Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 31, 2020

A big decision

After much thought I have decided not to fly back to Australia soon. My original flight home was to be on 20th June. That flight was cancelled by the airline and there was confusion over subsequent bookings. If I go home now I will have to isolate in a hotel room for 2 weeks, which holds no appeal at all.

My appointment at the Questura to renew my Permesso di Soggiorno is in mid August and I need to do that. There is also the possibility I might not be able to return to Italy in autumn as I planned to do. I am happy with my decision to stay in Italy, especially now that restrictions have loosened a bit.

We have guests arriving at Casa Debbio shortly and I will be moving down to our apartment in Bagni di Lucca. I am going to miss my garden. It has been wonderful to watch it grow this spring even though some days were very long indeed during the lockdown.

The garden looking better than ever with all the love and attention it has had from Filippo and me. We have planted some new things including more annuals than usual. We have big plans for some new garden beds in autumn…a garden is never finished.

I am delighted that both pergolas are now covered by wisteria. The one at the front of the house is a great place to enjoy meals, even better now with shade.

The views of the side garden from the pergola are lovely.

Grass is growing on the path up to the house…slowly.

The lavender on top of the rock wall is the first we planted and I am hoping the flowers will open soon.

There is a tiny daphne tucked in beside the first lavender. It has dozens of flowers opening now. The fragrance is delicious.

What began as a difficult area behind the house is now looking wonderful. I remember digging the holes above the wall to plant the bay trees. I think people from the village may have heard me every time I hit a rock. We have many rocks at Casa Debbio. The pink roses are gorgeous and peonies and hydrangeas are flowering together right now.





I’m sorry if you are sick of seeing my peonies, but I can’t get enough of them. I am thrilled that that they grow well here at Casa Debbio. Having lots of varieties means I have them for about 6 weeks.


I prefer to leave the flowers growing, but there are so many now I bring some inside. I like to put them at the sink to improve the job of washing up. They look great for at least a week.

Hydrangeas last well inside too.

Aquilegias are flowering in the garden behind the house too. These clever little things that look like pretty bonnets come up all by themselves every year with no help at all from me, just like the hydrangeas and peonies…perfect plants.

After many years of producing 1 or 2 flowers acanthus are blooming all over the garden.

I am delighted that the black walnut that was chewed to bits by a wild goat has grown some new tiny branches. We have it well protected now. I hear the goats at night and sometimes go out and turn lights on and make noise, but they are undeterred.

The weather has been mixed. Most days have been sunny and not too hot yet. The occasional foggy morning makes for some pretty views from my bedroom window.

I haven’t been doing as much cooking lately as I have a freezer full of food cooked on wet days during lockdown, but I did make ricotta gnocchi with peas for lunch yesterday.

I had a happy surprise this week. The local paper published a story about my other blog, Bella Bagni di Lucca, and the flowers I plant on the bridge at Ponte a Serraglio. The mayor publicly thanked me for my contribution to the village. Now when I water the flowers people stop in their cars to have a chat. This summer I will be here to take care of the flowers.


  1. You finally came through :). Thank you for the beautiful pictures!

    • Spring is gorgeous here right now.

  2. Wow Debra…I have truly outdone yourself with your beautiful garden. I’m sure you’re a little disappointed not to be able to return to Australia but you were in the next best place… I’m glad to hear you will be staying in Italy. I know you will enjoy yourself.

    • I am happy to be staying. With luck Jim will be able to come over in September.

  3. Stunning. Why would you ever want to leave?

    • I don’t want to leave, but I love my life in Australia too.

  4. What a treat to see the garden in glorious bloom. I can’t see enough photos of your gorgeous peonies. I love that you are known and have gotten recognition for your contribution to the village. They are lucky to have you.
    I look forward to seeing more from your summer in Italy now that you will be staying there this year.

    • I have not spent a summer in Italy since I lived here 47 years ago, when my son was born here. It is his birthday today.

  5. Again, stunning photos. I have to stay in Aussie till the borders are opened and need to be satisfied with photos of my Italian garden from my helpers. It too is looking beautiful but very overgrown. I would love to hear how Jim goes with progress to fly to Italy. We are also hoping for September.

    • Let’s hope travel is possible by then.

  6. I love peonies…I posted an image of some going over in a vase this morning!

    • They are my favourite flowers.

      • Yes, they are certainly one of my favourites

  7. I am sure that you will miss the garden at Casa Debbio this summer. It’s so very gorgeous! But I’m happy to hear that your work doing flowers for the bridge was publicly acknowledged.

    • I usually go back to Australia for the Italian summer and don’t see my garden until autumn. This year I have seen much more of it and have enjoyed the time here. This year is different for all of us. I will miss being back in Brisbane, but this is a new adventure.

      • You have such a good attitude!

  8. Absolutely right decision to stay put

    • I think so. Travelling is difficult right now.

  9. I never, ever, tire of your gorgeous peony pics, Debra! And always enjoy your blogs and pics of your garden & glorious views. Enjoy your long Italian stay. Sadly, I’ve had to cancel our extended Baltic, Scandinavian, Finnish & Italian holiday later this year. Rescheduled till 2021. Margaret Boughen x

    • Travel plans have been disrupted everywhere. We had many plans to travel all over Italy this spring. We are lucky to have choices and be able to travel at all. I hope you enjoy your trip next year.

  10. Debra, you are an inspirational lady- your garden is very uplifting for us to enjoy via excellent photos and for you as well . The aromas of the garden and your daily changing vista must be mentally satisfying to help you cope through this new chapter in your life.

    • I have loved watching my garden grow this spring and feel very lucky to have spent lockdown here. Now it is time for someone else to enjoy it while I head down the mountain to lovely Ponte a Serraglio where my other little garden waits.

  11. Tough decisions. My flight was also cancelled for June 7th. Still unsure when Ill make it back home. Hope you’re keeping well. 😉

    • I’m great, thank you. I hope you get home soon. You must be missing your beautiful Sardinia.

  12. Congratulations on the acknowledgement of your work on the village bridge, very well done. Our heart would break if we had to leave your stunning & oh so beautiful garden.Your photos are incredible (but you do have beautiful subjects) The peonies are my favourite especially as we cannot grow them here.Sorry you cannot return home for the time being but am sure you will enjoy the extended time in Italy. Take care.♥️🇮🇹

    • I have become used to leaving my garden. I know I am leaving it in Filippo’s loving hands. I love Ponte a Serraglio too, so it is not too difficult to say goodbye for a while.

  13. A wise decision in the circumstances – keep in having fun

    • It is a strange time for all of us. We are lucky to have choices.

  14. Mmmmm……. 😂

    On Mon, Jun 1, 2020 at 5:16 AM Bagni di Lucca and Beyond wrote:

    > Debra Kolkka posted: “After much thought I have decided not to fly back to > Australia soon. My original flight home was to be on 20th June. That flight > was cancelled by the airline and there was confusion over subsequent > bookings. If I go home now I will have to isolate in a ho” >

  15. Hi Debra. I had to smile at your photos of the acanthus as I have spent the past 2 years trying to get rid of them in my garden in the Southern Highlands of NSW where they were spreading out of control. I have since met another woman who has had the same problem. She is lucky enough to have a gardener to help. 😀 You have inspired me with your peonies though. I feel a trip to the garden centre coming on.😁. Your garden is an inspiration. Thanks for sharing. Maree

    • Acanthus doesn’t grow quickly here, or spread easily. It must be the cold winters. I also have agapanthus, which is a weed in Queensland, but struggles here. Lantana is considered exotic here and people laugh when I tell them it is a noxious weed in Australia. The winter kills it here. We have snow occasionally, but the last winter was fairly warm.
      Peonies are tough and grow well at Casa Debbio. They are stunning plants and if they like the position thrive with little care. The big bonus is that the animals don’t eat them.

  16. Your garden is absolutely stunning Debra! I love reading your blog!

    • Thank you for following and taking the time to comment.

  17. Will this be the first summer spent in Italy for a while Deb? The flowers on the bridge will love having you there to do the watering!

    • It is the first summer I will spend in Italy since the one 47 years ago when lived here the first time. I don’t like the heat, but it will be OK for a change. I am delighted that I will be here for the bridge flowers. Finding someone to water them is an ongoing problem.

      • I didn’t think you had spent a summer there. A regular visit to the pool and the beach will help.

  18. Thank you for the beautiful photos Debra….horticultural heaven! My fav. flower are Tree Peonies and Perennial Peonies!

    • My favourite flowers too, which is why I have 70 plants and keep buying more!

  19. Much as it will be difficult to move to the village for the summer, it will not be too hard ! Wish we were there!!! John & Caroline McCormack

    • I hope everyone comes back soon! I will enjoy the extra time at Ponte a Serraglio.

  20. Debra, I believe this must have been a difficult decision to make, but it’s a wise one. I can feel the love you have given to your plants and their thank you to you is that they are loving to bloom for you, the birds and the city. Your pictures always make my day brighter. Thank you.

    • It wasn’t easy to decide to stay. I have a life back in Brisbane too, but this year has thrown us all a curved ball.

  21. Your garden is a true delight, so much hard work has paid off in a relatively short time. The peonies are glorious, enough reason to want to stay there! But how lovely to be able to live back in the village with the bard and friendly villagers too.
    We’re hoping it will be safe and possible to travel over later in the year. 🙏🤞

    • I hope you can come soon. If I had planned to come to Italy just a couple of weeks later this year I would have been stuck in Australia worrying about my garden here. It has been lovely to watch it grow this spring, despite some of the long days of lockdown.

  22. Wise decision, Debra. Particularly because you have that August appointment and I can’t see how you would manage. Enjoy your stay. After the long confinement to be at the Ponte for a while would be a good change. And the garden will keep on growing….

    • Ponte will be a happy change. I love it there. I am happy now that I have made the decision to stay.

  23. Gosh Debra! Your flowers are fabulous. I love the photos as peonies are my absolute favourite. I just planted one here, but it didn’t do well. I will have to examine the idea of growing more. It’s quite windy here, the good old Tramonta comes whistling through regularly, and I’m not sure they like it very much. Enjoy your summer in your beautiful paradise and apartment in Bagni di Lucca. Stay safe and well. Orna

    • My garden has done very well this spring. My peonies have been amazing. It may be too warm in Puglia. They need at least 6 weeks at less than 4 degrees over winter. If you find the right place for them they are quite hardy. They are best planted in autumn, but of course, they are sold in spring when they look gorgeous.
      This will be my first summer here since I was a 20 year old…all those years ago. I hope it doesn’t get too hot!

  24. Enjoy your lovely piece of heaven, Debra!

    • I am happy to be staying until the end of October. I have been here more than 3 months and apart from enjoying my garden I have done little. Things are opening up here now and we can move about a bit. Once I get back down to Ponte in just over a week I will travel a bit.

  25. As a fellow peony lover, I can’t get enough of your lovely pictures! Especially love the photo of all the different lovely colored peonies in your windowsill! My dream is to one day be a guest at your lovely Casa Debbio. Not sure when all travel restrictions end, but would love to get some information on how to make reservations.

    • We would love you to stay at Casa Debbio. I will send an email with details.

  26. What a beautiful place to be quarantined 🙂

    Brisbane is very quiet and the state opened up to internal travel this week. Enjoy your time at the house. I wish I was there!!!

    • It was a great place to be in lockdown! I am happy I can move about more now, but I still love to be in my garden.

  27. Your peonies are really glorious, Debbie. Everyone’s travel plans are awry this year. Italy sounds like a good place to be for the summer and I’m sure your bridge flowers will be happy to have you around to water them. I’m looking forward to photos of them. 😍

    • I will be at Ponte a Serraglio at the end of next week…the next stage of my time in Italy will begin.

  28. Can never tire of peonies! I’m sure you made the right decision to stay this year…just too much uncertainty right now with what the future might look like. You’ll get to admire your garden all summer as you visit your guests 🙂

    • I am happy with my decision to stay. I will be able to get about a bit and see the things I missed in spring because of lockdown.

  29. Gorgeous peonies and flower photos, simple beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you. My peonies are almost finished for the year. They did very well this spring.

  30. Your garden really looks amazing!!! You have so many flowers. I am impressed. The views from your house are also spectacular.

    • Seeing my garden every day was the best thing about being isolated up here on the mountain. I know it very well now.

  31. Our permessi soggiorno were in process when we returned to the US the end of December. Have no idea what will happen to them, as we aren’t flying or going through airports until there is a vaccine. Enjoy bella Italia for us!

    • I put my Permesso paperwork in a couple of days before lockdown. Dates for renewal have been extended and their will be some leniency on renewals, but I don’t know how long it will last.
      These are uncertain times for all of us.

      • I know. Our questura (Siena) is still not answering email. oh well…..

  32. Oh what a shame but as you say being in quarantine for 2 weeks and then possibly not being able to return to Italy would be hard. How lovely to be featured and nice of the mayor to thank you too. This post is peony heaven!

    • The thought of being stuck in a hotel room for 2 weeks after sitting alone on the mountain for nearly 3 months is just too much.

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