Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 4, 2021

Birds, the road and a birthday party

There are lots of birds this year at Casa Debbio, which is lovely. We hear birdsong all day. Blackbirds and tiny finch like birds can be seen flitting around the garden. Owls can be heard at night.  One family of blackbirds seems to be nesting under a sage bush near our little vegetable garden.

The downside of this is that all my ripening gooseberries have been eaten, along with raspberries and cherries. It would be nice if they left a few for me.

Our new road is a bit of a puzzle. We have lots of new retaining walls, some of which I doubt were needed. We have an excellent new crossing over the stream flowing down to the water mill below. This is the bit that was washed away in 2013, and the reason for road works. There are channels directing the flow of water from the springs on the side of the mountain, new pipes to take the water below the road.

But work has stopped. The equipment is still there but nothing is happening. The road was to be surfaced but there is no sign of that. Ho hum…what next?

For the first time I am at Casa Debbio to see my lavender flowers open. I usually have to leave just as it is about to happen. Some of the plants are almost as tall as me…I love it.

We were invited to attend the birthday party of a good friend on the weekend. You hear about wonderful long lunches with far too much food and wine in Italy. This was one such event.

We drove high up into the mountains of the Garfagnana, a wild, largely untouched area of Tuscany near where we live. The old farmhouse has a pizza oven built onto the side of the house. It was built long before pizzas were eaten in this part of Italy so it would have been where bread was baked and much of the cooking was done for the family who lived there.

The fire had been lit days before the party to allow it to reach the required heat. Just a few logs were added on the day. From the oven came the most delicious foccacia, some plain with salt on top, some with sesame seeds and, my favourite, with zucchini and cheese. I ate far too much…knowing that more heavenly food was to come.

There was bruschetta with those tomatoes you hear about that seem to grow only in Italy. The cheese was from a friend who keeps goats and sheep.

This was followed by freshly made pasta with a sausage and tomato sauce, then sausages and ribs with roasted vegetables. Everything except the pasta was cooked in the oven.

Then there was dessert.

When lunch was cooked loaves of bread were loaded into the oven, one for each of us to take home.

This is Lucia who did most of the cooking, she was also a lot of fun.

There were too many cakes, all of which had to be tried and lots of wine was poured. Then there was home made limoncello and cherry liquor, grappa and more.

Here is the Alfredo whose birthday we celebrated.

My lovely friend Rina is hiding behind him, reluctant to be photographed. I met Rina shortly after I arrived in Bagni di Lucca and we have been friends ever since. Life here in Italy would not be the same without her and Alfredo.

Thank you for a wonderful day. We felt very lucky to be invited to the celebration.

I went home and fell asleep for hours.


  1. I’m so jealous Deb! Looks like a fabulous feast and your lavender is spectacular!!

    • It was a wonderful party. My lavender is amazing p, especially as so much of it was damaged by the snow in January.

  2. Lucky you! My life’s dream. Will I ever get back to Italy???
    Still in lockdown here. Love lavender. Yours looks amazing. Is it English lavender? Oh, how I envy you.

    • I think the lavender is an Italian variety. We have hundreds of plants that I buy from the local nurseries. I don’t think I have ever seen a name on it.
      Who would have thought that covid would still be affecting our lives?

  3. The road to Casa Debbio is looking very impressive Deb. Let’s hope it is finished soon. We both have food envy after seeing your photos of Alfredo’s lunch. It looks delicious.

    • The road is a mystery. It was supposed to have been finished at the end of May. I always thought it would take longer, but it really is dragging on.

  4. As a former highway engineer, I must say the work so far looks very impressive! I wonder why they’ve stopped? So envious of your wonderful party…. The food looks wonderful! My neighbours have an oven like that.

    Still unable to get back to Umbria, hoping for the autumn now. So frustrating! My lavender would be out now too, though many friends are reporting that their ortos are failing this year… so wet, then so cold and now, so hot! I know I have lost a couple of fruit trees, not sure which. Rather dreading what I will find when I eventually do return!

    • We have lost lots of plants this year. The spring weather was erratic. Our olive trees are doing well, but most other things have suffered. There is no fruit on the trees this year. Who would be a farmer?

  5. Wow! The road looks impressive as does the food. I have been to quite a few similar celebrations when in Italy. That tradition of lovely, fresh, homemade food is alive in my part of Victoria where many from people migrated from Italy in the 1955’s.
    As usual your garden looks beautiful. Love your posts Debra.

    • The road will be excellent when it is finished. I’m surprised it is being fixed at all. It is a state road but we are the only house on it. The woodcutters use it but there are few of those left.
      Our feast was delicious and we felt very privileged to have been included.

  6. Now I’m very jealous and disappointed that we can’t leave to travel. Patience we have to have but am running out of it. Enjoy.. and see you one day….

    • I find it very difficult to watch what is happening in Australia. I doubt that I will be home before mid next year. Just get the vaccines sorted!

  7. Oh – I feel like Moley in Wind in the Willows when Rat runs through the list of food in the picnic basket in the boat – the contemplation of such delights transported Mole to Cloud 9 of Delight 😀 I shall have to read through all of your post several times.

    • It was a lovely lunch. We all ate far too much but it was too good to stop eating!

  8. A very special birthday party that you thoroughly enjoyed.
    The road is looking excellent!

    • It was a lovely day. I look forward to seeing the completed road.

  9. How lovely life is with friends. Long lunches and a long time in Italy!

    • I have been here since February 2020 and I can’t see me coming home until next year. It is just as well I like my life in Italy.

  10. What a wonderful birthday celebration lunch. All that yummy food & wine no wonder Alfredo looks happy.
    I have just finished reading Ferenc Mate’s book “The Hills of Tuscany” (for the 6th time” where he describes an Easter lunch while living in Montepulciano & it was just like yours.OH for an Italian life!
    Am sure the blackbirds appreciated your planting of berries just for them
    Your road looks impressive – hope they get back to re-surface it.

    • The birds are well fed this year. The wild goats left us alone in spring but the deer are now coming in to eat the roses. Every year is different and there isn’t much I can do about it.

  11. Just how Summer birthday celebrations should be in Italy, lucky you !

  12. Dear Debra, I enjoy your blog so much that I want to come visit! It’s been too long since we’ve seen each other. The Swiss and Italians are letting people travel to and fro. Can I come for a few days in September? ( if the boarders are still open!!). It’d be so very nice to see you! Here’s my email.
    Take care!

  13. What a wonderful celebration! I love the look and sound of everything that was served. Ahh to be in Italy again!

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