. The city centre has wonderful old and new buildings and lots of beautiful parks and gardens to explore, a good place to start.

My first day was a bit overcast but we set off anyway down the main street towards the Royal Castle. It was designed by Hans Linstow and built between 1824 and 1848.

There is a lovely park around the castle which looked especially pretty with its autumn colours.

We walked further up the street, lined with colourful planters, to the top.

There are some stylish government and commercial buildings.