Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 23, 2016

On writing a blog

About 7 years ago I launched into the unknown and began Bagni di Lucca and Beyond. I knew nothing of blogs, had never written anything much and had little interest in photography.

I enlisted the help of my friend Liz’s son and the blog was born. The initial reason for starting it was to inform friends staying at our Bagni di Lucca apartment about things to do in the area.

Ponte a Serraglio

Nobody was more surprised than I was when the blog gathered a following and people from all over the world began leaving comments. The blog expanded to include my travels in Italy and beyond.

Bagni di Lucca was being left behind, so I started Bella Bagni di Lucca to concentrate on the group of villages that make up the town where I now spend 6 months every year. I also began Beautiful Helsinki, just because I love the city. I go there 4 times a year, on my way to and from Italy. I have a connection with Finland as my grandfather was born there.

One of the fun things about writing the blogs is the number of people I meet along the way. Some have become friends online and others I have met in person, something I didn’t expect at all. I was delighted the first time someone stopped me at Bar Italia in our piazza to tell me they read my blog.

Best of all are the readers who write to me to tell me their stories of Bagni di Lucca. Last century many people left the town and went to live in USA. I get dozens of emails and comments on the blog telling me tales of parents and grandparents who left to make a new life. They left looking for a better life, but never forgot where they came from. They tell me photos and stories on the blog help to connect with a past life.

Many people let me know they have come to visit Bagni di Lucca because of my blogs. I take this responsibility quite seriously. I try to present the villages as they are. My photos are not enhanced or coloured, they show things in their true light.

I have been to all the villages in different seasons and find something delightful in all of them. I try to give as much information as I can to help people enjoy their time in the area. I receive lots of questions about the area and I try to find answers to all of them.

Most of my meetings with blog followers have been positive. I have had coffee or aperitivo at Bar Italia with readers who have come to stay. Many tell me they felt immediately at home and had fun recognising places and faces they have seen in the blog posts.

Not all meetings have gone well. One fellow leapt to his feet when I arrived and said in an accusing tone that he hadn’t expected it to be windy and they didn’t like the house they had considered buying and they wouldn’t be staying. I beat a hasty retreat.

Another interesting contact was with a blogger who came to stay with Jim and me for a few weeks. She went on to write posts about her stay in both our apartment and Casa Debbio without mentioning us at all. It was as though she stayed in something she booked from Trivago. We were surprised to say the least.

Apart from these, it is the interaction with people that is the motivation to continue writing. Without conversations with readers there would be little incentive to gather stories to share.

I have little idea how the whole thing works. The number of followers keeps growing, but the number of hits daily does not. Clearly some people sign up but never actually look at the posts, which is a puzzle. I try not to worry about the mechanics and just enjoy writing and taking photos.

Thank you to all the readers, especially those who take the time to say something in the comments section or send me personal emails. I hope everyone has a great Christmas and that 2017 is a wonderful year with lots of travel…and perhaps a few rainbows.



  1. A great blog Debra and a very valuable asset to this local community which is not enough recognised I feel

    • Thanks Paul. I do it because I love it, which is probably just as well.

  2. Wow – congratulations on your 7-year anniversary. As a relatively new blogger, when I came across yours, I recognized your experience with it all. And as always, you’ve included beautiful pictures of the area. What can I say? but keep up the good work – and I know how much work it is, but your posts seem as though they come easy. All the best in the New Year of blogging!

    • I am pleased that the posts appear to come easily, some do, some don’t. It is quite a commitment to keep writing a blog. Good luck with yours. Perhaps we will meet in Sicily or Tuscany one day.
      I just signed up for your blog. I thought I had done so some time ago, but apparently not.

      • Thanks … or maybe even Helsinki. I’ve only been there once but I’m still talking about the wood-burning sauna experience.

  3. And thank you to you, Debra, for those interesting blogs, beautiful photos and great stories which keep us yearning for more. And don’t worry about the odd grouch or inconsiderate guest… some people are just like that, to be avoided like the plague.
    Keep on the good work! You are an excellent ambassador, particularly for Bagni di Lucca.

    • Thank you. The good far outweighs the bad. I guess it is because there are so few they stand out.

  4. I own a house in Vergemoli and read the blog as it is interesting to see the photographs and conversations about this region. I think people read blogs but don’t always comment and I don’t see a blog as a dialogue between people really more as a person (yourself) informing people about the area and things to do in the place you live for part of the year (and to inform them that you do let your places when you are not about?). I found yoga classes through the blog so a wider interest too?

    • I certainly don’t expect everyone who looks at the blog to comment. What puzzles me the most is that I have more than 5,000 followers, but only a very small fraction of that number actually looks at a post.
      The conversations and meetings are a lovely bonus.

  5. Thank you for sharing your journey!

    • Thank you for following.

  6. A beautiful post, Debra. I was certainly fortunate to stumble across your blog before venturing to Italy in 2014. Our time spent in your apartment was memorable, as was lunch at the gorgeous Casa Debbio. We look forward to seeing you and Jim again, we just don’t know where, yet. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and a safe, healthy & happy 2017.

    • We were delighted to meet you and certainly hope we catch up somewhere in the world. Have a fabulous Christmas on your gorgeous property and a very happy new year.

  7. Keep up the great work – you are a natural at doing the Blog and you are great with your camera as well. We all love your posts .

    • Thanks Di. I do like writing the blog and I now never leave home without my camera.

  8. We are ever so pleased that you write about your wonderful part of Italy. As you know, we thankfully found your blog when were were researching longer stays in Italy – which lead to us coming to Ponte a Serraglio for just over six months in 2013. Your info and assistance made our trip so enjoyable. We check our emails every morning and look forward to seeing if you have done another blog for us to look at – many are great reminders of our trip. So, please continue to write your stories and show us your photos – we love them. Merry Christmas to you and Jim. Cheers….Kerry & Jim

    • Ponte a Serraglio was very happy to have you for 6 months and wants you back!

  9. Hi Debra,

    I regularly read your blogs – thanks so much – I live down the road from you in Northern NSW – Goonengerry in the hinterland of Byron Bay. I spent a house swap week in one of the villages – Guzzano Pieve di Controne (just behind the ancient church) – in mid September – I loved it and the Bagni di Lucca township and read all about the villages of Guzzano and Pieve di Controne in a book (title of the same name as the village) the owner had left in the property -their experiences during WWII would make an epic movie. I want to go back – a week was way too short, but your blog especially the latest Christmas events in the village were such great reading and viewing. Keep it up Debra, I love reading/viewing your blog.

    • You must come back! A week is not enough to see all the wonderful things Bagni di Lucca had to offer. Guzzano is beautiful, with some spectacular mountain views.
      You also live in a gorgeous part of Australia…lucky you!
      Have a great 2017.

  10. Thanks for helping me become a blogger too. It’s now my third year at it!

    • Time flies doesn’t it Francis. You are lucky to live full time in Bagni di Lucca. I miss lots, but I can keep up with things through your blog and some terrific local photographers.

  11. Merry Christmas Debra and thank you for your wonderful blog. To share your experiences as you do is very generous to say the least. I always look forward to clicking that link to see what will pop up next. All the very best for 2017. Maree (Sydney Australia) 🎄🎋🎄🎋🎄

    • Thank you for following. I love to share my travels and particularly Bagni di Lucca with the world. Next year we are going to Iceland, which should be fun. I hope you have a healthy and happy new year.

  12. Your blog is my contact to europe when I can’t be there. Have learned so much about Italy through your experiences. And of course Finland aaahh my heart is there. Keep up the wonderful work Deb, I love reading it.

    • Writing the posts helps me to remember my experience in Europe when I am not there. I love my visits to Helsinki. I feel at home there.

  13. You always bring back wonderful memories, Deb. You were so kind to me and Roz and made my stay fantastic. I just love your photos; what a wonderful photographer you’ve turned out to be.

    • Thank you. Bagni di Lucca is a special place. I have met wonderful people there.

  14. Merry Christmas Debra. What a shame about that blogger and the strange man but not every interaction can be positive I guess!

    • He was hilarious. I had to escape to have a good laugh. The other one is best forgotten. Most people are great.

  15. Debra I love reading your blogs. I spent a very special three months in Bagni Di Luca in 2012 and although I don’t always leave a comment I read them with interest. Keep up the communication please, it brings back wonderful memories for me.

    • Thank you for your comments. I am looking forward to being back in Italy soon.

  16. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours, love Audrey & Donna. I’m sorry I missed your pop up shop (again). Keep up the good work with your blog.

    • Merry Christmas to both of you. My next Pop Up will be in September 2017.

  17. I’m one of those who rarely leave a comment, I know I am a little slack!
    But I love getting home from work and finding one of your blogs to read particularly if its a Bella Bagni di Lucca . So on behalf of all those who rarely leave comments please keep up the fantastic work.
    Merry Christmas Debra and all the best for 2017.
    Gina and I would love to see you at Ponte next year.

    • It is not always easy to keep up with posts for Bella Bagni di Lucca when I am not there. Luckily there are a few local photographers who kindly let me use their photos and I try to get information about things happening by looking at local websites.
      I will be back in February and will stay until June. Let me know when you are in Ponte.

      • All going well it will be very late August/ early September. We met you and your sister 3 years ago at Ponte but at the time I had no idea you were writing these blogs. We were living about 4 houses down the road from you in Via Seraglia. Gina would like to send you 3 photos of some lithographs of Ponte she was able to get a hold of last time we were there. Any chance of you sending us your email address so we can forward on to you. You could do a Blog on these as well! Cheers!
        PS: Don’t you think eating cherries and mangos for Christmas are nicer than castagne?

      • I have sent you an email, while eating cherries.

  18. We had a wonderful week in Lucca and visited Bagna Di Lucca because of your blog. It was great meeting you in the cafe and had a memorable night at the opera in the little church near our apartment from your recommendation. Merry Christmas from Bill and Jenny

    • Merry Christmas to you too. I’m pleased you enjoyed your stay. Perhaps you will come back one day.

  19. A great post Debi and as always, you make me yearn for those beautiful hills. Great rainbiw shot. Merry Christmas. F.

    • I looked up while I was working in the garden at Casa Debbio to see that rainbow. It lasted just a few minutes. Have a great 2017.

  20. Congrats on your 7th anniversary and thank you from one won reads all your blogs but rarely posts a reply. Love getting them. I love Italy and particularly your part of the world. Sadly overseas travel is our for me now because of health problems but I have many happy memories so can’t be greedy. Happy Christmas and a safe, interesting and fun 2017.

    • I’m sorry to hear you are not well. I hope you have a lovely Christmas and that next year is kind to you.

  21. Although I live in the US, the Bagni di Lucca area has had my heart for most of my life. I thank you so very much for bringing it to us when we can’t be there. Best wishes to you and yours for a very Merry Christmas and all the best in the new year.

    • Bagni di Lucca is special for lots of people. For such a tiny place it has manage to have friends all over the world. I hope we meet one day. Have a fabulous Christmas and a happy new year.

  22. Debra I loved reading this post! Congrats on 7 years! Like you I started my blog having no idea what a blog really was and just as a way to share my travel stories. Six years later it has turned into an inseparable part of my life. I have truly enjoyed the friendships I’ve made and like you I’ve had the opportunity to meet several others bloggers and it had been fun. Thanks for sharing your world. I love reading your posts with your gorgeous photos and I feel like I too have really gotten to know a special place in Italy. Someday I’d love to see it for myself! Happy New Year!

    • I follow your religiously too. You are much more adventurous than I am. I don’t climb mountains, but I am happy to watch you do so. I can’t imagine my life without the blogs, they certainly take time. I like that writing the blogs has made me more observant.
      Have a wonderful Christmas and a new year full of exciting travel.

      • Thanks Debra! Happy New Year!!✨✨✨✨

  23. I’ve been a faithful reader of your blog for years and really enjoy it. Merry Christmas, and we all look forward to continuing to read your blog

    • Thank you for following the blog. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and new year.

  24. A wonderful reflection! I can’t recall exactly how I found this or the other Bagni blog, but one thing I do remember is that the banner image quickly grabbed my attention. So already being in love with the area, I was hooked. Besides, there is something about that valley that is magical.

    Thanks for sharing your journey – and someday – someday – we will meet! Best holiday wishes to you and yours.

    • I think the Bagni di Lucca area is special. I love the mountains and the gorgeous seasonal changes, something we don’t see here in Brisbane. One day we will catch up.
      Have a great Christmas and new year.

  25. I would love to visit Bagni di Lucca–but this year I’m going to Iceland instead of Italy. I did spend a glorious month in Italy in 2008 and hope to return someday. Your blog is both well-written and well-illustrated with your photos. Keep going for many more years!

    I hope that you have a Joyous Holiday Season! 🙂

    • Thank you for the compliments. Have a great Christmas and new year. You never know, we might run into each other in Iceland. We are going in June.

  26. Hi Debra, I love reading your blog and your photos are amazing. Our daughter went to Bagni di Lucca, because of me reading your blog and loved it. Sadly I still have not had the chance to visit yet. But we go to Italy once a year for our wedding anniversary, so one day! Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy new year.

    • Thank you. I hope you visit one day. We love our time in Bagni di Lucca and Vergemoli. It is a beautiful part of the world.

  27. I especially enjoyed this post, and appreciate your honesty, particularly with the page views question. The numbers game behind blogging is still a mystery. I sometimes wonder on the days when I have plenty of page views/visitors but much less likes/comments, does that mean people really didn’t like the post or just didn’t have time to like or comment? 🙂 I want you to know that I greatly appreciate that you are such an active reader and writer, always taking time to leave a comment on my site or respond to a comment left on yours. I thoroughly enjoy your posts and look forward to many more, and I’m grateful for our connection! Wishing you joy and peace, this season and always.

    • The statistics of the blogs are a complete mystery to me. I have given up trying to work out what goes on and just keep writing. Since I don’t make any money out of the blog it doesn’t really matter, but it can be frustrating.
      Have a wonderful Christmas and a fabulous new year with lots of travel.

  28. Cara Debra,
    Add me to the list of those who look forward to seeing your beautiful photos and reading about whatever you choose to share. Your words and photos, particularly of Italy, bring me back to our times spent there and many times bring tears of joy to my eyes. Thank you for your diligence in sharing this beautiful treasure of nature, people, events and living! We will be back in Lucca in mid February and hope to make it to the beautiful mountains at some point again during our visit. Tutto il meglio per voi nel 2017.

    • Thank you Laura for your comments. I will be back in Bagni di Lucca in mid February too. I like the winter and am hoping for some snow before I start planting more lavender in our garden in spring.
      Have a great Christmas and a wonderful new year.

  29. I always look for to your posts and have enjoyed spending time with you in Lucca and visiting Bagni do Lucca. I will always remember your guided tour of Lucca when I first started taking tours there. Thank you Debra and I look forward to seeing you again. Merry Christmas!

    • I hope you have a lovely Christmas and new year. I look forward to a coffee in Lucca one day soon.

  30. Read all your posts Deb and love them. Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year. My son and his wife are here in Perth from Italy for six months and today their second child was born here in Aus. Tanti auguri.

    • Congratulations on the birth of your grandchild! What a lovely time for you. Enjoy Christmas and have a great new year.

  31. Love all your posts. My grandparents came from Pieve di Monte and their house remains there today. My in-laws came from Bagni di Lucca. Our most recent visit was two years ago. Love it love it. Wish we were there now. Thanks for your wonderful blog. Look forward to many more. Best wishes for a happy healthy new year.

    • I love Pieve di Monti di Villa. The walk down from the village to Ponte a Serraglio is wonderful, particularly in spring. I look forward to being back there soon.
      Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy new year.

  32. Dear Debra,
    Love all your photos, but can you please tell me exactly where the last photo with the rainbow streaming down the hill to that sweet town was taken? When I come to visit, I want to be on that exact spot,
    Thanks, Derin G.

    • That photo was taken from Casa Debbio, our mountain house. I was working in the garden and looked up to see the rainbow. It was a double rainbow, but had already started to fade by the time I ran inside to get the camera. Our house looks over Vergemoli, the lovely town in the photo.

  33. Congratulations on 7 years of writing your blog Debra! My, how time flies when you’re having fun….and you so obviously enjoy writing and sharing wonderful photos of these special places that you love! Gary and I very much enjoyed visiting your beautiful part of the world in 2013, and staying in your fantastic apartment so well placed in the heart of Bagni Di Lucca, as well as an overnight visit to your amazing home in the hills! Your hospitality was so much appreciated, as was the information in your blogs which we utilised while there. Thank you again for your generosity, and keep up the great work! Every time a blog arrives in my inbox, I read it with interest and it invokes wonderful memories! Merry Christmas to you and your family, and warm wishes for 2017….

    • It can’t be 3 years ago! You should see the garden now, you wouldn’t know it. Have a wonderful Christmas and a great 2017. Perhaps we will see you in Italy again one day.

  34. Happy Christmas! Love your blog and photos!

    • Thank you. Have a lovely Christmas and a healthy and happy 2017.

  35. Always read your posts. Merry Christmas. X

    • Merry Christmas to you too…and a marvellous 2017.

  36. Debra

    Each day I open my iPad and find one of your blogs puts a smile on my face and a brevy of memories from our trips to Italy. Your artistic eye and flare portrayed in all your photos is exceptional……your prose challenges one to further research their trip planning……I thank you for all you have done to make visiting Italy so rewarding. Paul and I look forward to seeing you in lucca in March…..hope Jim willl be there at some point during our stay. Merry Christmas and happy New Year and anniversary of your blog

    • I look forward to seeking both of you in Lucca. Jim will be around from mid March, so we have a date for lunch at Casa Debbio.

  37. Hi Debra – I absolutely love reading your blog. You went out of your way earlier this year to have coffee with me and 3 friends at Marchetti to help us plan our Italian holiday in May. We ended up spending a week in Bologna thanks to your inspiration.

    Have a very merry X’mas & thanks for sharing your travel stories & much more – Sue Rennick

    • I’m pleased you went to Bologna, it is a great city. Have a wonderful Christmas and a travel filled new year.

  38. Hey Debra, keep up the good work. I was born in Lucignana and my folks migrated to Melbourne in 1951 but we still have the family home there which we’re fortunate to visit annually (twice this year) and I love reading the blogs to see what the “skippies” have to say about our beautiful little corner of Tuscany.
    Buon Natale e fece anno nuovo!
    Sauro Antonelli

    • I haven’t been to Lucignana yet, but I will remedy that soon. I love the area and am very pleased we chose to buy something there almost 14 years ago. Have a great Christmas and new year.

  39. Happy 2017 to you too Debra. I agree with you on the things you mentioned. Thanks for your honesty. We meet all kinds of people through this world of blogging and I absolutely love this family of bloggers we have made virtually. I hope someday we can catch a drink in Bar Italia together..

    Your blog gives me wanderlust and I keep reading and sharing it with people. It is strange to me too of what you mentioned about followers because as my followers are growing my comments are decreasing..Sigh!! but I don’t want to get into this so I too like you enjoy the time of blogging.
    May I know which month you will be in Italy again?? Maybe we could plan something who knows.. Cheers!

    • The mechanics of blogging is a complete mystery to me so I have decided to ignore it and just carry on.
      I will be in Italy from mid February until early June and then again in autumn, but I haven’t chosen those dates yet.
      Let me know if you decide to visit Italy in 2017 and we can arrange to meet. Have a great new year with lots of travel.

      • Yea me too. Done il keep you posted even if it is for a short while I’d love to be around in Bagni di Lucca or Florence with you. Thanks a lot 🙂

  40. Hey Debra —– I always read your blogs , well almost always …..and for me , Cafe Italia “stitches” the whole charm of Ponte/ Bagni de Luca , as a unique and charming window to expats living in Italy .
    Have a terrific festive season …… see ya on the road somewhere soon .

    • Bar Italia and Il Monaco are certainly the places to be in Ponte a Serraglio. I go every morning for my coffee and sfoglia and a chat with whoever is there. I miss it when I am back in Australia. I don’t know who are as the comment is anonymous, but have a great new year anyway.

  41. Crazy to think now how long I’ve been following your blog. I’ve gotten so much busier that I can’t even focus on my blog on a regular basis let alone others. But I always try, and luckily I still have a great number of actual blogging friends that I comment back and forth with.
    Buon Natale, Debra.

    • I have enjoyed your posts from Japan…a place I reallly want to visit. Merry Christmas.

  42. Cara Debra, what an amazing blog journey you’ve come through in those seven years! Warm congratulations! You’ve discovered and developed your hidden talents through sharing your stories – humorous, poignant, informative – and your stunning natural photos of different parts of Italy and Finland. It’s amazing how that one little tentative step has led you to a world of wonderful people and places in your life. I look forward to reading your blog and discovering new things about the places you visit. For me, reading your blog is as much a journey as it is for you as you share with us. Happy Christmas! And may you continue to develop your artistic eye for the mundane and the unexpected wherever you go.

    • The blog has certainly opened up a whole new world for me. I am very happy I started it all those years ago. Have a great Christmas and a wonderful new year.

  43. What a beautiful story, Debra, and love the rainbow pic at the end which certainly represents your positive outlook on life. You were incredibly helpful to us when we visited beautiful Italy in 2011. Your email recommendations created a scavenger hunt experience for us that made our trip extra special. We saw things we would never have known about without your guidance. Merry Christmas to you and keep on doing what you do — and do so well!

    • I’m pleased I was able to help with your holiday. Have a wonderful Christmas and a fun new year.

  44. Wishing you a Very Merry Christmas Debra and family. May 2017 be another brilliant year for you. I enjoy reading your posts but rarely post comments. Guilty as charged. xx

    • Not guilty at all. Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year.

  45. Dear Debra,

    Thank you very much for writing this blog. I have seen and read many blogs, but yours is really one of the best and I try to read most of your posts, or at least to look at the pictures. It lets me return to places I have enjoyed visiting myself and to read about others I wish I could see in the future.

    Please keep up with great work and I wish you merry Christmas and a very happy New Year 2017.

    • Thank you Renata for your comments. I enjoy finding new things to write about on the blog. Have a wonderful new year.

  46. Merry Xmas!
    I started following while planning a trip to Italy. I never reached Bagni di Lucca actually, although I had plans to do it (and I still have). Keep writing, please! I love the stories.

    Happy 2017 too!

    • I hope you visit Bagni di Lucca one day soon. Thank you for following my travels. Have a great 2017.

  47. Your blog is one of my favorites as you not only have a story to share but I love your photography. You include the tiniest of details on a building or door that many others would have missed entirely. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

    • We had a very nice Christmas Day and look forward to 2017 for more exiting travels. I wish you the best for next year.

  48. Debra,
    Yours was one of the first blogs I followed when my “blogosphere” was born about 4 years ago. When I saw Lucca, I was immediately hooked as I have family roots there…
    Who knew that a few years ago we would meet in Rome and that I would be your guest this fall and visit my maternal grandmother’s birthplaces with you – as well as explore Lucca and the environs?
    I’m also VERY grateful that you started blogging and that it brought us into contact and into a very treasured friendship!
    Happy happy new year to you!

    • It is quite amazing where a blog can lead. I certainly had no idea when I set off. It has opened up a whole new world for me and I love that I have met such interesting people along the way. Who knows where we will meet next time.

  49. Without your blog we would not have found this fantastic part of Italy! And many over places as well.

    • I hope you come back one day soon.

  50. I love your blog! So many beautiful pictures. The hits vs registered followers is an interesting conundrum isn’t it. I still have not worked that one out either. Happy New Year! c

    • Statistics are a mystery. In the last few weeks I have had a large number of people signing up for the blog and I have no idea why. I have not heard from any of them. I see you got a mention by WordPress recently, congratulations…well deserved.

  51. Debra, although I rarely comment these days, I remember how your blog was one of the first ones I followed back in early 2011 when I first started out. In fact there was even a time when we used the same theme.

    It is a remarkable thing to reconnect emigrant families with their Tuscan roots, and I have really enjoyed reading about all these hidden corners of Italy that don’t often make an appearance in the blogosphere. Congratulations on your seventh blogging anniversary and have a happy new year!

    • Nice to hear from you James. Your blog was one of the first I began reading as well. I wish you the very best for 2017 and I look forward to your posts.

  52. Just read this…funny how my sentiments are the same – all the benefits we each have gained unexpectedly from our blogs about our Italian travels. Best to you in 2017 and continued success with your blog, Judy

    • Writing a blog has opened up a whole new world for me. It is sometimes a struggle to keep it going. I go through times when I can’t be bothered, it I get over that when I go to new places and see wonderful things.
      Have a great 2017

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