Her Dark Materials Workshop, 2019 recap

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Sometimes, one just has a girl crush, and with Instagram out there, it’s more likely that these crushes occur. That sentiment pretty much sums up my feelings towards Ros Atkinson, the woman behind the gorgeous Carravaggio still life styled images “Her Dark Materials” on Instagram.

The Dutch masters had nothing on Ros; in my opinion, she is the master. Although her work is very much in these styles, she very much has her own take with her images. They are simply spectacular. Having said all of this I said to myself, “Why not ask Ros (whom I’d never met in person) to come to La Fortezza for a weekend? Maybe she would agree to conduct a workshop.”

We hit it off immediately as she has a smart sense of humor, she’s cute, and we both wear Jo Malone perfume. A match made in heaven! I talked her into showing me how she constructs one of her very complicated layered still life sets. I was mesmerized.

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This October, she arrived a day early, and we immediately headed out to buy all the fruits, vegetables and things she would need to style with her students. We had a lovely meal with lots of wine and headed to bed. Wednesday, we prepped the studio and all the guest rooms for our group. Everyone arrived excited and elated to work with Ros for the next 4 days.

We had folks from all over the world including our first ever guest from India. Our days were spent with Ros in the lead. The weather even cooperated; we had several very dramatic days of fog and mist covering the fields around La Fortezza, and the vineyard was bright yellow against a gray sky. We tromped around the property all afternoon, and although it was damp and cool, we did not mind. We photographed food with Ros in the kitchen with Philip.

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We visited Parma and got lost in a maze near the city center. We toured Parma and dined the most amazing stuffed pasta, and fried dough with prosciutto and Parmesan cheese.

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It was a magical workshop, and Ros is the most divine inspiration and teacher. She shared all of her secrets, and everyone went away feeling creatively revived. The good news is that she will be back next year in September. Check the site and grab your spot we have limited spaces, and they usually go fast. Thank you Ros for a perfect workshop experience. My Instagram crush has turned into a beautiful real-life friendship with the most amazing and talented woman, love you Ros.

xx Annette

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Arrivederci Italia 2019

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It’s always hard to say arrivederci, but his year, in particular, was bittersweet because it was such a wonderful season. Our La Fortezza Workshops started off with a bang: 2 styling workshops in June kicked off the season. We had 3 talented instructors and 4 lovely attendees. Joanna and Maren and Sarah, had a lively group and did some really fun projects with their guests. The second styling session was with moi, the Strictly Styling Workshop. I had my BFF Barbara, a stylist from Modena, join me to teach styling. She brought all sorts of foodstuffs from Modena. It was epic.

This workshop also marked the yearly return of PR maven Liz Lapidus she brought her mega bloggerlious friend, Alexandra Darling in the City¬†(although unfortunately she never wrote about her experience at La Fortezza on her blog? ūüôĀ¬† But she did write about neighboring towns lol)¬†NOTE* bloggers do not bother to contact me about a free workshop and that you’ll post about it. No comping anymore…live and learn…). I digress…

During that workshop I met one of my favorite guests (there’s always an upside to all negative experiences) of the season, the super talented photographer and stylist Alicia, The Chic Shot. You can see some of her amazing shots of La Fortezza on this post. Thank you, Alicia, for sharing your amazing talent. I LOVED working with you, and thank you for all the beautiful photos of your experience here. We hosted the fantastic podcast host Heidi Rew, her podcast featured me and Philip and Barbara, and the ladies from our first workshop in June. Listen to it here. It’s a great look into what we do.

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We also had our first ever intern in June and July from Wellesley College, Adri. She was a wonder and delight. She speaks perfect Italian and was energetic and eager to learn. We loved having her help us with guests and chores around the fortress. We loved her so much that we are bringing another intern from the same Wellesley Italian Studies program back next spring. Let’s just say whoever she is, she has big shoes to fill.¬† Plus Adri learned to drive a stick shift during her 8 week stay – pretty impressive!

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In July we hosted our first-ever Artist in Residence with abstract painter, Steven McKenzie for the month. It was a stroke of genius on my part, if I do say so myself. Steve was a delightful addition to the La Fortezza Workshop roster, and he brought the sunshine everyday in the studio. Because of Steve’s curiosity, I visited places and experienced things I never would have. Like visiting the antique book archives at our local library in Fivizzano and caving in Equi Terme. Some I loved more than others. (Caving not my thing, go figure) He made jam from our plum trees and filled the studio with his beautiful art inspired by the region. Even during his opening party when we had a torrential downpour, he never lost his bright smile and positive attitude. The Opening Party was amazing, sometimes when the best-laid plans are dashed, and the skies open up, it turns out to be just as great. At his opening, we had visitors from London, Paris, Greece, and the US and of course all of our friends from all over Italy. It was a great July. We had a fun visit with Rue Magazine Editor and Chief Kelli Lamb, and her lovely artist hubby Timmy, Kelli made an amazing video series about La Fortezza.

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In August our son visited with 3 friends; we cooked and toured and ate plenty. Then I visited Pulglia, a place the had been on my list for a while. I experienced the Messors Workshop, which was interesting. read about it here.

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September was filled with great cooking by Chef Philip. There were cooking lessons and artisan food visits with our Slow Food Experience group. We had the lovely photographer Kate Blohm visit again, she was part of a workshop with Angie Mosier in 2018. This year she was our BTS photographer; she’s amazing and will be joining us every year in the fall to document the Slow Food Workshops, something that is close to my heart.

September is the time of year we do our grape harvest, although this year the harvest was a month late, we still had an amazing time with our incredible group. One of our guests were a married couple, PR team Valerie and Garrett, a powerhouse PR team in Atlanta specializing in Chefs and Food, from Via Failla PR and Events¬† They will be part of the La Fortezza PR team helping to promote La Fortezza Workshops in 2020. I can’t wait to see what they have in store. We also hosted a shopping workshop with Lisa Burnett a whirlwind tour with shop til you drop attendees that left me breathless.

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October was the month of photography with 2 of my favorite photographers joining us. Bill Abranowicz and Ros Atkinson of Her Dark Materials on Instagram. I am honored to call them friends and I am excited to announce they will be back with us in fall 2020. The workshops were not only informative but really fun. We got so many beautiful shots!

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These incredible workshops have proved to be even more wonderful than I had imagined. People gathered around the table, like-minded with so much passion to add to the discussion. Being surrounded by creativity from all creators, from what Philip creates and places on the table, to the interesting creatives from all over the world, (this year we had our first attendee from India) they have so much to offer. It is my idea of heaven.

Although our surroundings are gorgeous, I must say without the people that come to visit, it would be much less beautiful. Thank you to all the support people in our village that take great care of me, and to Chef Philip who is gracious and talented and helpful always with a smile on his face he goes above and beyond. Thanks Philip for all the amazing Pizza Parties!

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To the guests that grace our doors, grazie mille. I look forward to welcoming new faces in 2020. Please check the website November 9th for our new workshops to post. We have limited spots, first come first serve with private rooms. So grab your spot in 2020 La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats.

x

Photo Credit: The Chic Shot, Kate Blohm, Nandi Shaw, Ros Atkinson, William Abranowicz

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Private Retreats at La Fortezza Workshops

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Ciao everyone,

We’re¬†gearing up for our next round of workshops. As always, I am excited to welcome everyone, but¬†I am especially jazzed about spending time with our private retreat end of September.

What is a “Private Retreat” you might be asking yourself? Well, a private retreat is just that. It is a retreat put together by a host or organizer, for a private group of friends or co-workers. We offer activity focused vacations or corporate retreats in Italy that include all aspects of our unique Tuscan location. Activities like shopping, art, food and cooking lessons, exploring local food artisans from the region of the Lunigiana, Liguria and Emilia Romagna. With 30 years as a producer, I can tell you with confidence we can facilitate any type of cultural experience. La Fortezza offers yoga, wine tasting, truffle hunting, foraging in the kitchen garden, horseback riding, hiking, cooking lessons, shopping for antiques or at local markets like Forte Dei Marmi, chic beach clubs, lingering lunches at a family-owned village, boat rides, styling lessons, social media tutorials, and outdoor movies on the terrace.

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We are ready to help you enjoy your time in Italy in our bohemian monastic styled guest quarters.

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Make pizza in our pizza oven…

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Harvest from our own vineyard and fruit orchards and kitchen garden, witness olive oil being pressed or wheat being milled.

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Are you ready to experience 5-star food from our amazing classically trained Chef Philip, take a cooking lesson or two in our commercial kitchen?

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and enjoy aperitivo and meals on our three beautiful terraces?

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If you’re ready we are taking bookings through the end of October 2019…

To book a private experience for 2020 email me annette@annettejosephstyle.com for pricing information, Private retreats are for 6-8 people. Gather your group and join us. La Fortezza is a special place to get in touch with your inner creative and to share it with your group. x

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Italy 2019:: the Arrival

My happy place with my happy cocktail, an Aperol Spritz, the New York Times may be hating on it but there’s nothing more refreshing and Italian than this baby, am I right?

Ciao Everyone!¬†If you’re following on social media , you know Vivi and I arrived in Italy. We had a great flight over. Vivi is amazingly chill on a plane. As long as I am near, she’s just fine. I think that most dachshund owners would agree any anxiety is gone if the owner is nearby. She ceases to need food or water for the entire flight which makes me anxious, but she just sleeps. When we land in Milan, she’s cool as a cucumber and relieves herself for about 4 minutes once we are outside the terminal (how does she do that?). She’s the best.

We arrived and La Fortezza was in tip-top shape thanks to Gian Luca, our master gardener and overall amazing man. Cristina, our house manager, is the best. She caught that there was very little gas in our reserve (thank goodness because there is nothing worse than a cold shower after traveling for 15 hours, am I right?). I am blessed with a great group of people and darling friends in the neighborhood who look out for me (us). It’s country living at its best. I spent the first 2 weeks with friends and neighbors stopping by to say ciao and asking if I needed anything. It’s one of the many reasons we love it here.

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Panigacci a local specialty, we call them Italian tacos but they are so much more

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I also spent the first 2 weeks here prepping for upcoming workshops and entertaining visitors. First, our mother of the bride joined me for a quick tour and some wine tasting. Sometimes my job ain’t so bad. After the mother of the bride, was Ros Atkinson from Her Dark Materials¬†. She was scouting La Fortezza, checking our gorgeous light, and playing in our studio. We also went prop shopping which was pretty darn dreamy. She’s more amazing than I had anticipated which was a lovely treat. We got along like a house on fire as they say. I love her and cannot wait to host her still life photography workshop. If you are at all interested in creating the most incredible images this workshop is for you. She’s so friendly, funny, and talented. We have limited spots, so check it out.

Still life Caravaggio style, created in the studio at La Fortezza by Ros, she is a master.

I just picked up our workshop chef, Philip and we literally stopped at my favorite shop on the way up to La Fortezza. Love this photo of him fresh off the plane stuffing his mouth with cheese and salami. Have you ever seen a happier guy?! He will be teaching everyone how to make pasta, and so much more this year. It is his second season, and now that he knows his way around the local food scene here, this year will be epic. Don’t forget to follow my stories and see what we are all up to as we launch the new La Fortezza Creative Workshop season.

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Come on summer!

xx

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March visit to Italy 2019:: A Quick trip

The sunset at La Fortezza is insane most nights

Ciao Guys! I made a quick trip to our place in Italy last couple weeks. I am finished with renovation, and now comes the fine tuning. Plus I needed to renew my residency which is the ultimate Italian experience. Renewing is much much easier than getting residency is.

I have loads of people ask me about residency. Honestly there are so many types of residencies and visitor visas available, and I am no expert. My advice if you’re seriously thinking about living in Italy is to head to the Italian Consulate and sort it out. You can start your research here in the US instead of trying it in Italy. My other advice is to start learning Italian, so when you have to do paperwork in Italy, you can understand what is needed and what to do. After all, if you’re planning to live in Italy you should speak the language as best you can. It is also great if you have an Italian friend willing to help you (or you can pay someone in Italy to help you with the process).

That process took up a day of my trip, but it was pretty seamless which was a relief. The one thing about Italian bureaucracy is that it is unpredictable. Sometimes it takes hours and hours, and sometimes it’s super efficient. My point is that when living in Italy, you must be patient and remember it’s not the US; things are done differently and going with the flow is a great idea.

I also started to get ready for our upcoming workshops this year. I did a little prop shopping with my stylist friend Barbara in Modena. She showed me some of her favorite places in Modena to grab props for photoshoots. Oddly the places she goes are not that different from the places I go to in Atlanta. We had and amazing leisurely lunch at her favorite restaurant in Modena Franceschetta 58

It was a lovely meal, and we talked about all sorts of subjects: styling, our upcoming collaboration at my Strictly Styling Workshop June 12-17th,¬† book writing and media and magazines in general. Barbara is a lovely friend, and I am so happy we found each other; she’s a beautiful person.

Barbara at our lunch date in Modena

Did you know that Modena had canals at one time? This building was on one of the main canals.

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I had the fabulous Betty Soldi come for lunch, too. We had an amazing time, and she wrote on my walls which was a highlight experience for me.

 

 

Forrest and I went to the Parma Antiques Fair as well. I found the perfect bench for our guest quarters, and a fantastic storage piece for my studio. Walking around the fair is so inspirational and fun. Forrest and I discussed possibly leading a shopping trip through Parma including the antiques fair next March. I posted the question on instagram and we got loads of yeses. Please add your yes on the IG post, if you’re interested.

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We had a great time at the Parma fair as always.

The best part of the trip was, of course, cooking at home and visiting with friends on the off season. The weather was great which allowed us all to enjoy the great outdoors.

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Our daughter brought a group of friends my last weekend in Italy. They are still there now. One of the best parts of owning this place it to be able to share it with family and friends which makes these paperwork infused trips worth every hour of time spent waiting and waiting. One of the highlights was watching spring appear on the property. It was magical.

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I will be back for the summer on May 16th. Until then more shoots, finishing my book, Italy is my Boyfriend, and more dreaming of Italy.

xx Annette

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