Garden Update

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loading these baby olive trees to be added to our grove

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Ciao Everyone! If you’re following me on instagram, you most likely saw me at the local garden center yesterday. My groundskeeper/gardener Gianluca accompanied me. We had a great time. I thought I’d share an overall garden update, along with a few more updates about the grounds.

One of the things I will be working on this season is adding 50 olive trees to the grove. We currently have about 150 trees on the grounds. We had to plant an olive grove on the property. Oddly our property had a few olive trees, but the terraces had no more than 10, so Frank decided we needed a proper olive grove. We had a fully functioning vineyard, but not an olive grove which in these parts is pretty rare since we are surrounded by abundant groves. I asked Gianluca what he thought had happened to our olive groves, and the only thing he could come up with is the maybe the property was planted with grain-like wheat. I guess we will never know, but right now our olive grove is expanding.

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The pool project is a big one this year. I met with the company working on the pool hardscape. Tiles will go on the deck in April once the chances of freezing are reduced. Our timeline is to finish by the end of May. I bought two large olive trees, one large pomegranate tree, a huge agave, and some fucshia azaleas. We will plant lavender and rosemary, succulents and cactus as well around the pool plus loads of soft green grassy areas. We will also have a fire pit on the lower portion of the pool deck.

Right now the pergola is going up at the end of the pool. It will provide loads of shade for relaxing, dining and reading. It’s pretty exciting around here. I love designing the garden. There will be loads of additions this year to the landscape, but the most beautiful part of our garden is the view. I never get tired of it.

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Our incredible view

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Gianluca with our new addition

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I am excited for our workshop attendees to come and enjoy the pool addition this year. I can’t believe I am saying this, but we are almost full. Folks are signing up every week. I guess everyone is excited and optimistic. I am too. Working outside always gives me a boost and puts me in my happy place.

For more updates from La Fortezza…definitely follow me on instagram if you aren’t already.

xx Annette

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Autumn Chapter Shoot for La Fortezza Cookbook

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Ciao Guys! If you follow me on Instagram, you know the legendary food photographer David Loftus was back during the first week of October to photograph the autumn chapter of La Fortezza Cookbook.

Autumn is my favorite time of year; I love the color palette. We smoked pumpkins, used the outdoor oven, “the “forno,” and implemented lots of fire and Medieval cooking techniques. We went to local purveyors and had great field trips. The olive harvest is starting, so we were able to witness the first press too. Green gold; it’s so delicious.

Of course, we had our trusty prop mistress and brilliant producer Barbara Pederzini. I flew chef Philip in from the US to work on this chapter. It was a huge effort and stressful to get him into Italy with the travel ban. He quarantined for 2 weeks prior to the shoot and then worked the week of the shoot with the team. We made beautiful images, and I am so excited to share this book with you. Thanks always for the support and lovely DMs on my Instagram. It’s always so wonderful to hear from you.

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July Recap:: Lots of things and offerings

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Ciao All! I hope you are all well and staying safe. I wanted to update all of you about happenings in July. There are lots of things and offerings to discuss…

Offerings: La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats Update

The reality of Italy banning Americans caused us to postpone our SOLD OUT workshops. All of our attendees could not have been more understanding, and for that we are truly grateful. We will have a great time in 2021; I am optimistic about that! As a result of the workshops’ success, we added an extra week with each of these sold out instructors. First, the wonderful and talented stylist, and photographer, Ros Atkinson of “her dark materials”, and then the iconic photographer and incredible instructor Bill Abranowicz. Both will be with us an extra week to conduct workshops. Since their workshops sold out so quickly and had so many inquiries, we decided that we would add another opportunity for everyone to experience these amazing workshops. Check the 2021 La Fortezza Workshop Schedule. It’s really going to be lots of fun.

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Things: New Construction at La Fortezza—our swimming pool

We are finally finishing up the construction of the swimming pool at La Fortezza. It will take a few months to shape it up to get it ready for our guests next year. I am excited to welcome everyone to our pool area next year with Aperol Spritzes under the pergola.

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Things: COOK Corriere 50 Influential Women in Food

I was super honored this month to be included in Italy’s number 1 food publication. COOK- Corriere della Sera. It is the national newspaper’s foodie special interest publication. I was one of the 50 Influential Women in Food celebrated on the cover and inside. I loved the wonderful illustration. Super fun and very humbling. It was a surprise which made it all the more special. The women featured are impressive. They are women I admire, and I even work with some of them, so you can imagine how pleased I was to be included. Definitely a bucket list goal achieved. I will be participating in a virtual food conference with COOK in the fall, too. Stay tuned for more details as we get closer.

 

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Offerings: Italy is My Boyfriend is NOW available in an audio version

July has had lots of surprises. My memoir, Italy is My Boyfriend, came out this month on Audible on Amazon. No, I did not narrate it, as some of you have asked. I wouldn’t have done as well as Devon Sorvari, a trained actress, does. It’s the perfect download for your road trips this summer.

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Things: La Fortezza Cookbook update

I am continuing to work on my upcoming cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook (Rizzoli NY).
I have been writing and testing recipes all year. I will be shooting it with David Loftus, an English Photographer. He also happens to be Jamie Oliver’s Photographer. I will have an Italian chef and styling team, but it will be a small team considering the times. I am excited to start photographing it. I leave soon to begin the shoot! As a side note, some of you may wonder how I can enter as an American. Because we own a home in Italy, I am an Italian resident, and I live there most of the year. Most likely, I will not be back stateside for some time.

Lastly, I am so sorry that no one from the US is able to join us in Italy this year, but this too will pass. Please wear a mask, stay distant and wash your hands. Let’s squash this thing. We are all in this together. One World, one cause.

xx Annette

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Summer Recipe:: Olive Oil Poached Shrimp

Whenever you order a cocktail at a bar in Italy, there is always food involved. Simply brilliant. I think it may be my favorite part. Full disclosure: I love seeing what bars choose to serve with their cocktails. Sometimes it’s just olives and the humble potato chip, and sometimes it’s the most lovely fresh focaccia with sublime charcuterie, a veggie frittata or mini salad. Poached shrimp, rice salads, and fried calamari are some of my favorites.

Here is a recipe for olive oil poached shrimp, inspired by the tradition of aperitivo. This recipe serves up a true summer delicacy!

Olive Oil Poached Shrimp

You will need:
– 3 cups olive oil
– 3 large fresh rosemary sprigs
– 18 uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
– 4 Lemon wedges

To prepare:

Add 3 cups olive oil into heavy large saucepan, and add rosemary sprigs. Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of saucepan and heat oil over medium heat until thermometer registers between 165°F and 180°F. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper. Add shrimp to hot oil and poach just until shrimp are opaque in center, adjusting heat to maintain temperature between 165°F and 180°F, about 8 minutes. Transfer shrimp to paper towels to drain. Serve at room temperature, garnish with lemon wedges.

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Learning and Growing in the time of Covid-19, and What’s next…

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Where this all began…
The last week of February, Frank and I traveled back to our fortress in Fivizzano, Italy. I was there to start shooting my new cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook (Rizzoli, NY), when the virus started to take hold in Milan and the surrounding area. I thought I was safe from the virus’s reach since the fortress is in such a remote area of Italy. However, shortly after I arrived, the local hospital shut down because 2 patients tested positive for COVID-19 and the entire staff was quarantined. After speaking with my family (Frank had left a couple of days earlier), I made the difficult decision to travel back to the United States, putting my cookbook shoot on hold.

Coming back to the United States was a surreal experience. I departed Italy on March 7th, just three days before President Trump closed all travel between the United States and Italy. I had a mask and plenty of Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer. The surgical mask was mainly so I would not touch my face. It also gave me a vague sense of comfort. And, we now know now that was a very good decision on my part. On the bus to the plane, a man was standing next to me in a full hazmat suit carrying a briefcase. I was the only other person wearing a mask; me and the hazmat suit guy. I was nervous and filled with a sense of dread.

I wiped down the seat, tucked into my book, and we took off. In Rome, I headed to the Alitalia lounge near my gate. Usually, my husband and I look forward to spending time in this lounge as the food is amazing, and they have a pizza oven. However, this time I was full of anxiety. I had an espresso and washed my hands about a million times until it was time to board.

At the gate, we all filled out a form and had our temperatures taken before we were allowed to board. The flight was long, and I could hardly wait to land. Once we got to customs, I was asked where I had been, a standard question. I replied, “Italy”. The customs agent stamped my passport and said welcome home. That’s it. No temperature taken, no special line, nothing. I was concerned since so many people, most likely some infected just walked through into Atlanta or other destinations. It makes sense how this virus spread so easily in the months before. But I was so dismayed that this was not being taken seriously at the Atlanta International customs terminal entry to the US. What the heck?

I arrived and immediately was on a two-week self-imposed quarantine, as was Frank (his company suggested it since he arrived from Italy, one of the most infected countries at the time. Now England has surpassed Italy’s numbers, sadly). We watched the grave news from Italy, talking to friends in Italy every day—thank God for the internet and WhatsApp! I left on a Saturday, and by Sunday the Italian Prime Minister put Italy into lockdown. They were completely locked down for 2 months.

Back in the US…
After our 2 week self-quarantine, Frank and I remained locked down at home upon our return. His practice shut down, except emergencies. I was worried every time he had to go take care of patients, but that is all part of being a doctor’s wife. He’s careful. I had plenty of time to work on writing my book, La Fortezza Cookbook, and test recipes with Frank as my taste tester. We watched endless reports and lots of old movies. Read books and took long walks every day since our street is beautiful and deserted. Of course, we cleaned the house since our housekeeper was not coming anymore. We walked the dogs, who were endlessly grateful that we were home 24/7. Since I am very organized, I did minimal reorganizing.

Our daughter just moved into a new house, and she was homebound working. She’s a lawyer and luckily was able to work from home, but since her house was empty, she started to look around and realized she needed to get a few things for their home. Lucky for her, so many things were on sale, and she was able to support the economy by taking advantage of great sales. We managed to decorate using emails and Facetime to place things. She’s got a great eye, and she has been doing a great job. Our son, who lives in Austin, is a Data Scientist, so he too was able to work from home. He also just moved into his place, so I did help him as well with placing furniture via Facetime.

La Fortezza Chef Philp and I have been doing Instagram Live La Fortezza Cooking Classes every other week; we have had hundreds of people join us which is so much fun. Look out for more cooking classes coming in the next weeks!

Every Saturday I have cocktail hour (aperitivo) with my Italian and US friends via Zoom.
We talk about our families and still gossip and laugh. It’s been a highlight of the week since we can’t go out. We have ordered in from local restaurants at least once a week. I fear for the restaurants during this time. But somehow we will survive.

Things will be different, but I am an optimist so I always hope for the best. This week I will attempt to cut Frank’s hair; I have been watching loads of tutorials I think I can do this. I have been coloring my own hair which I am fairly good at since I did this for years in Italy until I found a hairdresser I trusted there. I have been writing marketing copy for my book, Italy is My Boyfriend, that releases in a couple of weeks. It should be interesting seeing how book talks and signings pan out. Stay tuned….

Back to Italy…
Many of you wonder when you can travel, and I am right there with you! I hope to return to Italy as soon as it is allowed. Italy is now in phase 2 of opening the country. I am optimistic that I can return to my beloved Italy in a few months to work on La Fortezza Cookbook, and welcome people to La Fortezza in September. That is the goal and the hope. I will continue to keep you updated about La Fortezza workshops. Right now we are a go for late August and September workshops. Of course, we will be very aware that we all want to be safe, so we will make decisions based on safety as we go it will become clear what best steps are.

More quarantine stories…
Please enjoy the quarantine stories from the La Fortezza team this month. Nicole, my web manager, and I thought it would be a fun idea for everyone from the La Fortezza team to tell us how they have been coping in these days of stay at home orders. As the country opens, we hope everyone takes their time and proceeds safely, so we can get back to normal, however that might look… Look for all the quarantine stories this month, and thank you to our incredible team and the folks we work with in Italy for the support in the uncertain time. We love you.

xx

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