Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 8, 2021

Lots of peonies

The final work on the road to Casa Debbio is underway. Huge cement pipes have been delivered and the bit of the road that was washed away in 2013 is being dug up. The pipes to allow the water from above to flow through are being installed and soon the new surface will be put down.

This means I can’t stay at the house all the time. I could if my walking was stronger, but it is a bit treacherous right now and I won’t risk it. Fortunately Filippo is more sure footed than I am and he will take care of the garden. He lets me know when the road is drivable and I go up for short visits.

Last Autumn I pulled out some lavender that was struggling under the chestnut trees, which have grown, and now cast too much shade.
I transplanted peonies from pots along with some new ones. In the more shady areas I planted hydrangeas, some from cuttings. Everything has grown and the new garden bed is starting to look great. It will only get better. Filippo is now keen to take out some more lavender and mix things up a bit. We will wait until autumn.

I could not resist these stunning petunias. I hope they last the summer.

My peonies are beginning to open and they are stunning.

The weeping cherry didn’t get a lot of blossoms this year but without wild goats eating the leaves it is growing well.

These bright yellow flowers brighten up a little corner.

The aquilegias are still growing madly. The yellow ones are nearly as tall as I am. I admit that I am not tall, but these little treasures are at least 1.5 metres high.

I pulled the ranunculas out of the pot and have saved the roots to plant in autumn. I wonder if they will come up next spring. I put a hibiscus in their place.

The hydrangea flowers are starting to open.

On the most recent visit there were so many peonies I had to cut quite a few. Some of the plants were being completely overwhelmed with the weight of the flowers. The photos below were taken a week after those above. Lots of peonies opened in the warm weather.

Here is my table under the pergola with some of my cut flowers.

And my kitchen sink at Ponte with the flowers. I gave away bunches to my friends.

Tiny gooseberries will slowly ripen.

Roses have blooomed.

The rocky hill that was bare a few years ago is gradually being covered with acanthus, peonies, may, fotinia and rosemary.

The wisteria over the pergola will need a trim soon.

The hydrangeas behind the house are opening.

I wonder what I will find when I go up to Casa Debbio next time. We have had rain this week which will be good for the garden.



Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 2, 2021

Beautiful Florence

I don’t usually go to Florence after April. It is too hot and too crowded. This year is different. It has been much cooler than usual and because of restrictions there are few tourists about.

I can’t walk very far or very fast so I decided to stay a couple of nights so I could retreat to the hotel for regular breaks. I stayed at the Palazzo Guadagni where I stayed at Christmas. Christmas in Florence

It is in the Santo Spirito district. It is a lovely area between Palazzo Pitti and Santo Spirito church, with lots of small interesting shops, cafes and restaurants in the side streets.

The hotel has a wonderful loggia terrace, a great place for evening aperitivo, looking over the rooftops of Florence.

The view from my room was even better. If you go, ask for room number 8. I think it is the best one.

This is the view from the shower.

I was extremely lucky with the weather. It was pleasantly warm and the sky was cornflower blue. I wandered slowly past my favourite places.

I think this tiny balcony on the Ponte Vecchio has to be the cutest in Florence.

Neptune in the Piazza Signoria has been polished up recently and he is looking fierce. Neptune shines again

This one, and the one in Bolgogna, are my favourite Neptunes. I have seen some puny ones on my travels, but these two hold court over their piazzas. See the Bologna Neptune here…The Maserati Trident

I always call into Melaleuca on the bank of the Arno,the cafe run by an Australian and her Italian husband. I go for brunch where I can enjoy something I would eat at home in Brisbane…a little bit of home. A little bit of Australia in Florence

Nearby, in Via Santa Croce, I came upon the most beautiful shop, Aqua Flor. The only part open was the fragrance section where I bought a couple of small gifts.

I wish the rest had been open. All I could do was peer through the windows and wish I was inside. It will have to wait for another trip to Florence.

At the end of Via Santa Croce is this stunning building.

There are some very cute cafes and shops in this area too. There is much to be found in Florence if you leave the obvious streets and venture into the less well known areas. Get lost and just wander and you will be delighted with what you find.

I need to explore more when I can walk a bit more comfortably.



Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 24, 2021

Walking in the rain

I can walk and I can drive and it is still raining. I am delighted with my progress! I have just one more hospital visit to have the last stitches out and then I am done. I have my freedom back and it feels great.

I was able to drive up to Casa Debbio on the weekend. Work continues on the road to the house but the kind workmen move their equipment when work is done so that I can drive up to the house. I would not be able to walk that far yet. They should be finished in the next few weeks and I will be able to show you our new road.

It was lovely to wake up to a misty morning at Casa Debbio.

The sun did come out and I was able to plant a few things. It was great to be able to walk around the garden and see all the things I have not been able to get to for the last 2 months.


My herbaceous peonies are mostly still buds.

Ants love peonies. They are attracted by the sticky nectar, but don’t seem to hurt the flowers.

This time last year at this time they looked like this.

One peony on a new plant has bloomed.

The hydrangeas behind the house have no flowers yet.

Last year they looked like this.

The area at the back of the house was a difficult area to get right. It is damp and shady all winter then it is in full sun in summer. It is finally working well. The aquilegias have self seeded and have grown wild. I love it when plants come up all by themselves each year.

Last year it looked like this.

The sambuco trees are covered in flowers.

Acanthus and wild daisies are doing  a good job covering a slope.

Photinia and beech hedges have grown without the wild goats around to eat them this year. At least one has returned this week and ring barked the new magnolia tree. I hope it survives.

Wisteria has covered the pergola well, but there were few flowers this year.

Last year it looked like this.

I never tire of this view.

The roses in front of the house are blooming finally.

Every year is different in the garden. This spring has been disappointing, but the garden still look lovely. Filippo has done a wonderful job of taking care of everything this year. I have been no use at all.

I am now back at Ponte a Serraglio and it is raining again. I planted new flowers on the bridge and a miserable skunk has come along and stolen some. I hobbled out in the rain today to replace them. Someone does this almost every year. I wish I could catch them at it.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 19, 2021

What happened to spring?

This spring has been disappointing to say the least. We get the odd day of sunshine then the rain and cold weather return.

Yesterday we had glorious sunshine.

Today more rain.

Everything is green and pretty but it is still quite cool. There are few acacia blossoms to be seen. I hope the bees have something to feed on.

My ankle is progressing well. The final stitches come out next week and my hospital visits will be over until a final check in 6 weeks.

I don’t have to wear the boot and I can walk slowly and carefully with the aid of a walking stick. My ankle is unsurprisingly stiff and a bit uncomfortable but it is not painful. It gets better every day.

I should be able to drive soon and I look forward to being able to travel a bit. Most of Italy is a yellow zone now and soon restaurants will be open for indoor dining. We can eat outside but this crummy weather is making it difficult for restaurants to operate successfully.

I hope we get some sunny, warm weather soon!

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 13, 2021

Ankle report

Yesterday I went to the hospital to have the screw/bolt taken out of my ankle. I arrived at 7.00am, had another covid test, answered lots of questions and waited.

I was wheeled off to theatre around midday, giving me lots of time to think about what was going to happen. My bed was wheeled through corridors to the same room as last time.

Once through the door my bed was put bedside a steel tray set into the wall. There was a large steel door which slides up and a tray was slid under me and pushed onto the tray and then onto a trolley on the other side and then I was wheeled into the theatre. I felt like a large salami being pushed onto a deli counter to be sliced up.

I was given a local anaesthetic and I could feel my foot being pushed and tugged. I heard the word cacciavite, Italian for screwdriver and tried to shut it out. This time there was no drifting off behind the waves in Noosa. Cacciavite kept repeating in my head with horrible accompanying visions.

Finally it was over and I was pushed back through the steel door and back to the room where I waited 4 hours to be allowed to go home. At last I was given prescriptions for medication and a brief list of what to do and Filippo brought me home.

I am hoping that when I go back in a couple of days to have the wound checked I can ask a few questions and be more sure of what I can and can’t do over the next few weeks. I’m pleased to have that bit of horror over. I doubt I will be touching a screwdriver any time soon.

The road to Casa Debbio will be closed next week while they dig it up so I will go to our apartment in Ponte a Serraglio for a while. It will be nice to have a change of scenery but I will miss the garden. As compensation I will be able to cross the bridge to have coffee and company at Bar Italia. Thank goodness bars and restaurants are open and we can move around again.

Here is the last of the wisteria. By this time last year the pergola was bursting with flowers. This year there are just a few and the leaves are already appearing.

The roses won’t be far off. We had torrential rain over the last day, which will be good for the new trees we planted just before I fell over. Now we need some sun to help them grow.

The ricotta plants on the terrace below are in full bloom and looking gorgeous.

On a recent sunny day I planted marigolds in pots around the house, one of the few gardening jobs I have been able to do.

Marigolds are hardy little plants that last all through summer. Geraniums have been a bit disappointing over the last couple of summers so I’m trying something else.

I hope I will be able to come back soon. I would hate to miss my peonies flowering. It is all about to happen.




Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 7, 2021

A day out

Yesterday was the day I expected the cast to come off my leg and I hoped to be more mobile. That is not quite the way it turned out.

I went to the hospital and the cast was cut open, then taped up. I was sent to have an X-ray and then went back to the surgeon with the results. Everything seems to be OK, although the surgeon was a man of few words.

The kind man in charge of my cast cleaned off some of the alligator skin from my scars and put on a new cast. I tried to see the extent of the mess around my ankle, but I could not…maybe just as well.

What I thought was a small screw in my ankle is actually a rod which goes from one side to the other. It needs to come out under anaesthetic, which sounds like the correct plan to me. It has been scheduled for next Wednesday.

I was sent off to buy a boot which will be put on after the rod had been removed. Here it is, not really what I had in mind for my spring wardrobe.

I admit to be bitterly disappointed that I still don’t have my freedom. To cap it off this morning turned out to be yet another lousy day, cold and wet, so it was decided that a day out was necessary.

Pietrasanta is a favourite town of mine and it is not far away. Importantly, it has an accessible car park and it is flat. The centre is pedestrian only, making it easy for a wheelchair. Most of the shops have at least one step, so going inside didn’t happen.
I did like this little garden outside the Mac shop.

Pietrasanta usually has an art installation in the piazza. Today’s was small but impressive.

It was overcast and cool, but at least the rain held off while we were there.

It was nice to be out of the house for a while. Tuscany is still yellow and I hope it stays that way for a while. Soon I should be hobbling around in that lovely boot.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 1, 2021


As I have mentioned before, this spring has been a bit ordinary in the garden at Casa Debbio. Deep snow in late winter took out quite a few plants. We didn’t pull them out, hoping they might recover in spring, but that now seems unlikely. The weather has been colder than usual this spring and many plants have suffered.

My beautiful lavender along the driveway wall looks bleak. It is growing, but I doubt it will do well this season.

The wisteria is also a bit sad. There are blossoms, but they aren’t a patch on last year.

There is one on the pergola on the side of the house which is doing better than the rest. It is very pretty and more prolific than the others.

Wild violets are popping up everywhere and are always a delight.

Tiny wild daisies grow in the grass all over the garden. It is very sad when they are mowed down, but they come back quickly.

Aquilegias turn up by themselves every year.

In the area behind the house they have self seeded and some have flowers along with another plant with tiny flowers that comes alive in spring after looking completely dead all winter.


My beautiful peonies have not let me down this year. I transplanted several that were growing in pots last autumn and planted quiet a few new ones. They have all grown and the tree peonies are covered in flowers.

Many are on the terrace below the house and I can’t get there in my wheelchair so I rely on Sarah to pick them for me.

This white one is the size of a small dinner plate and is as delicate a silk. The centre is pale pink. It is absolutely gorgeous and the plant is covered in them for the first time.

This peony is called Shirley Temple. Is it covered in buds which should bloom in the next couple of weeks.

The one beside it is the first one I planted. It always gets about 60 blooms.

The baby peonies I have grown from seed are thriving. I would have planted them in the garden this spring, but a broken ankle has got in the way and it is a bit late now to move them so they can wait until autumn.

I have just 4 days to go until my cast comes off. I am so looking forward to my freedom, particularly as Tuscany is now a yellow zone and I can travel in the region. I have a long list of places I want to visit or revisit. With a bit of luck the crummy weather we are having now will get better next week and I can get to work on my garden and some serious travel.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 24, 2021

Success at the Questura

Last year my appointment at the Questura in Lucca to renew my Permesso di Soggiorno was postponed 3 times and eventually happened in August.

I expected the same to happen this year, but it did not, and yesterday I was taken to the Questura. Sarah wheeled me towards the building and we were ushered in immediately.

An official opened a window especially for me and I was processed in 5 minutes. Considering that some years I wait 2 or more hours this was a miracle. Perhaps I can keep my cast for next year.

Within the next couple of weeks I will get a letter asking for more paperwork or a text telling me I can collect my new Permesso. You never know until it happens.

It was a lovely day so we went up onto the Lucca wall for a walk, or for me a push. The trees are gorgeous and the horse chestnut trees have blossoms.

It is a glorious sunny day today too. Filippo did amazing work in the garden yesterday. He weeded and cleaned garden beds and began the huge job of mowing the terraces. Today he is watering. We have had a little rain, but not enough to do much good.

It is 1 week and 5 days until my cast comes off. I can’t wait to be able to get around the garden and take photos of the growing plants.

At the moment I am restricted to the level where the house is. The wisteria on the pergola is about to bloom.

The ranunculas are colourful.

Rosebuds are appearing.

There will be much more soon.

Tuscany and several other regions will become yellow zones from Monday 26th April. This means bars and restaurants will be open for outdoor dining for lunch and dinner. There will still be restrictions, with masks and distancing, but it will be excellent to have lunch away from home.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 19, 2021

Cold spring at Casa Debbio

I don’t have much to report from Casa Debbio. April has been cold. After a few warm, sunny weeks in March the weather turned cold and damp. The garden was already damaged by deep snow in January and the current weather has made things worse.

The cherry tree had less than half the blossoms it usually gets and the lavender is looking very ordinary. The wisteria is still to bloom.

On the upside some of the peonies have bloomed and are looking gorgeous. I can’t get down to the lower terrace to see them, but Sarah picked some yesterday and brought them up to the house so we can enjoy them.

Most of Italy is still red or orange. Tuscany is orange, but it makes little difference to me. I have only left the house twice in the last few weeks to go to the hospital. The first time was just a check up and the second was to have the stitches out of my leg and ankle. All seems OK and I don’t have to go again until the cast comes off on May 6th and some screws are taken out of my ankle.

I turned out to be absolute useless with crutches so I now have a walking frame for upstairs and a wheelchair for downstairs. I still can’t get outside much because there are few flat surfaces here and the garden is all slopes and uneven terrain. The cold, windy weather has meant this is not  really appealing  anyway.

Sarah has been cooking up a storm. She makes a delicious lunch every day and loves to make cakes. Here is her chicken and leek pie.

I am very lucky to have Sarah here to help me. She brings me coffee in bed every morning and is there for me at the top of the stairs to meet me as I drag myself backwards up from the ground floor to my bedroom. She hauls me up onto my very helpful walking frame and I take it from there. It is sometimes made more difficult because we can’t stop laughing.

Filippo has been wonderful. He drives me to the hospital and takes care of all the things around the house that I can no longer do. He fills the pellet heater, waters my precious plants as well as his usual gardening work. He also likes Sarah’s cakes.

There is a bit of good news. It seems Tuscany will be declared a yellow zone next week and bars and restaurants will be able to serve customers at outside tables. I am looking forward to that almost as much as getting the cast off my leg.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 1, 2021

Home again

It is lovely to be home from hospital! Everyone at the hospital was great. The nurses were endlessly patient and efficient and never made me feel anything was too much trouble.

I love to be independent, but sometimes you just have to let other people do things for you, particularly when you are in traction.

Shortly after being x-rayed in hospital and it was discovered that I had a broken fibula and a dislocated ankle, a doctor appeared with an instrument that looked a bit like a drill. He then produced a sealed packet from which he pulled a thin steel rod. My foot was anaesthetised, he said “Don’t look” and he shot the steel rod through my heel. It was cut to length, screws were attached and a 5 kilo weight was added to put my foot in traction where it stayed for 3 days. I did shut my eyes.

On Monday morning I was wheeled to surgery, given an epidural and my body from the waist down seemed to float off into the distance. With both arms spread out beside me I imagined myself to be floating in the sea at Noosa and let everything go by. I did hear a few buzzing noises which I suppose were screws being put in place. I could hear quiet conversations but is was all quite peaceful.

Once the surgery was over I could gradually feel my legs returning and I was wheeled back to the room. There was not a great deal of pain and painkillers were freely available if I needed them.

I was able to come home on Wednesday. The ever wonderful Filippo collected me from the hospital, picked up my drugs and brought me home to Casa Debbio.

Lucky me! I have my friend Sarah here to help me. She is extremely efficient and caring and is an excellent cook. My left foot is to have no weight put on it at all until the 6th May when the cast comes off and a screw is taken out of my ankle.

I have learned to navigate using crutches that Vittorio appeared with soon after I got home. With those and strategically placed chairs I can get around. I go up the stairs backwards on my bottom. It is easier coming down.

This morning I got to sit outside on the terrace in front of the house.

The cherry tree has blossomed in the 6 days I have been away.

Wisteria is about to bloom.

My first sewing job was to make a sock to cover the white gauze on my foot or it will be grubby in no time.

It is good to be home. Tuscany is most likely a red zone until mid April, so I wouldn’t be going anywhere anyway.