Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 24, 2021

My life in Italy

I have been in Italy for 18 months. Last year all my scheduled flights back to Australia were postponed then cancelled.

I haven’t even tried to get home this year. The vaccine rollout in Australia is proceeding at snail’s pace. The number of Australians allowed to fly home is all over the place and if I did manage to get one of the very expensive flights I would have to pay to quarantine in a hotel for 2 weeks.

I am staying put until I can quarantine at home. At this rate I am expecting to go home mid next year…there are worse things that could happen.

Summer is marching on, with lovely cool mornings and extremely hot afternoons. I do what I have to do in the morning and retreat to my apartment for the afternoon and venture out again in the cool of the evening. Thank goodness for my sewing machine or I would be bored silly.

I have guests at Casa Debbio until mid September so I am now at Ponte a Serraglio for a while. I had some lovely friends come to stay and we did a few day trips, not too far away…Siena, San Gimignano and Cinque Terre.  I can walk fairly well but I still get a bit tired, especially in the heat.

I went recently to delightful Forte dei Marmi, just over an hour away on the coast. I wanted to visit a new shop by 2 Australian sisters…the extremely successful Zimmermann.

The shop has opened in a pretty square off the main street


The shop was busy when I arrived and I had to wait until a few people left…covid rules. I asked if I could take some photos to show friends at home who love the brand. The charming assistant told me they have had a wonderful season. I am not surprised, the beautiful clothes would fit right in in Forte dei Marmi.

Some friends and I discovered a new restaurant in Lucca and were impressed. It is called SurReale, and is the brain child of the owners of Villa Reale, once owned by Napoleon’s sister. The menu was created by the chef from Butterfly restaurant, well known and loved for years. His son is the chef for SurReale.

It is just outside the anfiteatro walls.

The decor is modern.

There is an open courtyard at the back.

We chose a table at the front where it was cooler.

Hot bread arrived with truffled butter, a good start.

First courses…anchovies and tiny prawns with a delicious mayonnaise.



Second courses. Lamb, duck and pork.

Delicious dolce. Apple tart tartin and an amazing strawberry concoction.

These are the fun things about being in Italy. It is not always fun and laughter. My Wifi stopped working at Casa Debbio a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t worry too much, it sometimes happens in the mountains. I eventually went to the shop that handles Noitel, previously Cloud Italia.

I told the attendant I had no Wifi in Vergemoli. She replied “No, you won’t, they took the tower away.” Where does that leave me?  I asked. “Nowhere” came the reply. The company decided there was too much maintenance on the tower, so they removed it. There was no notice and they kept taking payment for a service they no longer provided…well done Noitel!

I went to nearby Gallicano to sign up for Eolo, a company that specialises in Wifi for remote properties. I waited 10 days for the technician to arrive. After a debacle involved with getting to the house he announced that I can’t have it because their tower is not in the line of sight from our house. He offered no alternative.

I went back to the office and asked for Sky. No, I can’t have that without a landline. Can I have a satellite dish? Yes, that should work. I have now signed up for a dish and will wait for the technician to come. You must actually ask directly for information, none is offered.

Another 10 days waiting by the phone for a connection date, along with waiting for a new couch to be delivered, now a couple of weeks late.

If this doesn’t work I will have to go to Tim and get a landline. I would rather stick pins in my eyes!

Zimmermann…Piazza Tonini 12, Forte dei Marmi.Phone…0584 1862050

SurReale… Via del Anfiteatro 37, Lucca
Phone…0583 1382422


  1. I really sympathise on your problem with returning to Australia. I have had the same problem the other way round, as my daughter lives there, was supposed to get married here in May 2020 and that big event has had to be postponed indefinitely. Then we thought we’d fly over to Brisbane for Christmas, but that’s been made impossible too, with all the quarantine rules. I hope your satellite dish works. We have had endless problems here in Puglia too. It’s like tossing a coin: will we have WiFi or not. Sometimes it’s excellent and other times it’s non existent. Good luck! Hope we see you again before long.

    • I have stopped thinking about going home. We are hoping that Jim might be able to come here before the end of the year…who knows?
      The Wifi worked well, until it didn’t. I hope the satellite dish works. I imagine getting a landline would be expensive since we are quite remote. I hope it doesn’t come to that.
      I hope you get to see your family soon! I am heartily sick of covid.

  2. I think you have been, and are, extremely resourceful. Keep well and strong!
    Losing wifi is a very big blow but hopefully the dish will provide stable communication. Our best wishes from Carlton, in lockdown.

    • I have had to be resourceful over the last 18 months. A few lockdowns, a broken ankle, you just have to get on with things!
      I hope Australia can sort out the mess it is in soon! Lockdown is not fun.

  3. I am suffering from severe envy at that burrata. It is the food of angels!

    Tim and Telstra both start with “T” and that also stands for trouble!

    I am so ashamed of our pitiful vaccination programme. No wonder we have states taking turns in lockdowns.

    • Burrata is certainly delicious!
      I have just had my second vaccination and have my green pass. I delayed the vaccinations until my ankle was on the mend and I was mobile. I am happy to have that completed.

  4. Ha! I have the same problem with Wi-Fi, and had the exact same occurrence with Eolo! My tiny village of less than 500 inhabitants, recently had fibre optics installed, terminating unfortunately about 300m from my property! There seem to be several new options, but as normally I am only there for less than half the year, I object to paying €30 a month when I’m not there! I might go for a cellular ‘dongle’ from, but will see what’s on offer when, if ever, I get back!

    Have you tried EuropaSat? Run by Richard, a Brit I think, who has an office in Barga…. Near enough to you to know the area very well, and always extremely helpful. Worth a try.

    • I have signed up for the satellite with the company in Gallicano. I will keep the Barga suggestion in mind if it doesn’t work out, thank you.
      Having a remote house in the mountains has its challenges!

  5. Forte dei Marmi has always been one of my favorite places near Bagni di Lucca. It is both stylish and elegant. And their markets are the best.

    • It is one of my favourite places too, and you are correct about the market, it is excellent.

  6. Hello from San Diego Debra.

    Two trips postponed but many hopes for returning in May of 2022. We plan to have family members with us to luxuriate and explore their historical roots in Ponte a Serraglio. We will hope to see you and Tim then but understand that once you get back to Australia you will likely not be leaving for a long time!

    Good luck with all that you face and Thank You for the continued pearls of Italian wisdom, reflection and beauty!

    Belinda and Ronn Simonini

    • I will probably still be here in May. If Jim can come we plan to return to Australia in June, as we usually do.
      Once this disaster is over I will resume my 6 months in each country. I like my split life.
      It has been an interesting exercise being here for 18 months. I have always said I don’t want to be here is summer and this has truly reinforced that. Summer is too hot for me. It would be OK if I was happy to sit at home in the afternoon, but I am not.

      • We will look forward to the prospect of seeing you and Tim!

  7. As usual it is interesting to walk with you through places, experiences and food. Life is varied and so are your posts.
    Be safe, be well.

    • My life is certainly varied. It has been an interesting 18 months with lots of challenges.

  8. Enjoyed your Post even reading all the problems with WiFi. The restaurant in Lucca certainly looks good as well as the menu. All those trips make it worthwhile to remain in Italy. The Zimmermann boutique (outside & inside) looks great. Love the white sandals in front and bags.

    • There are lots fo challenges to life, we just have to work through them. I love the new Zimmermann shop, it fits very well in Forte dei Marmi.
      The wifi will eventually be sorted. Casa Debbio still gets mobile phone coverage, but it is not consistent.

  9. Love Forte dei Marmi; so stylish and beautifully presented. I can imagine the stunning Italians loving Zimmerman.
    Menu looks good at the new Lucca restaurant. Wishing you and Jim the very best with future plans.

    • Fortunately there are lots of great things to see and do close to home here. Jim will get here eventually.

  10. Hi Debra, Trust me your life in Italy is 100% more exciting than here in Australia. Melbourne in 4th lockdown and .Sydney is in catastrophe mode.
    Like you, I am glad I have a sewing machine, my IPad, Netflix (sorry you probably can’t get the last two.) I am painting the laundry cupboard doors and I occasionally dabble in water paints. At least you are getting out and about to beautiful villages and fancy finding a Zimmermans shop. The food you post looks stunning. Haven’t been to a restaurant in ages, can’t even see friends or a beautiful new grandson in London. Do you have permanent residency in Italy or are the authorities OK with you remaining in Italy?
    Anyway, please keep your blogs going. They lighten up our boring lives here in Lockdown. Hope to be in Italy as soon as allowed!

    Kind regards,

    • I have a Permesso di Soggiorno which I renew every year, so I can stay without problem.
      I have wifi at our apartment in Ponte a Serraglio, it is the mountain house having issues. Even there a mobile phone works to some degree. It will be sorted eventually.
      I find it really difficult to believe the situation in Australia. It handled the first year so well, then fell over. Lockdowns are awful. I hope you are all OK and not too traumatised by the whole thing.

  11. Hi Debra: I have been wondering how life has been for you. This past year I haven’t been as active on the blog or online. It has just been so tough on so many levels. You are right to say that you are in quite a beautiful place. I am sure you miss Australia and I can’t imagine not being able to get home for so long. I have been following the pandemic news and am surprised the vaccine rollout has been so slow there. then I think of here in the U.S., and how many people won’t get it while so many around the world would do anything for the vaccine. We live in such.a crazy world. /thanks for sharing the beauty of your life with us. 🙂 Take care! Nicole

    • The whole world is a mess. I admit that some days I can’t look at the news. We just have to do our best and get on with life.

  12. As I’m sure you have learned, customer service is NOT an Italian thing. Also, WIFI rules are so strange. Even though we own a hone here, and have a bank account, Vodafone would not sell us a modem! We ended up with a TIM mobile hotspot modem, a little wireless devise about the size of a small ashtray. We pay about 15€ a month for unlimited data. We stop the service when we leave Italy, and restart with the same SIM card when we return.

    This will be out first year here for more than 183 day….yippee, Italian taxes!

    • I agree that customer service is not a thing in Italy! The Tim mobile hotspot sounds like a great idea, but we rent the house and we need to provide Wifi. I used my phone as a hotspot when the wifi stopped working and it was fine.

  13. Been wondering how you’ve been getting along!
    Not good to hear about the internet 🙁 and yes, I agree that a solution is very rarely offered, you have to know what the solution, which is so frustrating. I had that several times in the post office 🙁 So, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be without the internet 🙁
    We were supposed to go to Italy in April 2022 as it’s 100 years since our grandparents left Genoa, but with the uncertainty and such a large group, it’s difficult to coordinate. We will be driving north to celebrate their arrival in Australia and maybe get to Italy in 2023
    Hopefully you will get home soon – Brisbane is beautiful this time of year.

    • Yes, you have to be persistent to get anything done here, very frustrating. I hate having to go to the post office for anything. You could lose the will to live in an Italian post office.
      I do miss Brisbane winter. I like spring, autumn and winter and am not a fan of summer heat anywhere.
      I hope you get to make your trip to Genoa, it is a great city. Covid has messed up all kinds of plans.

  14. Zimmermann have beautiful things but it’s very expensive (more than $1000AUD for a dress) so I don’t have a lot of their items. But I love the colours 🙂 Wow the bureaucracy is crazy! My Italian friend says the same and she does not miss it.

    • I don’t have any Zimmermann clothes. They are expensive and they would not fit me anyway, but I love them. They are even more expensive here. I think the figure in euros would be the same as the A$. I do have a pair of shoes which I circled for a very long time before I bought them,
      Getting things done in Italy can be a challenge.

  15. Hello Debra,
    My husband André and I just arrived in Lucca this week for our annual summer stay (with the exception of 2020) we are so grateful to have made it here from California. We gave SurReale a try and it is very good thank you for the suggestion! We just love reading your postings, and watching your garden grow. Thank you for all of your wonderful travel tips and suggestions along with all of your beautiful photos.
    We are glad your foot is getting better slowly but surely and that you are still venturing out despite the heat. You have a wonderful spirit!

    • How lovely to be back in Lucca. I hope you enjoy your stay. My foot is great. I am very happy with my progress. I must have had good surgeons!
      Another place I like to eat at in Lucca is Paris Boheme in Piazza Cittadella. They are open only on the evening at the moment because my lovely friend Luis broke his arm. I hope to go there soon.

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