Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 23, 2022

Beautiful Brisbane

It is great to be back home in Brisbane for a while. I love winter here. Right now the days are sunny with daytime temperatures around 22 degrees, perfect for walking around the city.

Brisbane has a wonderful green area close to the city centre. Southbank was created on the site of Expo 88 when it was finished and has continued to develop since. I was a volunteer for the 6 months Expo happened. It was a fun time to be in the city and it is great to see people continuing to enjoy the area.





Brisbane is full of cranes and building sites. The area on the other side of Southbank will include a casino and public spaces beside the river. It should be open sometime next year, along with a new walking bridge to join it to Southbank.

The city is full of high rise buildings, but there are a few older buildings remaining.


I love the boab trees in Anzac Square in the centre of the city.


…and the upside down elephant in front of GOMA, Gallery of Modern Art.


The Story Bridge opened on the 6th July 1940 and is the longest cantilever bridge in Australia.


City cats offer excellent transport on the Brisbane River. We have a couple of new Kitty Cats, small vessels for the shorter, cross river trips. The service is almost back on track after flooding destroyed many of the pontoons along the river.



You can see our beautiful blue skies over the city. I managed to miss the months of rain that fell earlier in the year. I wish some of it had fallen in Italy in spring where we had almost none.

I am enjoying catching up with friends and family I haven’t seen for almost 2 and a half years and eating some of our delicious seafood and the excellent range of international food available here in Australia. I feel very lucky to be able to live in 2 great countries and make the most of what they have to offer.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 10, 2022

Happy in Helsinki

I am back in Australia now. I like to stopover in Helsinki on my way home from Italy. It might seem a little out of the way, but until recently (it is no longer possible to fly over Russia and you wouldn’t want to)  it was a shorter flight. Even without the shorter flight, I love Helsinki and enjoy being there for a few days.

The weather was patchy for my recent stay, but I don’t mind cool days. There were a few showers but it didn’t stop me covering a lot of territory in the city. The centre is compact and flat, making it easy to see a lot.

Late spring is a lovely time to be in Helsinki. There are flowers and green trees everywhere. A lot of care is taken with flower boxes all over the city.


Oodi library is a stunning building, inside and out. There is an outdoor terrace on the roof…a great spot to enjoy a coffee on a sunny day.




The grounds around the building are impressive as well. Nearby is the music centre, opera house and art gallery, which is now under scaffolding.

The giant pike sculpture makes a statement.

The nearby Toolonlahti area is great for walking in beautiful surrounds.

 





Right now the Barnacle geese have fluffy chicks to take care of.



I also spotted this little bird that was not bothered by my presence at all.


On June 4th the National Parade for the Finnish Defence Forces’ Flag Day filed through the city, beginning at Tuomiokirkko, Helsinki Cathedral. The parades have been held annually since 1952 and fall on Carl Mannerheim’s birthday. He was Finland’s most famous military leader.

 



I found the tanks in front of Tuomiokirkko quite disconcerting in view of the war in Ukraine. Seeing tanks roll down city streets seems ominous. I prefer Tuomiokirkko without tanks.

Esplanadi is gorgeous in spring. The lovely park that runs down from Mannerheim St to the harbour is always full of people out walking, especially when the sun is shining.





Helsinki has great restaurants and shopping. This lovely area is in the Kamp shopping building.

I stocked up on Marimekko, iittala and Arabia and other Finnish designs. I stayed at the excellent GLO hotel, right in the centre of the city. It is great being close to everything.

I have relatives in Finland. A young cousin has opened a tiny restaurant in Helsinki called Bona Fide. The food is modern Finnish, inventive and delicious. Somehow I forgot to photograph my fabulous food. I recommend it if you visit the city.

I am happy to home in Brisbane for a few months. I will miss Bagni di Lucca and our lovely mountain house and garden, but I will be back in September for more Italy.

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 4, 2022

I’m going home

After almost 2 and a half years in Italy I am going home to Australia. It has been a bumpy ride with lock downs, cancelled flights and a broken ankle. Despite the speed bumps I have loved my time in Italy, but now it is time to go home.

I managed to do some travel, despite the ever changing restrictions, visiting new places and revisiting favourite places. I have written posts on most of these trips.

Lots has happened at Casa Debbio with the garden growing ever larger. We have had some new dry stone walls built on the steep slope in front of the house. It has always been a difficult area, hot, exposed and with rocky soil. Ugo, from the village, built the walls, with the help of the wonderful Filippo.

I have planted low growing plants on the wall. They are beautiful and I don’t want to cover them.

 


The walls have only been built for a few weeks but the plants are growing.




I painted a small sign to dedicate the wall to Ugo and Filippo. I will get a permanent one in marble when I have more time.


The path to the wall got a bit trampled but the new grass is starting to grow back.

 

 


There can never be too many frogs in the garden.

Filippo had a great idea for the wisteria I wanted above the walls. He suggested rostre, semicircular metal frames often seen over old doors in Italy. We scavenged 6 and the wisteria is growing well on them.


Wisteria in other areas didn’t do as well as other years, but still put on a good show.


Now the leaves have grown and give us shade under the pergola.

Peonies bloom for a couple of months at Casa Debbio. I love them.



Aquilegias come up every year all by themselves and self seed, the perfect plants.

Verbena comes up in spring for a few years.


The weeping cherry blooms briefly in early spring.

Its leaves now almost reach the ground. I have put a chair underneath and actually sat quietly there for a while.

 


Lavender flowers are starting to grow.


We have artichokes growing.


The acanthus plants all have long stalks of spiked flowers.

Wild fennel is growing beside a huge sage bush.

There are different wild flowers every month.


I planted hostas in autumn last year under the chestnut trees and they finally reappeared long after I thought they had given up.


The ricotta, or snowball flowers came and went.

The roses in front of the house are stunning.

 

The old table which Filippo turned into a planter is looking great.


I grew nasturtiums from seeds. This one in the pot must like its home.

We have lots of these wonderful lizards in the garden. They can grown to be quite long, mostly tail. I love to watching them scuttling in and out of the rocks and sunning themselves on warm days.


The wall with painted chairs was looking a bit tired so I repainted it. I was a bit pushed for time at this stage so I did something simple. It will do for now.


It isn’t easy to leave my garden, but I know that Filippo will do a great job looking after it. I hope our guests this summer enjoy it as much as we do. I will miss my life in Italy, but I will be back in September to pick up where I left off.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 22, 2022

Trapani, a delightful Sicilian surprise

Trapani is a short trip down the mountain from Erice.


We drove through the newer part of town towards the historic centre, on the tip of the crescent shaped promontory, where we were staying. It was a busy Sunday of a long weekend and the GPS tried to send us down various one way streets and limited zones. We drove around the port area for some time before finally getting a car park.

Not really knowing where we were going, we walked one block from the port and found ourselves in a lovely pedestrian area, filled with people enjoying a warm, sunny day at outdoor restaurants and cafes. We decided we liked Trapani immediately.

The city was established as a port for Erice. Like many Sicilian cities it has a chequered past. Carthage seized control in 260BC, making it a naval base. It ceded to Rome in 241 BC. The Normans took over after Roman, Vandal, Ostrogoth, Byzantine and Arab conquests.

The economy still depends on the sea with fishing and canning being the main local industries. Coral, salt, marble and Marsala wine are important exports.

Lunch was our first thought and we had the best meal we had in Sicily. It was in a family run restaurant, Ristorante Hostaria Sette Sapori, in Via Carosio, just one street back from the main pedestrian area. The friendly man who served us proudly told us his wife made the delicious traditional busiate pasta,a specialty of Trapani.She also made the heavenly cassata cake.

We found our accommodation, Fiveplace Design Suites and Apartments. It was a great modern suite in an ancient building. It was a mini apartment, sliding doors covered a well equipped kitchen, perfect for a longer stay.


Directly across the street were stunning balconies.

We had a balcony with excellent views up and down the street. It was mid afternoon, a quiet time in town.

After dropping our bags off we set off to explore.

This wonderful doorway is now the entrance to a bank.

 

Well worn lions adorn the arches.

The Baroque Fountain of Saturn was built in 1342 when the Chiaramonte family built the aqueduct that brought clean water from a source located on the slopes of Erice. The statue of Saturn was added later. It was one of the first fountains built with the idea of getting water to houses.

Sant’Agostino church is beside the fountain.


The clock tower in the centre of town is one of the oldest astronomical clocks in Europe, dating back to 1596. The clock has 2 circular dials, the dial of the sun to indicate the astrological signs of the zodiac, the solstices, the equinoxes, the seasons and the cardinal points. The dial of the Lunario marks the phases of the moon. It was part of the old city wall and is the oldest entrance to the city.

The municipal administrative building. It was built in the 17th century with a Baroque style facade.

There are lots of stunning buildings to be found in Trapani.


I am always amused by the wiring on old buildings in Italy.


There are lots of new settings among these lovely old buildings.

We went for a walk along the boardwalk beside the sea.





Trapani is lovely in the evening light.



Tentazione di Gusto in Via Badia Nuova was recommended by the host of the accommodation for dinner and it was excellent. The setting was elegant and the food delicious. There were outside tables and a cute little enoteca.


It was a cool evening so we chose to eat inside.

He also recommended the famous Trapani pasticceria, Colicchia,  for breakfast.

 

We had already spotted it the day before and lined up for a wonderful granita, one of our favourite things to eat in Sicily. There was a queue each time we went.

Still on food, we could not leave town without a freshly pressed pomegranate juice.


On our way out of the town centre we found the old windmills and buildings belonging to the salt production.



If we return to the west coast of Sicily we will make Trapani the base, and stay there for a few days and do day trips from there. It is a great little town with lots to enjoy.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 13, 2022

Enticing Erice

Erice is a well cared for Sicilian town 751 metres above sea level on top of Mount Saint Julian. From its lofty position it looks over Trapani and the Tyrrhenian Sea. It was populated by the Elimi people and sought after by the Greeks and Carthaginians. Its major development was in the time of the Arab-Norman period. There was little change after Medieval times so it has retained its buildings and character.

A fierce wind blew us in and out of Erice making walking through the cobbled streets a bit of a drag. It is a pity because the town is charming. The winding streets are full of ceramic and rug shops and there is a pasticceria on every corner and in between as well.

We did our best to push against the wind and discovered a few of Erice’s delights. We entered Erice through Porta Trapani, one of 3 entrances to the city. It is so named because it faces towards Trapani.

Turning left after the entrance you will find the Chiesa Madrice, dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption. It was built in Gothic style in 1314 at the time of Frederick III of Aragon. The bell tower was originally a lookout tower during the wars of the Sicilian Vespers in the 13th century. It wasn’t open so I can’t show you the interior.