Cocktail Recipe:: Martini Royale Bianca

There is nothing like an icy cocktail on a spring day, and this Martini Royale Bianca is one of my favorites. You’ll love it!

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Martini factory. Some of you might know the brand as Martini and Rossi, but in Europe it’s simply known as Martini. The factory is beautiful. It’s built on the foundation of the original factory which was a mansion with a vast wine cellar that acted as the test lab for the original vermouth recipe. Talk about history!

One of the drinks we tried during the trip was the Martini Royale Bianca. Give it a try for yourself using my recipe below!

Martini Royale Bianca
serves 1
You will need:
– 1/2 squeezed lime
– 1 part  Martini white vermouth
– 1 part Martini prosecco

To prepare:
Pour ingredients over ice and garnish with a fresh lime wedge. Enjoy!

xx Annette

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My Friend Betty of Inkspired

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Recently I met someone I have been following on Instagram for years. She’s someone that I was introduced to by mutual friends when I did a book signing event a couple years ago in London at Summerhill & Bishop. Two of the designers at S&B were Italian and of course our conversation led to all things Italian.

They asked me if I knew Betty Soldi. “No,” I said. “Should I?” They both agreed we would love each other, and so that is where it all began. Last month I had Betty and our mutual friend, Sofie, from S&B over for lunch. They drove from Florence where they both live. Since meeting Sofie at S&B, she’s since moved to work for Betty in her business.

Betty wears many hats, so that’s one thing we had in common for sure. She’s a graphic design working for many brands, consulting on packaging and identity. Read about it here. She’s written a book called “Inkspired”  which is well worth buying if you’re interested in calligraphy and the art of writing. Plus she owns and runs three boutique hotels with her partner, Matteo Perduca. Adastra, SoprArno, and their newest hotel, Oltrarno Splendid  , and a restaurant, Regina Bistecca . So as you can see, she’s a very busy lady. She’s also a mom, which she regards as her most important job, to her 8 year old daughter, Alma.

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Our lunch was glorious. We have so much in common, and yes this is the start of a beautiful friendship. We talked for hours, and then toured La Fortezza on the most glorious afternoon which was topped off by Betty writing on the walls of our guest quarters. She will be back most certainly as we are plotting a creative retreat for 2020. Please head to her sites, and don’t forget to book one of her hotels next time you’re in Florence. Betty, I am a huge fan and friend, and I am so happy we met in real life.

 

I interviewed Betty, too. Read below for some insight to this adorable, talented creative creature:

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What is your favorite thing to do on your off time?

What is ‘off time’ ?! As I am a multi-faceted being, working on creative thinking projects, calligraphic commissions, design consultancy for packaging and branding, co-owner of 3 hotels for which I am the brand guardian as well as managing all the PR for them….my favourite escape time is to be with my 8 year old daughter Alma. She makes me laugh and continuously flabbergasts me with her truth, insights, wit and irony!

Who is someone you admire?

Let’s keep it in the family, my partner Matteo Perduca, a man of incredible depth, culture and curiosity has designed all the hotel interiors as well as his Regina Bistecca restaurant. This whilst also being a lawyer, and creating these projects as creative outlets and expressions of his being. The passion and personal involvement is palpable in all of the spaces. It just goes to show you can reinvent yourself at any stage of life, and I am in awe of his achievements.

If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead who would it be?

My younger or older self  – i would have quite a few things to say, and to learn from!

What is your favorite color combination?

A star-filled sky.
Grey & gold or grey & silver.
Darkness & light.

What is the biggest piece of advice you have for someone wanting to pursue and artistic career path.

Look inside, not outwards at what everyone else is doing. Yes travel, look at paintings, read.
But know that the stars, and a whole universe, is inside of you.

Name your favorite spot in Florence.

I have always dreamed of working in a living space, for me there is no difference or distinction between work and life – artistic beings never switch off, we are sensitive to, and inspired by, anything and everything. I have found my dream space for my studio – or rather the universe has manifested it and I have butterflies inside of me as well as all around this secret garden in the more artisanal and authentic Oltrarno area of Florence.
The adage is “you’ll believe it when you see it” but for me, I have seen it because i believed in it, very Galileo!

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Follow Betty on Instagram

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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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Meet the La Fortezza Wedding Team:: Philip Meeker

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The final member of the wedding dream team I’d like you to meet is our chef, Philip Meeker. Philip joined us for the first time last summer, and he was an amazing fit for our workshops and weddings at La Fortezza. Learn more about Philip in today’s interview!

Q: What is your culinary background/expertise?

A: My formal training is in classical French cuisine, but my first serious restaurant job was garde manger at a little Italian place. I learned to make pasta and tiramisu in the pastry kitchen, and I fell in love. I couldn’t believe how much better food tasted when it was made from scratch which I’d never really experienced before. From there I moved to Paris where I spent years studying the fundamentals of French cuisine, working in a two-star Michelin restaurant, baking bread in a traditional boulangerie, and learning how to properly handle and break down meat in an artisanal butchery. I moved to Atlanta in 2008 and spent several years in the restaurant industry making use of the amazing bounty of local vegetables, cheeses, meats, and grains. I’ve spent the last few years working as a private chef and food stylist which has allowed me to travel the world and deepen my knowledge of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.

Q: What is your role at La Fortezza? In what ways are you providing more than great food?

A: I get to nourish guests with all the wonderful foods from the garden, local farms, and shops in nearby villages. We often eat yogurt and cheeses from the dairy just across the river as part of our breakfast. I make sure to use local flours from the mill for everything that I bake. Having such fresh ingredients to work with is like being in heaven for me. And then I get to sit down with everybody and hear their reactions while we dine – what a treat!  My attitude towards cooking is pretty playful, so I like to think I add a sense of joy and lightheartedness to La Fortezza.

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Q: Why does La Fortezza make an inspiring backdrop for everything from photoshoots to weddings?

A: From the moment you set foot on the property you’re engulfed in beauty. There are mountains surrounding you, gentle breezes, chirping birds, olive orchards, and little villages with terracotta roofs dotting the landscape below. Then there’s the house itself: the ancient fortress that Annette has brought back to life. The vineyard is full of grapes and the cellar is full of wine pressed and brewed by the local winemaker. The garden is full of tomatoes, herbs, and delicate greens. Each season different trees bloom and fruit. I loved eating the persimmons growing outside my room last fall.

Q: Why should someone consider planning a trip to La Fortezza?

A: La Fortezza exposes you to a side of Italy that you wouldn’t be able to get if you spent your time with tour guides, and Annette has a particularly unique point of view given her 15 years in Italy. The location of La Fortezza is near so many delicious locations: Emilia-Romagna and the towns of Parma and Modena, Carerra with its marble and lardo, and Liguria with its own riviera full of focaccia and fresh seafood. Annette is familiar with all of these regions, and La Fortezza provides easy access to each of them.

Q: What is your favorite part of preparing meals for La Fortezza guests?

A: I love cooking for people – it feels like my life’s purpose. It’s great getting to chat with (and sometimes teach) the guests as I cook, showing them how to roll out pasta or prepare pesto. The kitchen is totally inspired as well, from the marble countertops to the Lacanche oven to the ancient farm table and sunsets outside the kitchen window.

Finish this sentence: I love Italy because people in Italy understand how to live well.

Q: What is one food/beverage/ingredient you couldn’t live without?

A: I couldn’t live without olive oil, especially when it’s sourced from local olive mills.

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Meet the La Fortezza Wedding Team:: Lisa Redgrave

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We’re continuing the excitement of our wedding page launch by introducing you to a few more members of the wedding dream team. Today, I’d like you to meet Lisa Redgrave of Hitched in Italy:

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

A: My family and I bought our home in Tuscany in 2004. I have huge affection for the region, so it was the natural choice to get married there 10 years ago. It was a small wedding, but I tackled the Italian Bureaucracy and planned it all myself. It went without a hitch. I thought if I could do it for myself, I could do it for others. That was the start of Hitched in Italy. I have since organized over 100 weddings: elopements, same sex ceremonies, Catholic, Jewish and Indian weddings. I’m proud to say I’ve done it all.

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

A: I’m the bride and groom’s “go to girl.”  I source suppliers suitable for the occasion. I keep a calm head in what can be a stressful environment. I maintain a level of cool when people are feeling far from cool, and I iron out the creases. Once all the planning is done and vendors are in place, I’m there to hold your hand and walk you through the most wonderful day of your life. I stay in the background on the wedding day, but you will feel reassured by my presence. I’m equally as happy adjusting your bouquet or getting you a cocktail. I have my eye on everything, and I’m thinking ahead. You’re safe in the knowledge that I will have already thought of ‘it’ and can fix ‘that’.

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

A: La Fortezza is an incredible venue, not only is the location staggeringly beautiful, the careful and thoughtful renovation and the styling of the property, and it’s private grounds are second to none.  Those who choose La Fortezza as their wedding venue will have a wedding day that will be truly unique.

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

A: The best pizza in the world, cocktails at sundown, endless sunshine, delicious regional wine, breathtaking scenery, rich culture, real coffee…need I go on? A destination wedding is far more than just a wedding day; it’s an opportunity to spend several days with your family and friends, drinking in the atmosphere and making lifelong memories.

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

A: After the cake is cut and everyone is dancing and the drinks are flowing, I get to sit back and watch everyone literally having the best day of their lives. There is no better feeling.

Q: What is your number one piece of advice for brides?
A: Keep cool! Having organized hundreds of weddings, I know that the brides who are most relaxed have the most fun. At La Fortezza your wedding will be planned and styled with the utmost care and attention. Leave the hard work to us and allow yourself to kick back and enjoy.

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