Josef Chromy

A couple of weeks ago we took Cooper to Launceston for a service, swapped her for a new BMW 120i courtesy car, picked up our lovely friend Deb and wended our way to  Josef Chromy for lunch. A picturesque 15 minute drive from the city, the winery at Relbia was launched in 2007. The cellar door is set within immaculate gardens where carefully trimmed privets, fountains and flowers mingle with majestic mature trees.

1.Josef Chromy Wines

4.outdoor seating5.weeping elm

A popular venue for weddings, the lakeside pavilion is a perfect spot to exchange vows.

6.lake

The view across the lake to the vineyards beyond can be enjoyed whether eating outdoors

7.outdoor eating

or inside the restaurant.

8.restaurant

We took advantage of the week day Winter Lunch Special, two courses and a glass of wine for $45. The complimentary sourdough bread was delicious, as was the 2018 Pinot Gris.

9.sourdough

The main course for the special this day was the Baked Beef Cheek with cauliflower, rhubarb, shaved cabbage, parmesan, parsley & lemon. Coincidentally, it would have been my choice anyway.

10.baked beef cheek

Michael opted for the Wood-Grilled Lamb Rump with baby lentils, baked Elphin Grove celeriac, spring onion & yoghurt. Not being a fan of celeriac, he requested the gnarled root be omitted. Graciously, chef replaced it with baked parsnip.

11.wood-grilled lamb rump

We all chose dessert instead of entrée as our second course, White Chocolate Bavarois was Chef’s special concoction.

12.white chocolate bavarois

The menu offered Hot Chocolate Mousse with leatherwood honey parfait, honeycomb, nashi pear and nib crumb.

13.hot chocolate mousse

Finishing off with coffee, we watched the activity in the vineyard. With 61 hectares to prune and a vineyard stretching for 2km I was grateful to be merely observing.

14.vineyard

Barga

On a perfect sunny spring day, we drove to the medieval walled town of Barga, an easy 45 minute drive from Lucca. We had learned it was easier to park outside these ancient towns and walk in rather than risk inadvertently driving into a pedestrian zone or the wrong way down a one way street. Crossing the bridge, we passed Parco Fratelli Kennedy, named in honour of American President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, both of whom were assassinated.

1.Parco Kennedy

The old stone aqueduct was built in the 15th century to supply clean water for the fountains and crosses the original moat of the old village.

1a.aqueduct Parco Kennedy

Narrow streets and steep steps hinted at what was to come once we were inside the walls.

Beautiful buildings lined the main thoroughfare

4.beautiful building

as we made our way to Porta Reale, one of the three gates in the medieval city walls. Below the observation tower, the gate still displays the ancient coat of arms of the city.

5.Porta Reale

The layout of the town has remained virtually unchanged since the 8th century, buildings at impossible angles hug narrow lanes, mysterious alleyways and stone steps.

We set off through the web of streets with no real destination in mind, happy to amble randomly in the sunshine. An interesting sculpture caught our eye

10.sculpture

outside the Teatro dei Differenti, Barga’s main theatre. Constructed in 1668 it was deemed too small at the end of the 18th century, a new structure was built on top of the old one.

11.Teatro dei Differenti

Along with the theatre, the adjacent buildings have been beautifully restored.

We decided to head to the highest point in the town once we spotted the bell tower of the Duomo di San Cristoforo.

14.Duomo di San Cristoforo

Our quest took us past the immaculate garden of the Palazzo Salvi,

15.Palazzo Salvi16.Giardino di Palazzo Salvi

less opulent but equally interesting plots

17.garden

and the myriad doorways we had come to expect.

We finally reached the cathedral, a spectacular edifice that I will need to cover in a separate post.

30.Duomo di San Cristoforo

The views across the rooftops to the Apuan Alps and the shrouded peak of Pania della Croce were stunning.

31.view

33a.view

Tearing ourselves away, we meandered back to town in search of sustenance, discovering a memorial garden in Piazza Garibaldi, adjacent to the Museum of Memory. A large sculpture entitled La Vedette (in military terms meaning the forward observer) was unveiled in 2009 on the 4th November, a day celebrated in Italy as the anniversary of the end of  World War I.

We reached Piazza Angelio at lunch time, a popular place in summer for exhibitions and entertainment. The particular shape and almost perfect acoustics of the piazza make an ideal setting for international festivals such as “Opera Barga” and “Barga Jazz”.

16th century poet Pietro Angeli, nicknamed Bargeo, watches over the piazza from the corner of Palazzo Angeli.

The offerings on the blackboard at L’Osteria enticed us in, we weren’t disappointed.

41.L'Osteria

With much of the town still to see, we continued our wanderings in a different direction.

45.narrow street

Colourful homes lined the street

48.colourful houses

and some clung precariously to the edge of the cliff.

49.fabulous homes

All had magnificent views of neighbouring hilltop towns and verdant countryside.

50.hilltop town51.views

The aqueduct and Kennedy Park were behind us

52.aqueduct

as the outskirts of town stretched in front.

53.Villa Buenos Aires

The 17th century Chiesa di San Felice, was quite small and understated when compared to others we had seen on our travels.

54.Chiesa di San Felice55.Chiesa di San Felice

Outside the church was this memorial plaque, apparently dedicated to a Scotsman with an Italian name. It seems Barga has a strong connection to Scotland, with many residents emigrating there in the 19th century in search of work when industry in Tuscany suffered a decline. They won the Scots over with their gelato making skills and, coupled with a knack for cooking fish and chips, made great success out of their cafés and restaurants. Over the generations, some returned to Barga and now sixty percent of the town’s 10,000 residents have Scottish relations. The annual Festival of Fish and Chips, Sagra del Pesce e Patate, celebrates this connection for three weeks each July/August. I can’t find any clues as to the life of Mario Moscardini but I assume he made a considerable contribution to Barga.

61.memorial

Working our way along Via di Mezzo, we found an interesting little face peering out from the wall of a restaurant. It is known as a scacciaguai, a folk magic figure that protects from trouble and harm. Hopefully, the charm has worked for the restaurant of the same name.

62.scacciaguai

Three doors along, we paid a visit to Casa Cordati, a 17th century palazzo that was once the studio of local artist Bruno Cordati.

63.Casa Cordati

It is now owned by his grandson, Giordano, and offers rather sumptuous accommodation as well as an extensive gallery on the first floor. The rooms on this floor have been preserved as they were during Bruno Cordati’s creative years, the views were nothing short of inspirational.

Our exploration of this magical town had come to an end as we reached the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata and the 16th century church of the same name. The 19th century façade was badly damaged by artillery shells in World War II and was later restored.

72.Piazza della Santissima Annunziata

There was only one thing left to do to make the day complete.

73.gelati

tiger tenants

The seasons have turned here in Tasmania and our long days of summer are behind us. Once again, we shared the garden with our reptilian residents for a few months but they have now found cosy homes for the winter. We can’t blame the snakes for wanting to live here, after all, we have created a paradise for them.

1.pond paradise2.pond paradise

We named our first lodger Suzy. She was quite small and liked to try out a variety of spots to capture the warmth of the sun.

Strangely, our large goldfish liked to keep her company.

5.Suzy

After a while, she left to make a home for herself in the forest and someone else moved in. He was looking rather dull and spent a lot of time among the rocks.

He then took to burying himself in the mulch, a bit worrying as there were times he was completely hidden. We assumed he was preparing to shed his skin, I was hoping to witness the process but I think it was done in private, we never did find the evidence.

8.tiger in mulch

It was at this point we realised we had two occupants, with one under the mulch and another in the favourite afternoon dappled shade position.

9.sleeping tiger

A short time later, perhaps after shedding, one moved out and the other remained. We would see her every morning catching the sun on the eastern side of the pond and then on the rocks under the callistemon in the afternoon. We had visitors for a couple of days in January and there was no sign of our tiger tenant until the afternoon of their departure, when she moseyed across the lawn to resume her residency.

10.tiger returns

Supposedly, tiger snakes don’t stay in one place for long but it seemed as though it was the same snake. She knew our voices and routines and was quite comfortable to lie undisturbed by our presence, we had a mutual respect for personal space.

13.tiger

We had a couple of very hot weeks in February where we saw no snakes and assumed she had moved on to start a family in the forest. One evening, we saw her (we like to think it was her) making her way up the driveway straight to the low birdbath we have for the wrens. I have never seen a snake drinking before, she was very thirsty.

14.thirsty tiger

When she had finished, she once again curled up in the shadow of the callistemon. You can watch a video of her drinking here, you’ll see the shadows of the wrens flying around, they weren’t happy.

 

Villa Boccella

When we returned from our first trip to Italy, we couldn’t help sharing our experiences and our fascination with this wonderful country. Our friends’ daughter was starting to think about her future wedding and the seed was set for a Tuscan location. Of course, we made it quite clear that we would be attending, what better excuse for a return visit? Nevertheless, we were very excited and honoured to receive the invitation, not only to the wedding, but to stay for a week in a villa with the bridal party and other guests. After our two nights in Lucca, we collected the hire car and drove the ten kilometres to Villa Boccella.

1.Villa Boccella

It sounds simple but we had great difficulty finding the entrance gate and, finally asking directions from a local, we were the last of the party to arrive.

2.arrival

There are six properties on the estate and our accommodation was to be in the two limonaie where, originally, lemon trees in pots were moved to in winter to avoid damage from the frosts. Limonaia Grande is the larger of the two

3.Limonaia Grande4.Limonaia Grande

and became the hub of activity with its fabulous kitchen

5.kitchen

and dining room,

perfect for a wedding feast.

11.wedding table

The enticing sofas in the sitting room

12.sitting room

were bathed in the light flooding through the French windows.

13.sitting room

The ample bookshelves were well stocked and quirky ornaments adorned every surface.

There were two options for al fresco dining, one with barbecue and pizza oven

22.al fresco

and the other overlooking the swimming pool.

23.al fresco24.pool

Across an orchard of peaches, plums, figs and cherries, Limonaia Piccola faced Limonaia Grande and was equally as opulent as her big sister.

25.Limonaia Piccola

The large windows downstairs captured the light no matter what the time of day.

26.sitting room27.sitting room28.dining area29.kitchen

Our upstairs bedroom was gorgeous

30.our bedroom

with a magnificent view across the orchard to the mountains beyond.

32.view from bedroom

Between the two limonaie, we could see the 17th century main villa in all her glory

33.main villa

and a glimpse of Boccellina, the original gatehouse to the estate.

34.Boccellina

For outdoor relaxation there were several settings to choose from.

35.garden chairs

The rose covered pergolas were in full bloom.

37.outdoor seating38.outdoor seating

Terracotta planters scattered colour around the garden

50.planter

51.planter

and the orchard still held some surprises.

56.garden

A pair of blackbirds were lucky to have such a beautiful home.

As well as our wonderful memories, we have a special gift to remind us of our time at Villa Boccella. The bride & groom had commissioned an artist in Darwin to create an illustration of Limonaia Grande as a memento for the guests.

62.illustration

Thank you all for an unforgettable week.

Vergemoli

When we first visited Italy in 2014, we were invited to lunch at the home of friends, Deb and Jim, in the mountains of the Garfagnana. We recalled the drive as being somewhat hair-raising but, when invited again this time, we couldn’t resist. With much trepidation, we ventured forth, stopping in Gallicano for a heart starter coffee and pastry.

The road out of the village certainly fits the description of ‘narrow’,

6.Gallicano

as we passed beneath the ancient aqueduct.

7.aqueduct, Gallicano

It almost made the road to Vergemoli look like a highway,

8.road to Vergemoli

excepting when there is more rock than road.

9.road to Vergemoli

Clouds gathered as we climbed into the mountains,

10.road to Vergemoli

looking back the way we had come, the view was spectacular.

11.road to Vergemoli

The mountains loomed closer and before long we had reached Vergemoli.

12.road to Vergemoli

Turning left at the small piazza, we parked at the top end of the village by the 17th century church of Sant’Antonio.

13.Vergemoli14.Vergemoli15.Chiesa Sant'Antonio

We had allowed time for a stroll through the village before lunch, our first discovery was an outdoor theatre, a lovely spot to watch a play in the summer months.

16.outdoor theatre

We could see for miles across the valley,

17.Vergemoli view

a stone bench perfectly placed to catch your breath after walking up the hill.

18.Vergemoli

The houses were neat and colourful,

some seemed to end suddenly at the edge of the cliff.

23.Vergemoli

There was no shortage of intriguing doorways.

The parish church of San Quirico and Santa Giulitta, in the middle of town, dates back to the 10th century.

27.Chiesa dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta

I’m not sure what this stone monument represents but it is dated 1637AD

28.Vergemoli

and another close by is unidentified.

29.Vergemoli

Alleyways veered in all directions filled with dwellings built at impossible angles.

Some had room for a garden shed

37.garden shed

or a beautifully maintained shrine.

38.Vergemoli

We didn’t see many locals but the four-legged inhabitants were very friendly.

We could see our destination, Casa Debbio, waiting comfortably on the hillside as we returned to the car and drove the track to the house.

44.Casa Debbio45.Casa Debbio

Although the weather was too inclement to dine on the terrace,

46.terrace, Casa Debbio

the vista across to Vergemoli was stunning.

47.Vergemoli

The drizzle didn’t deter us from exploring the garden with its quirky residents

and some of the most fabulous flowers I have ever seen.

From the terrace at the back of the house, there is a lovely view of the wisteria on the pergola

57.pergola

and of new plantings as the garden blends with the wilderness.

58.garden

A few more flowers and treasures

59.garden

and we returned to the house

66.Casa Debbio

with that amazing view

67.Vergemoli

to enjoy a slice of Angela’s hat.

68.Angela

We farewelled Deb and Jim and made our way back down the mountain. If only Australia wasn’t so far away.

69.geraniums

Casa Debbio is the perfect place to escape and unwind for a few days or weeks and is available for holiday rental, take a look.