Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 18, 2023

Day trips

One of the reasons we bought our apartment in Bagni di Lucca 20 years ago is because of its proximity to lots of great places. There are many wonderful villages, towns and cities at our doorstep. Here are some of my recent visits.

Lovely Lucca is only 30 minutes away, so I go often. There is a 4.2 kilometre wall around Lucca and it is possible to walk or cycle around the top. It is still winter and many of the trees are bare, but soon they will turn green. Lucca is a great place to visit in any season.

A few days later.

Corso Garibaldi, just below the wall is lined with magnolia trees and right now they are almost finished blooming.


Florence is an easy day trip. I usually drive to Lucca, park near the station, and catch the train. It takes 1 hour and 20 minutes. (Make sure to catch the more direct train or it will take 25 minutes longer.) Sometimes I stay the night. The city takes on a different character at night.

Even on a rainy day the views along the Arno River are gorgeous.

Cosimo di Medici is off his horse for some renovations.


Santa Maria Novella church is always stunning.

Spring fashion is appearing in shop windows.

My pick was this gorgeous dress from Australian brand Zimmerman.

Another favourite place to visit is Pietrasanta, an hour and 10 minutes drive away. There is always something to see and do in this gorgeous town on the coast. See more…Pietrasanta again


There are constantly changing art installations in the central piazza.


On a recent visit to Pietrasanta we went on to nearby Forte dei Marmi. The main street was being dug up and many businesses were closed so we had a short walk around the town and out onto the pier.

San Miniato is just over an hour away. The drive is a bit dreary as there seems to be a roundabout every few kilometres. It is worth the bother.

The town is famous for food, truffles in particular. After a walk through the tiny town and up to the tower on top of the hill we tucked into a delicious truffle lunch. See more here…Truffle festival in San Miniato

There are hundreds of ancient villages in the mountains around us. Elio Sassi is a beautiful 30 minute drive away and we go occasionally for Sunday lunch at Il Totto.


The weather here in Ponte a Serraglio has been mixed since my arrival. I actually like the wet, misty days as much as the sunny ones.

The nights here are beautiful.

There will be many more day trips over the next couple of months.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 13, 2023

Late winter in the garden at Casa Debbio

The winter landscape is still in place, but there are signs of spring appearing in our garden at Casa Debbio.

There is no greening of the trees just yet.

Last summer’s plants on top of our new stone walls need to be removed to make room for new plantings. I am planting seeds in pots right now and hopefully the seedlings will be big enough in a few weeks.


Spring is definitely starting to show its face. Yesterday was a glorious sunny day and quite warm. Daffodils are everywhere in the garden.


Helibores are thriving.

Peonies are showing up. The tree peonies are the first to show new growth.

Herbaceous peonies poke pink shoots up through the ground. This one was just tiny pink points a day ago and now this.

Others are more advanced and some are showing nothing. I have around 120 to look out for.



I thought we had lost this bulb last year. It looked a bit ordinary when we moved it, but it has returned happily.

Hydrangeas are growing new leaves.

There will be lilacs soon.

I have been digging up bits of vinca (periwinkles) growing wild under trees and planting them on bare areas in a bid to cover them. It is starting to work.

The weeping cherry will soon be covered with blossoms.

Some grey hair will need to be removed from this chap, but the green bits are growing.

The fig trees have buds.

Pear trees will soon have blossoms.

This fungus growing out of a stump looks interesting.

I lost my original Daphne after a tough winter last year. The new one is doing well.

I found this gorgeous camellia hiding under leaves, hoping to escape being eaten by wild goats or deer.

I love my garden! The best time to be at Casa Debbio is from now until June. I can’t wait to see how it develops.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 1, 2023

20 years ago today

On the 1st of March 2003 I first set foot on the bridge in Ponte a Serraglio. It was my 50th birthday and it was decided that this was where we would buy a house. Yes, that means that today is my 70th birthday. This seems quite strange to me because I think I am 35. Of course, when I look in the mirror it becomes obvious that I am not 35.

Anyway, buying here in Ponte a Serraglio has been a great success. I love my life in both homes. Brisbane, Australia is a great place to live and so is our little part of glorious Italy. I have the best of both worlds.

Having a place in Italy allows us time to explore the country. We have been to almost every region and have found things to love in all of them. Then we get to come back to our apartment and feel at home.

It is the last of winter now. The days are a bit cold and damp, but I love it. This is the view from my balcony right now.

I love to walk along the river below our apartment.

There are signs of spring, it isn’t far away. The changing seasons are a delight.

There will be lots more photos of spring and our travels soon.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 28, 2023

Viareggio Carnevale 2023

Carnevale Viareggio celebrated its 150th year this year! My first visit to this incredible spectacle was in 2011 and have only missed a couple of years, one of which was because of Covid when it was not held.

Here are a few of my favourite floats.

Here are some of the faces I was able to photograph. Some are from the players involved with the enormous floats and some are the audience.





Work will have begun dismantling the floats and building new ones for next year…can’t wait to see what these clever people come up with.

Carnevale Viareggio has its own category on my blog so you can look through past years if you wish.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 23, 2023

Snow in Helsinki

I love my stopovers in Helsinki! I had 2 and a half days there on my way to Italy. Snow fell the night before I arrived…lucky me.

I always stay at the GLO hotel, right in the centre of the city. I dropped off my bags, had a shower and put on my winter clothes and headed off to see the sights of snowy Helsinki.

Esplanadi park is near the hotel. It leads from the city centre down the the harbour.

I love this little summer coffee hut, closed now for the winter.


The statue in the centre of the park looks quite different in spring when it is surrounded by flowers.

All of the sculptures have a snowy covering.

No takers for the park benches.