Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 22, 2021

A year in Italy

I arrived in Italy a year ago today, 22nd February, after an eventful trip from Australia. I had forgotten about the difficulties until I looked at the post I wrote shortly after arriving… The joy of travel

I guess it was an omen of things to come. I had no idea when I left Australia what was ahead of me. I arrived in Italy on the day of the first recognised deaths from covid in the country. A few weeks later Italy was in a severe lockdown and I was isolated at Casa Debbio, our house in the mountains. You can read about last year here… My covid year

We came out of the Christmas lockdown and enjoyed 5 weeks of lighter restrictions when Tuscany was deemed a yellow zone. We could move within Tuscany, shops were open and bars and restaurants open until 6.00pm. I made a few visits to favourite places not far from home. I avoided going anywhere on weekends as many popular  places became crowded.

I had to use some of my valuable yellow days renewing my Permesso di Soggiorno and applying for Italian health care. Nothing offical is simple here and can never be done in just one day. I have also just renewed my hard won Italian drivers’ licence.

We are now back in orange, which means not leaving our community except for certain reasons, bars and restaurants are only open for takeaway. I recently bought a sewing machine to help me pass the time on days stuck at home.

After months of wet weather we finally have a week of fine weather forecast so I have come up to Casa Debbio to start planning some spring gardening. The garden is a couple of weeks behind last year probably because it was under snow for quite a few weeks, something that doesn’t happen often.

This was the view on my first morning. The view will start to change quickly soon when spring begins to show its lovely green face.

There are some tiny signs of spring. Daffodils are about to bloom.

You can see the difference from the same time last year.

I have some snow drops that I don’t remember seeing before. Filippo thinks they may have been eaten in past years.

All of the tree peonies have buds. About a third of the other peonies have tiny pink shoots.

If all my peonies grow there will be about 80 plants this year. Many were taken from pots in autumn and put into new garden beds. I hope they all survive. There are also a few babies that have grown from seed which are making an appearance in their pots.

I planted pansies on my table. They should cover it soon.

We have some new plans for the garden this spring. We would like to build some rock pools under the spring and we will put in a watering system to save some watering time. It is quite a big job in summer.

Despite being disappointed that I was not able to go home last year I am happy that I spent the last year in Italy. I have to keep reminding myself that we have all had our lives disrupted in some way and I have been fortunate that I have a lovely place to be.  I was able to get lots of things done a Casa Debbio that would not have happened had I not been here. The garden is a beautiful work in progress.

When I can return to Australia is still unknown. Jim was to come in March, but that is not going to happen. I am hoping that once the vaccine rolls out in Europe and Australia restrictions will gradually ease and we will be able to travel more freely.


  1. You’ve handled the challenges well Debi; helped no doubt by your beautiful homes in Bagni di Lucca. Is the sewing machine to prepare for your next pop up store in West End? So missed last years visit (first world problem??.)
    Must be a tricky situation for Jim too. Hope he can jet out sometime in the near future.
    Take care

    • The sewing machine helps to keep me occupied. I have a growing collection of things to bring home for the shop.
      We really don’t know when Jim will be able to get here yet. It certainly won’t be March, maybe May.

  2. An unforgettable year for all the wrong reasons. I think that buying the sewing machine was a good move. It will keep you busy. Have you considered having a shop in Bagni?

    • Having something to do I days I am stuck at home is great. I am not a resident in Italy so I doubt I would be able to have a shop here. We do own the shop under our apartment but a friend uses it as an office.

  3. Thanks for the update, Deb. We are all lucky that we have remained healthy but I understand your frustrations. Australia has now started vaccinations so maybe in a few months, things will be more normal. I have not made any travel plans and will wait for more “normal” times,. Love zxxk

    • I hope the vaccinations will begin to make a difference. I am hoping to get mine around April.

  4. What a long, strange trip it’s been. Thank goodness for sewing machines! I hope you have many lovely days to enjoy beautiful Casa Debbio, planning, planting and perhaps pruning.

    • Yes, thank goodness for sewing machines! I like to make things. It is an enjoyable way to spend time and there is something to show for it.

  5. I admire your attitude and love that you have bought a new sewing machineto stay creative. Glad Filipo is ready to help with the spring plantings. Cannot wait for the 80 Peonies to star puttting on their spring show. Must say social media has been a great tool for all of us to stay in touch with everyone far and wide. Plus without it we wouldn’t have enjoyed the seasons at Casa Debbio or the life and the weather changes in the village. Sorry Jim isn’t able to travel in March – hopefully it can happen in the near future

    • I am now on peonie watch. New shoots have appeared today and I have been busy digging up baby acanthus that pop up where they are not wanted and putting them where I want them to grow. I had 60 babies before the snow but a lot of them have disappeared. Maybe they will grow with this lovely warm weather.
      Spring is a wonderful time to be at Casa Debbio.

  6. Wonderful and inspiring Debra ….

    The nutters have taken over down under, so your not missing anything!

    How the masses have been so effectively terrified by fake news staggers us oldies 😂😂

    • I am just trying to make the most of the situation like everyone else. I am lucky to be in a good place, but I do miss my home and friends in Australia.

  7. Definitely a unique, unplanned experience. How is the vaccine rollout going there?

    • The vaccine rollout here is going quite well. First and second doses have been given in the first round and I am hoping to get mine in April all being well.

  8. Deb
    Your posts have been a tonic during these unsettled times. Thank you.
    As tough as the isolation has been, it has made many reconsider what is truly important in life.

    • Life is too short and unpredictable to worry about unimportant stuff.

  9. Hi Deb, pleased to hear you are in philosophical mode — and have bought a sewing machine! Now you can really live life. Keep the news about Italian lockdown and vaccinations coming and cross fingers You or Jim will be amongst the early ones and can at least start thinking about travel.

    • Having the sewing machine is great. I like to be productive so it gives me something useful to do. I hope the vaccine starts to make a difference to our lives. Israel is much further along than other counties and the signs there are good.

  10. I look forward to seeing how your garden grows Debra!

    • Me too! Spring is a beautiful time here. It is fun to go out each morning and see the new developments.

  11. Before you know it there will be so much to do in the garden to keep you busy. I’m sure that with the sewing machine, and knowing your creative side, you will be stitching up a storm!

    • Things will start happening rapidly now that the weather is beginning to warm up and the days are getting longer. It is a special time to be here.

  12. It is hard to believe it is one whole year since you left Australia. No one then could predict what was to happen. During your year we have enjoyed your Posts of the garden & season changes at Casa Debbio. And the added plus for us was enjoying your travels (when permitted) to such beautiful & interesting places. Know your sewing machine will be getting a great workout & help with keeping busy.

    • I find it difficult to realise that it is a year since I left home. During some of the lockdowns time seemed to pass very slowly indeed and then suddenly it is a year later. 2 months of this year has almost gone!
      This lovely weather makes being stuck at home OK. Wandering in the growing garden will be a delight over the next few months.
      Filippo and Ugo are currently clearing the last of the brambles from the front of the property, opening up a lot of new terraces which we will plant at some stage. We are also putting in a watering system over the next couple of months. There is always something to do in the garden.

  13. I’m sorry to hear that you weren’t able to come home to Australia Debra. It’s been a very odd time for many last year and this one. You have a beautiful view though and a lovely garden which I’m sure you must be so happy for 🙂

    • There are worse places to be stuck! One of the things I miss most about Australia is the wonderful variety of food. I love Italian food, but I miss being able to walk 10 minutes from home and eat at Thai, Indian, French, Japanese, Spanish…you name it, restaurants.
      Your wonderful recipes help!

  14. Yes Debra , we have been restricted but as you rightl to say we are so much more lucky than many others….careers, jobs, businesses and not least lives have been lost!
    Keep sending the wonderful posts!
    Ultan. 🐼

    • Yes, I know I am very lucky in this situation. With some luck the vaccines will put an end to the virus and lives can return to normal.

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