From Her Perspective:: Alexandra Korey, ArtTrav

Alexandra Korey in Florence – Photo by Christine Juette

Alexandra Korey runs a successful travel blog, ArtTrav. There, Alexandra reviews temporary exhibitions, wineries, museums and luxury hotel experiences.

A few months ago, Alexandra interviewed me about Italy is My Boyfriend for The Florentine. She had such great insight, I asked her to contribute a little something about the state of tourism in Italy for the blog. Below, she shares her insights and offers us a way to escape to Italy without leaving the comforts of home.

What does tourism look like in popular destinations in Italy so far this summer?

Summer 2020 has been a constant evolution, and as we make our way towards August, tourist destinations seem to be seeing greater numbers, and people seem to be becoming more confident about going outdoors and traveling.

What I have seen is that beach destinations here in Tuscany quickly have become rather crowded, and although regulations have been put into place for greater distance between “ombrelloni” at the bathing establishments, these spaces look and feel almost as full as usual, and masks (which are currently obligatory indoors, and outdoors only where distance cannot be maintained) are few and far between. Although all studies show that keeping a distance outdoors is much safer. The numbers remain low, so safe to say there is less infection floating around. So some things can get back to almost like normal. Like at the seaside.

Friends who have visited Venice and Rome have commented that they are pleasantly empty. Florence feels quiet and in my opinion quite pleasant. Tourists can easily be spotted; there’s a few with maps or speaking another European language, and you look at them and think “Hello tourist! You must be so happy here. Welcome!”. I don’t know what it feels like for them, but I think it must be marvelous.

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On Florence’s main shopping streets between the Duomo and Piazza Signoria, there are people walking but never as many as before, and there’s an absence of a loud buzz that I never really realized was there before, but now that I do, I realize it was one of the things that made the centro storico a stressful experience for me. I wrote about overtourism on The Florentine a few years back, and comparing the photos I took for that article to ones I took last week, it’s a whole other story. Tourism was a big problem. Groups, on a set route, not bringing value to the city. What I pray for is a shift to a kind of tourism that brings real value, both to businesses and to travelers.

What are some experiences that Americans can look into for the future, that they might not have thought about before? For example, I saw your post on your website about visiting (and even staying) at wine resorts.

I’m a big fan of wine resorts, which I have lately billed as the perfect post-COVID experience. These wineries offer a type of experience that tends to appeal to independent travelers, and by their very nature, they have a ton of space. From May through October, wineries and wine resorts offer mostly outdoor hospitality that represents some of the best parts of our culture – products of the earth, presented by locals. That’s authentic!

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If cities remain less crowded, what I hope is that people will stay longer and travel deeper. And also explore beyond the usual cities and regions. I’ve got my eyes on Abruzzo for example, somewhere I’ve never really thought of visiting. During the lockdown, I interviewed Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun about her newly released book, Always Italy, in which she travels to all 20 regions. She suggests we discover lesser-known centres, regions we’d never considered. Many have artistic, cultural, and enogastronomical treasures just waiting for you to discover.

How are some of the museums in Florence adapting to social distancing? Are any museums offering virtual tours?

Museums, as inside spaces, follow social distancing and mask-wearing laws. The museums in Florence have been slowly reopening, with special, limited hours and online booking is mandatory. A free app offered by Mibact, the ministry for culture, can be used to buzz when you’re too close to other people (like when you’re gazing in awe at a work of art). I’m not sure if everyone is using it, though I think they ought to!

The Uffizi has really ramped up its digital content during lockdown and continues to create new material on a daily basis, on social media (including tik tok, an account they recently opened and are totally killing it!) and for their website, which they claim is receiving record viewership. Few museums have the forethought and budget to produce digital content like the Uffizi, so this is the one that stands out the most. Palazzo Strozzi has also produced a regular deep-content newsletter and videos with artists from the current and recent exhibitions, and some smaller museums have put one or two online exhibitions up.

How can we, as Americans and other non-EU residents, “visit” Italy this summer without leaving our homes?

Good question! There are lots of ways you can visit “virtually” and keep your love of Italy alive.

  • Museums: as above, check out what the Uffizi and other museums are doing
  • Travel through Instagram / follow Italy-based bloggers (I’m at @arttrav if you’re interested!)
  • Wine: many wineries are offering virtual tastings that you can complement with a box ordered from them. It supports their business and keeps you closer!
  • Food / Italian cookbooks are the perfect complement to food either ordered online – some specialties from Italy – or purchased locally, maybe at Eataly or if you have a “little Italy” in your area you might have access to small-scale-sourced Italian foods. Some tour operators are offering Italian food tours or cooking classes online.

Thank you for your insight, Alexandra! After looking at Alexandra’s suggestions for cooking classes and virtual offerings, I found a few great resources for you to check-out:

Portrait of Alexandra by Christine Juette.

Other photos via Alexandra Korey for ArtTrav.

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Ode from our Intern:: Meet Adri!

Ciao a tutt*,

My name’s Adri Tan, and I was this year’s summer intern at La Fortezza. I just graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in Computer Science and Italian Studies in May, and I found the La Fortezza internship to be the perfect transition from school to work. After having studied in Bologna last year, I was looking forward to immersing myself in the language once again, and my summer in the historic territory of Lunigiana definitely gave me the opportunity to exercise my conversational fluency.

My daily tasks included helping our chef, Phillip Meeker, prepare meals for guests during workshops, taking care of the outdoor plants, and figuring out the odds and ends to make everything run smoothly at La Fortezza. Beyond that, my fondest memories were my translation work for Annette as well as our artist in residence, Steve McKenzie, and getting to know some of the locals that live their quiet lives in this beautiful countryside.

As a photographer, I always have my camera on me, and I’d like to share a few of the photos of the experiences I had and the people I met:

Agriturismo Cà Vidè

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In a small village of Caprognano, situated in the mountains of Tuscany, two sisters Francesca and Sara operate a restaurant called Agriturismo Cà Vidè. Their family has been the sole occupants of this quiet village since the 1700s, and the sisters manage not only the restaurant but also the production of olive oil and wine. During my time in Fivizzano, I went to Cà Vidè for both lunch as well as dinner, and their corn-based focaccia is so incredible that I almost ate the whole bag while waiting for the main courses.

The China Clementi Factory

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During the second week in June, we went on a tour to the China (pronounced key-nah) Clementi factory, owned by the Clementi family that also owns the oldest pharmacy in the town of Fivizzano. Annette’s friend, Federica, gave us a wonderful tour through the factory and explained the painstaking process of maturation of the digestif.

I helped a bit with translating the tour for the rest of the workshop guests, and we learned a lot about how carefully monitored and balanced the drums are to produce a consistent flavor that truly speaks to the artisanal history of the liquor. As a small portion of each batch is left in the drums, each bottle of China Clementi is augmented by the remnants of dozens of years of maturation. We ended the tour with a cocktail of China Clementi and pomegranate juice, which I very much enjoyed as someone who loves bitter tastes.

Hiking in the Apuan Alps

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Last but not least, I drove to Equi Terme on a free day to go on an ~8km hike in the Apuan Alps. The Equi Gorge, where I started the hike, is known for its unusual landscape as a narrow valley incision that comes from the glacier and river modelling processes in the in the quaternary period. It has a unique geological makeup of marble, cavernous limestone, moraine deposits, and more. In particular, I came across a marble quarry adjacent to my trail and later heard some explosions from the site as they were working.

In Italy, all trails are marked with red, white, and red stripes, and I made the mistake of wearing shorts as the trails are certainly not as well-maintained as those in the US. Upon meeting an older Italian couple a bit into my hike, I was reprimanded for my outfit choice and was then advised to wear long pants next time I go hiking in Italy. We all got a bit lost going up the mountains but figured out how to get back on the trail. The trail passes through a beautifully-reconstructed village called Ugliancaldo that is home to only 18 inhabitants according to the most recent census, and ended in a loop back to Equi Terme. Before heading back and concluding my successful day trip, I cooled off in the Equi Terme streams while having lunch.

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Thanks Annette for this opportunity! Starting a new chapter of my life in Brooklyn will certainly be a change of pace compared to my two months living at La Fortezza, but I’m grateful for this Italian summer of incredible food and new experiences.

Non vedo l’ora di tornare!

Adri Tan
IG: @atangerinee
https://www.adriannatanphotography.com

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Meet the La Fortezza Wedding Team:: Kim Cheney

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Today I’m introducing you to our talented stateside wedding liaison, Kim Cheney of August Floral and Event Design.

As we launch weddings at La Fortezza, I thought it was important for you to meet the amazing team that will be carrying out all of the details. Here’s a little bit more about Kim:

I can’t remember exactly where Kim and I met; I think I approached her at a restaurant many years ago in Atlanta. She had a great fashion flair, and I knew she owned a very stylish vintage home store at the time. I felt compelled to know her. I was working with the Michael C. Carlos Museum on an event and needed artisans to design table-scapes for an event. I think I said something like, “You’re an artist.” Kim has always been very humble, and I think she was a little surprised by my straight forwardness, or maybe she thought I was crazy. Whatever the case, she looked up at me and said, “NO”, I said “YES! You need to design a table for us.”

She agreed maybe because she was a little scared of me. I would like to think she was just up for a challenge. The important part is that she agreed, and she did an amazing job. I hired Kim to design and install another huge event for me, and the rest is as they say is history. It was a new friendship and a new passion that would turn into an incredible business. I like to think I had a little something to do with her path. But mostly, Kim is one of the most visionary and talented hard working boss ladies I know. I am honored to call her a friend, and thrilled she’s agreed to help us with our weddings at La Fortezza. She is the best of the best. That’s the truth. I trust her implicitly. I am beyond thrilled to have her working with us. Get to know her below. x

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Q: What is your wedding expertise? How long have you been a part of the wedding industry?

A:  I have been part of the industry for 11 years. I started in Atlanta as the floral director for 2 large design companies. In the spring of 2015, I moved to Savannah and opened August. I am a member of Chapel Designers. I have built a studio on my property where I live with my husband Dale and my giant Goldendoodle, Grits.

Q: What is your role when it comes to weddings at La Fortezza?

A: We are primarily a floral design company, but I hope to lend support to the wedding planner with design aspects of the event. Whether that be linens, place settings, paper products or ensuring the entire party is cohesive is crucial to a successful design.

Q: Why does La Fortezza make an exquisite wedding venue?

A:  The fortress is stunning! It has several fantastic spots to have the vow exchange…including an on-property vineyard!  Being in the mountainous region provides breathtaking views and awe inspiring sunsets. The effortless elegance of the property lends itself to boho, adventurous couples. The layout of the property allows for guests to stay and eat and drink and celebrate in one spot. It has a charming little “downtown” area and is close to the west shore of Italy where attendees can venture out for day trips.

Q: Why should someone consider planning an Italian destination wedding?

A: If the couple enjoys adventure and travel and the size of their wedding guest list is on the smaller side, Italy is perfect. Italy is wildly romantic! The food is AMAZING! And lastly I believe that travel is important in this day and age. I think it opens the mind to new people, experiences and culture diversity that is transformative.

Q: What is your favorite part of a wedding day?

A: I love when the couple first lays eyes on the designed space. I always make sure I am there to help walk them into the reception. They are at their happiest because they have just been married and now it is time to have fun!

Q: How do flowers set the tone for a wedding?

A: Flowers can be very emotional for people. They are the living element of the design. They can elevate anything! They soften hard surfaces; they provide a focal point, and their beauty adds to the importance of the day.

Q: What is your number one piece of advice for brides?

A: Trust the professionals you have hired! They are there to relieve all the stress of the day, so you can focus on the  most important part…sharing the love of your life partner with those closest to you.

If your dream is to have your wedding in Italy, I’d love to hear from you. Email me directly at annette@annettejosephstyle.com for more information!

xx Annette

Photos by Pictory Productions

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Meet the AJS Workshop Team:: Anne Sage

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We’re getting closer and closer to our Italian workshop, and I for one can’t wait. In the spirit of the workshop, today I’m introducing you to talented Anne Sage. Anne is our social media expert for our Italian workshop, and beyond her social expertise, she’s the blogger behind Anne Sage and the author behind Sage Living. You can even find my own home in her book. Learn more about awesome Anne below!

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself:

A: Your full name? Anne Elizabeth Sage
Where are you from? Grew up in Toronto but now live in LA.
What do you do for a living? A little bit of everything! I write a lifestyle blog at annesage.com as well as manage all the related social media platforms; I do props and interiors styling for photo shoots; and I wrote an interior design book called Sage Living that was released last fall.

Q: What is your role on the AJS Workshop Team?
A: I’m the resident social media expert; I’ll be giving a presentation on social media best practices, and I’ll be on-hand throughout to offer guidance on all things Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and blogging!

Q: Tell us about your background.
A: I have a degree in English from Stanford University and moved to New York City where I worked in brand strategy after college. While in New York I started my blog as a creative outlet, never expecting that it would become my full time job! In the years since, I’ve also co-founded an online lifestyle publication (Rue Magazine) as well as honed my interiors, photography, writing, and related editorial and content creation skills.

Q: Describe your expertise for the workshops.
A: The world of social media can be a tricky one to navigate! From growing a following and managing various platforms to engaging authentically with an audience, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I love to share my 8 years of experience in the constantly evolving world of online content — including the tips, tricks, and habits for the most effective use of the valuable and fun tools social media has to offer!

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Q: What do you enjoy most about being a part of the AJS Workshop Team (or if this is your first experience, what are you most looking forward to?)
A: There is
always something to learn! We get to explore a new culture through Annette’s expert eyes, benefit from the knowledge of the other workshop experts, and get to know each other on a personal level too. Last year I went home with my brain — and my heart — racing on overdrive!

Q: What is one app (business related or not) you absolutely cannot live without?
A: I use the VSCO photo editing app several times a day — both to process my iPhone photos for Instagram, but also to add an extra dimension to the Canon photos I shoot for my blog. It’s an essential for sure!

Q: Where is your favorite place to travel?
A: I have a big soft spot for the Mediterranean! I spent a summer in Nice as a teenager and completely fell for the area. And of course Annette’s workshops have deepened my love of the region tenfold!

Q: What is one travel destination you hope to cross off your bucket list?
A: I’ve never been to Mexico and I’m dying to go. Mexico City for the culture and Tulum for the beaches sounds like a dream!

Q: What is your favorite part of exploring new destination?
A: I love to get up early and go for a walk, grab breakfast, and be amongst the locals as they start their day.

Q: What is one travel essential you’re sure to pack on every trip?
A: I never leave home without a big scarf for the plane, a bag of nuts for emergency snacking situations, and a jar of
Kimberly Parry Organics Facial Balm, which cures all manner of travel related skin problems!

Q: Just for fun (and in true Annette style), what is your go-to cocktail?
A: I’m not a huge drinker — I don’t think I’ve ever finished a whole cocktail by myself! — but I’m definitely excited to take a little sip of Annette’s Aperol Spritz this year!

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photos: Annette Joseph & Anne Sage

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For Your Style I’d Walk a Mile with Anna Walker-Skillman


Today we have the lovely and stylish Anna Walker-Skillman. Anna owns one of my favorite galleries in Atlanta: Jackson Fine Art. She has been a loyal and active participant in the arts community for the last 12 years. In 1993, Anna moved to Atlanta to manage the studio of famed Atlanta artist Todd Murphy. After working with Mr. Murphy to establish his career for five years, Anna turned to photography and joined Jackson Fine Art in 1998. In March of 2003, she purchased Jackson Fine Art from Jane Jackson who became curator of the prestigious and renowned collection of Sir Elton John. As the gallery director and co-curator for the past five and half years, she is honored to have the opportunity to continue a reputation of excellence in exhibiting photography by both emerging and established artists. With a focus on a blend of 20th century and contemporary work, she promises to continue her commitment to Atlanta to educate collectors and art enthusiast as well as exhibit and support leading photographers locally, nationally and internationally. Ms. Walker resides in Decatur with her husband, Ben, and two children. Take it away, Anna!

1.Who would you want to play you in a movie?
Michelle Williams

2.I wish I could…
Live a year in Paris

3.My first style memory is…
my grandmother, Fanny Bird Jones, a socialite of Atlanta blindfolding me at Christmas to take me into Saks Fifth Ave to try on dresses for my Christmas present. Little did she know you could see under the blindfold!

4.I could not live with out my….
family

5.I could live without…
my email

a photo that inspires you:


I am drawn to Natalie’s unique style and simplicity that appears effortless. She is a classic beauty. It was as if Steve captured her almost as an angel forecasting that her heaven’s fate. She is stunning and translucent.

photograph: Natalie Wood New York 1963 by Steve Schapiro courtesy of Jackson Fine Art

Jackson Fine Art is located at 3115 East Shadowlawn Ave in Buckhead.

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