chestnut honey, mountain views, secrets things and places, and other sweet things about living in the Italian countryside

The only way to see Italy is with an Italian, or someone that has lived here for many years. We are still discovering secrets about Italy everyday.

As most of you know, Frank and I have lived in Italy now for over 15 years, enjoying our summers here with family and friends. You have also heard me say that Italy is like an onion. Most tourists only scratch the surface, so when reading all these travel guides, keep in mind the best stuff (just like the olive oil) is reserved for Italians.

The only way to see Italy is to see it with an Italian, or someone that has lived here for many years. We are still discovering secrets about Italy everyday. It’s actually one of the many things I love about Italians. Unlike Americans, Italians are not over-sharers. In Italy you have to earn trust, and then the world opens up to you like an exotic flower. The treasures here are endless, and the rewards of putting your time in will be the exquisite payback for your patience. Finally, right about now, I am starting to feel like I have a few Italian secrets of my own to share. It only took 25 years, LOL.

We lived on the Italian Riviera for 15 years, and now we are living the countryside in a very unknown region called Lunigiana. We live on 27 acres with a working vineyard and giant ancient fortress that has kept me on my toes for just about a year.

I will say country life agrees with me, and I can see growing older here watching the changing seasons in mountain range that is our view. The life is slower here, the people are authentic and friendly which is a big difference from living in a bustling vacation destination like Alassio where people only appear each summer.

People here stop by and drop off eggs from their chickens, chestnut honey from their bees, freshly jarred preserves from their fruit orchards, and olive oil from last fall’s harvest. It’s pretty much what I expected in my fantasies, but the reality is so much richer.

Everyone eats local here. Hell, we eat out of our garden: lettuce, eggplant, zucchinis and herbs. Tomatoes abound; they literally sprung out of the earth as soon as we planted them. We have sour cherries and figs, and our plum trees and grape vines are maturing as well. Unlike in the US, in the country here in Italy, it’s no big thing to eat off the land everyday. So yes, I love it. Milk comes from the cows and goats up the mountain, and beef comes from the steers down in the valley. You can smell the steers as you drive by the butcher/slaughter house everyday.

One of the things that surprised me was that when we lived in Alassio, there was so much pressure to dress in the latest fashion and look presentable everyday. I would never go out on the streets without the “right” look. Here it is easy, and the feeling of fashion pressure is gone. It’s more laid back and therefore much more livable. I have slowed down. Enjoying nature is something that is a daily routine. What’s in my closet is an after thought.

I will continue to write about my experiences here in the Italian countryside this summer.

As you know, I am in the middle writing a book of our story here in Italia.

Stay tuned for more updates, and for now I will relish all the gifts from my surroundings, the people that live here, and all the secrets Italy has to show me. The secrets I have patiently waited for.

ciao xx

Photo credit: Frank Joseph MD

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Dear Alassio

Dear Alassio,

It’s been an amazing 10 years in your charming Italian seaside town. Frank and I have enjoyed entertaining friends and making new friends. But basically enjoying a very Riviera lifestyle that is sunny and bright, and full of sand, salty waves, and chilly cocktails.


We loved showing our friends from the US how the Italians enjoy la dolce vita. We loved grabbing morning espresso and a sweet crispy brioche filled to the brim with warm apricot marmalade. We could not do without the salty, oily focaccia, and an abundance of fresh fish doused with local olive oil. The tender octopus and potato salad Ligurian style or the famous pesto slathered on trofie with tender green beans and potato. We will always love the charred and cheesy melted goodness of our local pizzeria.

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We will miss delving into the local crisp chilled white wines of the region, Verimentinos and Gavis. But mostly I will miss the seaside aperitivi everyday on the boardwalk. Where we consumed endless Aperol Spritz for years and noshed on potato chips and a variety of nibbles.

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Alassio, we loved hanging with you. You showed us how to slow down, enjoy nature’s beauty, and soak-in the abundance that is Italy. As we move to our next Italian chapter away from the sea and into the countryside, know that you will always be our first, and therefore have a special place in our hearts.

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We will be back to visit often; just know that we love you.


Annette and Frank xx




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our dream house by the sea is up for sale


For 10 years, we have owned our dream house by the sea. We live on the Italian Riviera in a small beach town named Alassio. It’s smack in the middle of the most northern coastline about an hour west of Genova. For years we have enjoyed the sun and the sandy beach (very unusual in Italy), and the Riviera lifestyle. It’s a heavenly place filled with family fun, great shopping, and a terrific array of great bars to enjoy aperitivo and wonderful and varied restaurants. It’s a place where families gather, and young people party in the clubs. Beach clubs line the seaside, and people just are generally in the vacation state of mind. I love it.

Recently, I decided that I would arrange styling workshops here. My first one was this month. Read about it here. With this in mind, my husband and I decided that we needed a house with a garden. Although we love our chic flat with a sea view, it’s time to make the move and buy a house. Once we have a house, we can conduct workshops, cooking courses, creative retreats, and of course spend more time here in our adopted country. We have put our flat on the market with a twinge of nostalgia because it’s been so amazing here.

But life is an adventure, and if you know me, I am always up for the challenge.

Villa Fiske

Check out or flat here, and email me if you have any questions about it here in our little piece of heaven. It’s my fantasy that an American, someone I know would buy our flat. That way we would keep it in the family, and they would have an instant introduction to the Italian lifestyle. What do you say? Are you up for the challenge?

Get the full tour of the house here.

Photo Credit : me and Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

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