How I pack:: Workshop Wardrobe Essentials

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Happy Valentine’s Day! As our month of travel advice and tips continues, I’m sharing all of the things I *love* to pack to Italy. How apropos for today, right?!

I have rounded up the few wardrobe essentials you will need to pack for one of our creative workshops in Italy. I pack light, but I am all about comfort and mixing and matching. I always include comfy shoes, a little fashion and some really fun pieces as well. If you want to participate in yoga on the terrace, then a yoga top would be essential. I hope this helps you pack, so you will feel great while joining us this spring and summer in Italy.

To pack one carry on of clothes, which is what you should plan to do, the Away Bag is the way to go. Your camera equipment, if needed for the workshop, can be packed in your backpack along with your other carryon items (more on that soon!).

As far as clothing selections go, remember versatility is key. Sundresses that can double as bathing suit cover-ups and cropped jeans that you can wear more than once. For travel days, plan to wear leggings, sneakers (a MUST!), and a tee shirt on the plane, and plan to carry a shawl with you as well. Some folks, like me, like carrying-on their jacket, too. A denim jacket is perfect for layering and is a great choice.

Other items of note to consider:

  1. Dressy option for dinner on the terrace or dinner out. I love this breezy dress, and this sun dress for other dinners and outings.
  2. Don’t forget to pack practical shoes for walking like Converse or other sneakers.
  3. Rompers or shorts are good choices for workshop days. Jumpsuits made of light-weight material also make great choices for excursions.
  4. I love overalls, too. You can easily travel and work in these. Add a summery checkered shirt or a striped tee underneath.
  5. Wrap sweater for the cool summer nights on the terrace.
  6. A denim shirt and white slacks is a great, neutral combo for day or night. Just trade your sneakers for sandals.
  7. As for accessories, don’t forget chic sunglasses and a catch all bag for excursions and beach day. A small clutch can be used in your plane bag to store necessities, but double as an evening bag during the workshop.
  8. Finally, a bathing suit is a necessity in the summer!

This is not a sponsored post. All choices are my own, and I believe these examples are a wonderful starting point to assemble the perfect wardrobe for ultimate function and comfort during our workshops and retreats in Italy. Happy packing xx

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Grab your flights to Italy! Here’s how to get the best prices.

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I was talking to my web manager, Nicole, about Italy during a meeting last month. We were talking about the workshop website and talking about booking flights to Italy. She’s considering coming, but said she was shocked by pricing to Pisa. She told me that Delta was charging $3000 economy round trip. I almost spit out my espresso. I said, “No way, let me tell you how I fly.” She had never heard about half the airlines I use when I search for flights. I thought everyone knew about these airlines. Apparently not which prompted Nicole to say…

“Annette this would be a great blog post,” and I agreed. So I have written this post just for you! That way you can book your budget flights in and out of Pisa to attend my workshops. When I book flights to Italy, my only mission is to get to Italy and then figure out how to get to La Fortezza – sometimes from Milan, sometimes from Rome, and sometimes flying directly to Pisa from a European city like London or Frankfurt. I save money flying to Italy by looking at tickets online to various cities in Europe with several carriers picking the most affordable and shortest duration. Then I fly with local airlines into Pisa from where ever I land. Sometimes I even take a train to to La Fortezza directly if possible.

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Here are my top tips:

1. The main thing is to be flexible with dates to find the best offers. I use all the discount sites to check if there are any great flights I might catch. Kayak, Expedia, Travelocity and Cheapoair. I set up alerts with Airfare Watchdog.

2. Always check the “my dates are flexible” box. A big tip is that I do not look at flights until I am ready to buy them. I start looking 4 months before I travel overseas. Once I find a flight, I book it on the spot it if it’s cheap and mainly if the duration of the flight is not super long.

3. I always book tickets overseas from JFK airport in New York, not from Atlanta where we live. I use points when I can to book flights from Atlanta to JFK on Delta because most of the time, flights are regular and very affordable to JFK. Timing works because most flights overseas leave starting in the early evening into late night, so timing is great to coordinate.

4. I check all the major cities from JFK Airport. Think Amsterdam, Milan, Rome, London, Munich, Frankfurt and sometimes Zurich and Barcelona (I stay out of Paris at all costs; it’s a horrible airport although if it’s super cheap, I book it). I look at budget airlines like Condor, British Airways, Turkish Airlines Iberian Airlines and  Air Canada.

Here’s an example of selections from Air Canada from JFK to Milan June 2-11th , but other dates are available as well. You can see the difference flying out different days, so flexibility is very important.

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Here is an example of Travelocity’s listing from JFK to Milan. There are lots of choices, so make sure to look at flight duration on both legs…

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5. I travel light which means with a carry on. The truth is that you do not need a lot of clothing in the summer, and if you’re carrying camera equipment you should be good with 2 carry-on bags. Plus this is important if you’re flying with budget flights or taking a train.

6. Fly smaller, European budget airlines to reach Pisa. Once I have my flight to a major European city selected, I look for my European leg to Pisa with a European budget airline. I use Easy Jet, Ryanair, Transavia  and Alitalia  for the connecting European legs. For example if you fly into London, book EasyJet or Ryanair to Pisa airport.

Here’s an example of the choices on Easy Jet  from London to Pisa:

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8. Sign-up for alerts. If you’re on an alert system like Airfare Watchdog, you should be able to find flights from JFK to Pisa sometimes as cheap at 700 dollars. So it takes a bit of time, but the effort is worth it. Honestly, I rather enjoy it. Who doesn’t love a challenge?!

If you’re coming to one of our workshops in June or July you may want to start actively looking for your flights now. The key is to look at every option, and be open to travel routes, new airlines and flexible dates.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you loads of other travel content to help you plan your trip. June workshops and July’s artist in residence program will be here before we know it! Stay tuned for packing tips, plane essentials, layover must-dos and more! Have a safe flight xx

 

 

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Roberto’s Fresh Artichoke Salad from Cocktail Italiano

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It’s the last week of Juice January, so I’m giving it an incredible, celebratory send-off with this recipe from Cocktail Italiano.

When I found baby artichokes at Fresh Market in my neighborhood, I thought it was a fluke. Maybe a food stylist had special ordered them? But much to surprise they have appeared more regularly over the past few weeks this winter.

I had taken a photo and posted them on an Instagram story, and Nicole, my web manager, messaged me asking what they were. I told her they were baby artichokes. She asked what I was going to do with them, and I told her that I was going to make Roberto’s fresh artichoke salad, using the baby artichokes fresh. I explained that the recipe was in Cocktail Italiano and that she should try it. She suggested I put it here on the blog, so I listened to her, and here it is!

I had never eaten a raw artichoke until about twelve years ago—and, of course, it was in Italy.

We were visiting our best friends in Genova, Forrest and Roberto, chatting away in the kitchen, when Roberto (who’s actually an Italian Prince from the region of Savona on the Riviera) grabbed a few baby artichokes, and began running them under cold water. He patted them dry and quickly ran them through a mandolin, slicing them paper-thin. He put them in a bowl, and proceeded to douse them in Ligurian olive oil, added salt and a flourish of lemon juice, and finished it all off with shaved Parmesan. While Forrest poured a lovely chilled Verimentivo, we snacked on raw artichokes and sipped vino. For me, this was for me a whole new way of enjoying artichokes.

Let me know if you give this recipe a try. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

Here’s Roberto’s recipe for fresh artichoke salad. Tip: make sure that the artichokes are very fresh and tender.

Roberto’s Fresh Artichoke Salad
Serves 8

You will need:
– 2 pounds (about 20) tender baby artichokes Note: you may substitute the interior soft leaves and heart of larger artichokes, but do not use the tough outer leaves
– 2 lemons, halved
– 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons salt
– 2 ounces Parmesan

To prepare:

Trim away any tough outer leaves of the artichokes to expose their tender pale green interior. Using a knife with a serrated-blade, cut off the spiky top 1/3 of the artichokes. (Note: baby artichokes will not have the spikes.) Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer layers around the base and stem.

Using a mandolin, slice the artichokes paper-thin and transfer to medium bowl.

Squeeze the lemon halves over the artichokes, and toss with the oil. Sprinkle with salt, and use a potato peeler to shave the Parmesan over the salad. Serve in small bowls.

 

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2018 The year in highlights!

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Wow what a year 2018 has been! It marked the conclusion of the Italian renovation of La Fortezza which was a milestone indeed.

Our second season of the La Fortezza workshops were a huge success. We had the opportunity to delve into our region in Italy more deeply, and we welcomed 40 guests this year.

We also welcomed our new chef, Chef Philip Meeker, to our workshops. We cooked in the kitchen with Angie Moser, preserved, jarred and canned and cooked with Domenica Marchetti and enjoyed showing James Beard Award winning Chef Rebecca Wilcomb our region. We introduced Rebecca, Angie and Philip to some local slow food artisans and purveyors. We harvested our vineyard and pressed olive oil at the local press with students in tow. We seasoned our new pizza oven and cooked with all the local products with locals. We ate every single thing out of our kitchen garden. We hunted truffles and sampled our wine (non stop) it was amazing.

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Testaroli tasting

Testaroli tasting

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Truffle huntiing followed by a 4 course truffle lunch, left us stuffed and sleepy.

Truffle huntiing followed by a 4 course truffle lunch, left us stuffed and sleepy.

We had Steve McKenzie paint with our guests. Lucky for us, he will be returning in 2019 to stay for a month and paint a collection that will conclude in our first ever Art Exhibition at La Fortezza.

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It was a rewarding year, and with rewards naturally come some challenges. After all renovating a 12th century fortress in the Italian countryside can be bit daunting, but if you know me, you know I love a challenge. It’s great fodder for my next book, my third book, Italy is my Boyfriend.

Speaking of books, this was the year my passion project, Cocktail Italiano, was published in April. I was overwhelmed by the support and how much everyone loves the book. We’ve put it up for a Book Award, so keep your fingers crossed, and I will most definitely let you know if it wins. To all of you who came out to various book signings, know I loved meeting all of you, chatting about my favorite subject, Italy, and hearing all of your travels and impressions of my adopted country.

Me with Penny Randolph who illustrated my map

Me with Penny Randolph who illustrated my map

Me mixing up a Campari Shakerato from my book

Me mixing up a Campari Shakerato from my book

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Here’s to hoping that 2019 will be filled with new adventures, and new friends. I look forward to meeting all of you at our workshops, and of course, I am excited to send my 3rd book off to the publishers in the spring.

Happy and healthy new year to everyone, and big grazie to all that made 2018 a perfect year. Cheers to La Fortezza and many dinners and drinks on the terrace with all those we love.

xx Annette

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Easy Appetizer:: Salami Puffs

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The summer issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME had so many fantastic appetizers for throwing your own backyard Italian apperitivo party. We sipped on spritzes and noshed on nibbles like olives. Today, I’m sharing another fabulous recipe from the party: salami puffs.

This easy appetizer pulls together in no time. While I’m not necessarily a football gal, I know many of you are getting ready for tailgating. This would be the perfect addition. Think of it as pigs-in-a-blanket’s chic older sister…but better!

The recipe calls for cream cheese which is always a winner. Fun fact: in Italy, cream cheese is simply called “Philadelphia.”

Salami Puffs
serves 12

You will need:
– 12 slices Genova salami slices cut in half
– 1 sheet puff pastry
– ½ cup cream cheese

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Thaw the puff pastry, and unroll on a board covered in parchment paper. With
a rolling pin, roll the pastry into a 12-by-12-inch square. Then, spread the cream cheese on top of the puff pastry. Cut the pastry with a sharp knife into 3-by-3-inch squares. Place a salami half on top of each pastry square, then fold corners of the square together over the salami until they meet in the center, forming a small pouch. Place on a baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Serve at room temperature.

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