Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 7, 2023

A last look at lovely Lucca…for now

I go to Lucca regularly when I am in Italy. I feel very lucky to live close to this gorgeous town. My visits always include a walk on the wall surrounding Lucca. This time I walked through a different entrance in the wall.

It is wonderful to see the trees on the wall turn  green each spring.

From the top of the wall you can look into lovely houses close by.

San Colombano is a great spot on the wall to have lunch…or coffee, aperitivo or dinner.

Walking through Lucca is always delightful, especially in spring when flowers appear everywhere.

One of my favourite shops in Lucca is in the delightful, Chiasso Barletti, a tiny street in the centre. Etta’s Bookshop is in this street too. They sell books written in English…very useful.

There are surprises at every turn in Lucca. The Guinigi tower appears between buildings here and there.


My new favourite cafe is Caffe Santa Zita in Piazza San Frediano.  We went there a little while ago and loved it.

It is now my cafe of choice and we were disappointed to find all the seats outside taken. A kind gentleman told us there were more tables at the back.

We walked inside and found these beautiful rooms leading to the garden seats at the back.

Caffe Santa Zita is now definitely my place to go in any season. I can’t wait to return on a cold day (this year in autumn) and sit in one of the cosy rooms inside.

I think is is easy to see why I love Lucca.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 29, 2023

Cooking in San Miniato

San Miniato has joined a list of places I like to visit often. I had an excellent reason for my latest visit. Emiko Davies, a delightful  food lover I follow on Instagram has recently opened  Enoteca Marilu with her husband in the centre of the town. It will soon be open for wine tastings and aperitivo. Right now Emiko has begun her cooking classes.

One day soon (autumn) I would like to do one of her market cooking classes, but I started with a class by Saghar Setareh, an Iranian writer and food photographer who has written a gorgeous book about her culinary journey from Iran to Italy, Pomegranates & Artichokes.

In the book’s description …” Pomegranates & Artichokes is the story of Saghar’s own culinary journey from Iran to Italy, in which she describes the parallels that link Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food cultures, and shows how ingredients and recipes, unconstrained by borders, are shared and transformed through the immigrant experience.”

It is a beautiful book and Saghar’s cooking lesson took us through some of the recipes in it, beginning with breakfast. Emiko had prepared a morning tea with delicious milk bread served with rose petal jam and butter along with plates of Fattah,made by Marco (Emiko’s husband), covered with garlic yoghurt sauce, warm chick peas, mint and pine nuts.

Saghar made her grandmother’s bicoloured sweet tea.

The gathered group of enthusiastic food lovers helped prepare baked apples filled with mincemeat, walnuts, raisins, and spices including saffron, cinnamon and cardamom.

We also made stuffed tomatoes and eggplant.

Best of all, we got to eat everything we helped prepare.

To finish off the feast there was a cheat’s version of traditional Iranian ice cream. Saghar actually made it at the beginning of the class so it could be put back in the freezer. She began with a store bought ice cream, slightly melted, and added saffron infusion, pistachio nuts, rose water and rose petals.

Thank you Saghar for sharing your lovely book and delicious food with us.

And thank you Emiko and Marco for having us at your beautiful brand new enoteca and kitchen.


Enoteca Marilu…Vicolo Faognana 2, San Miniato.

Phone…(39) 347 654 0678

Saghar Setareh


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 25, 2023

Heavenly Castello

We stayed at Castello di Reschio last year in April and vowed to return in a slightly warmer month. Exquisite Castello di Reschio

We visited this year in May, but the weather was no warmer. This spring has been cooler than usual and wet. We need rain in Italy after a couple of very dry years so we are not complaining.

Castello di Reschio did not disappoint on our return visit.  We swam in the pool despite the overcast, cool weather. The sun came out occasionally on day 1.



This time the second restaurant, La Scuderie, was open and we ventured a little further on the property. There is an excellent equestrian centre (pity I have zero interest in horses) near the restaurant.

I expect the white horse is much photographed, I know I took lots of photos.

There are 2 other horses.

All three together.

If you were into riding horses I’m sure this would be the place to be.

The restaurant area is stunning. Nothing here is left to chance.


The path back towards the castle leads to what was once a small church, now an event area with accommodation in the building behind.


The gardens are a perfect balance between manicured and left to nature. I love the areas left to grow wild.

There are gorgeous views of the hills nearby.

The Palm Court is the perfect place to sit and read or enjoy a cool drink…lots more on last year’s post.

We loved this table placed above the Palm Room.

We enjoyed time in the glorious Roman bath.

The boot room has an area where flowers gathered from the gardens are sorted and sent off to various rooms in the Castello.

We had our last breakfast in a small room beside the usual room. It was exquisite!

Our room was delightful.

We said goodbye to this incredible place again…I hope we come back.

In case you missed the link to last year’s post, here it is again.

Exquisite Castello di Reschio

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 22, 2023

A walk through Pisa

The leaning tower rightly attracts visitors to Pisa, but many don’t venture into the town. This is a pity because it has a lot to offer.

The city is divided by the Arno River, which flows into the sea nearby. I arrived by train and walked through the newer part of the town towards the river.


The wide pedestrian street from the station is a great shopping area. There are well known labels and some smaller boutiques as well, in old and new buildings.


Looking back towards the station.


The Arno is lined with lovely old buildings.

On the tower side of the river is the historical centre.  Garibaldi stands guard.

This stunning carving is above one of the porticoes of Borgo Stretto, the main street.

Porticoes line Borgo Stretto. Underneath are shops, cafes and restaurants, traditional and modern.

Galileo keeps watch in the centre.

A church is squeezed in.

Away from Borgo Stretto there are lovely old streets to wander in with lots of interesting things to discover.

A colourful street market full of excellent produce is near the centre.

Of course if you visit Pisa you need to go to the magnificent Piazza Dei Miracoli to see the tower, the church, the baptistery and the cemetery.

To climb the tower, look for the ticket office. You can nominate a time to climb and come back 5 minutes before to wait for the previous group to come down. It is well organised.
You can buy a combination ticket to see the church, baptistery and cemetery as well as the tower. If you don’t wish to climb the tower you can buy a ticket for the other things.

Pisa is an interesting city, much more than just the leaning tower…don’t miss it.

Pisa, the tower and more

Pisa beyond the tower

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 17, 2023

Goodbye Casa Debbio until autumn

Our guest arrives at Casa Debbio soon for her 3 month stay. It is difficult to say goodbye to the garden but I know it will be OK in Filippo’s capable hands. I will be back in autumn to see how it has survived the summer.

This spring has not been kind to the garden. It has been cooler than usual after a warm start. At least we have had good rain after the last 2 years of drought. Most of my peonies are still to bloom. The ones that have opened have been attacked by bugs. I hope they all survive.

Here is what has been happening in the garden this spring.

These were the last daffodils to come up.

Daffodils offer some great colour in early spring.

The weeping cherry tree was pink for a couple of weeks.

Hellebores have been excellent this year. They are spreading under the chestnut trees and a cherry tree.

Tree peonies bloom in early spring.