Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 12, 2022

Winter in Nuremberg

We have just returned to Bagni di Lucca from a visit to Bavaria in southern Germany to stay with friends for Christmas. Because of covid restrictions it was mostly a quiet time at home but we did manage a couple of short visits to nearby Nuremberg.

Nuremberg is the second largest city in Bavaria after Munich. It has a population of around 520,000 people. Its huge castle, with stunning towers, dominates the skyline.

The high walls offer dramatic entrances to the historical part of the city. We entered the one opposite the railway station to find a small market. Covid prevented the Christmas markets from going ahead, but the city still managed to look festive and inviting.



Weisserbergasse is the oldest street in Nuremberg. It is lined with exquisite half timber traditional German houses.

Crossing one of the bridges over the Pegnitz River we spotted the Helig-Geist-Spital, Holy Spirit Hospital. It was built in 1339 and is now a restaurant and senior home.

The view from the other bridge was just as spectacular.

It was necessary to eat bratwurst with mustard on a bread roll often in Bavaria.

I love the decorated buildings in Bavaria and Nuremberg has its share.

We had been hoping for snow, but we got a mixture of blue sky, drizzle and clouds. Despite the lack of snow,Nuremberg looked beautiful in its winter coat.

Travelling is a bit complicated now. We have to show a green pass to use public transport, get into many shops and restaurants. We are triple vaccinated so that is no problem. We had to get a covid test to enter Germany and to return to Italy. Who would have thought covid would still be interrupting our lives after almost 2 years?

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 24, 2021

My white Christmas

We are in Germany spending Christmas with friends. It is cold but there is no snow…maybe tomorrow.

My white Christmas tree is sitting on our tiny balcony in Ponte a Serraglio.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy new year. Thank you for following my blog and a special thank you to those who take the time to leave a comment.

I hope there will be lots more travel to share next year.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 9, 2021

Helsinki Christmas

I have been to Helsinki! The weather was bright and clear and hovering between -10 degrees and -15 degrees.  My first stop was to Marimekko to buy an extra warm coat…mission accomplished and I set off to explore one of my favourite cities.

My friend Jodie took a photo of me in my new coat. She takes great photos. You can follow her on Instagram…Together in Finland.


Finland does Christmas well. This is not surprising as Santa’s official residence is in Rovaniemi in northern Finland, where we went a few years ago to see Santa.Merry Christmas from Santa’s Village in the Arctic Circle

Helsinki is beautifully decorated for Christmas. It gets dark quite early so the lights are a welcome way to brighten the city.


Christmas markets are buzzing down by the harbour. There was a mean wind the morning I went there so the photos are few. My fingers were too cold to be uncovered for long.

Stockmann is the large department store in the centre of Helsinki. It’s Christmas windows attract families in droves. I love watching the little faces light up as they stare into the Christmas story.

Helsinki Christmas

Fazer, the famous cafe, also does a fun Christmas window.

I spotted these green figures in another window. Unfortunately I don’t know the significance of the figures, but I found them delightful.


Here are some random photos of wintery Helsinki.

Our friends, Jodie and Allan, took us to Porvoo, a beautiful old town full of wooden buildings. It is about one hour from Helsinki. It was snowing lightly, making the town even more beautiful.

It was great to be back in Helsinki after almost 2 years. I loved the cold weather, the snow, eating food that is not Italian and greeting Jim who arrived from Australia after finally being allowed out. We are now in rainy Bagni di Lucca.

We had Christmas in the Arctic Circle a few years ago. Here are some of the posts.

Reindeer, scientifists and northern lights

Dashing through the snow

Cross country skiing is not for me

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.