How I fly:: My carry on essentials

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I have had many people ask me about how I travel since I spend lots of time traveling overseas. After many years, I think I have it down. Having your products and snacks all sussed and organized makes travel easier and more comfortable. If you make the effort before you fly, it will pay off, believe me.

In order to have a great trip, it all starts with what you put in your carry on for the plane (not the one you put overhead with your clothes). I have serious opinions about how to put a carry on together.

For many years I carried a big carry on bag – a shoulder bag. It was a bag big enough for my computer to fit in. My shoulder nearly broke by the time I got to my destination. Why did I do it? Well for fashion, of course!

I travel with loads of photographers, as you can imagine, and they all carry backpacks…not chic. But over the years, and after tons of travel and a little prodding, I finally broke down and became unfashionable (in my mind, anyway) and started carrying a backpack. Let me tell you it’s a revelation. Why did I wait so long?! Now I carry a bag from The North Face which can fit all of my carry on essentials.

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What’s in my backpack?

1. The must-haves: my computer, my iPhone, my Passport, Vivi’s passport (yes she has one), wallet, water bottle, sunglasses, a scarf to wrap up in in case it’s cold, and sanitizing wipes. I wipe down the entire seat, back of the seat in front of me, arm rests, table and monitor. Yep I am that person. If there’s a remote, I wipe that too and the seat belt as well. I also always have noise canceling headphones. I like Beats.

All cameras and essential equipment should also go into your backpack. Non-essentials can go into your luggage, like portable hard drives, flash drives, converters and extra batteries.

2. Toiletries Pouch – I use one from Mochithings. What’s in the pouch? Tooth brush, tooth paste, travel size mouth wash, floss, hand sanitizer, Kiehls lip balm #1 Jurlique moisture replenishing day cream, sample size Aveeno body lotion, Evian facial spray, Susanne Kaufmanm moisturizing spray, spare contact lenses, spare glasses, band-aids, an eye mask to sleep, under eye masks, and lavender facial wipes from goop

3. Cable Pouch – I use one from Mochithings. In it, I store all chargers, cables and converters.

4. Snacks Pouch – I love to bring my own food. I always bring my dinner on the overseas leg. It’s usually sushi, an amazing sandwich or salad and crackers, dark chocolate, my own peanut butter, (usually Justin’s small pouches; they’re great on crackers for breakfast), and a chocolate chip Cliffbar. Airline food is the worst, so I make sure to bring plenty of snacks.

Why all the pouches? It just makes everything easy to pull from your backpack and place in the seat pocket in front of you. That way, you’re efficiently putting your seat together with all of your comfort things. I love the idea that everything is organized and at your fingertips. I like everything streamlined, and in it’s place, and traveling is no different. If you have everything in a pouch, you will most likely never leave or forget anything.

5. Most important is that I have all my documents in my favorite passport holder. Lodis makes it and I have used it for 15 years. I like the bright color because it’s easy to see in your backpack, plus it fits perfectly in the front pocket of the backpack I use for easy access.

The main thing about traveling with ease is organization, and that involves a bit of thought about what you need and what will make you feel comfortable. Travel can be challenging, so ease is essential.

xx Annette

 

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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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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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Atlanta Magazine’s Home, Holiday Entertaining with Hudson|Grace 2018

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As you all know, I take great pleasure in my role working for Atlanta Magazine’s Home as the entertaining editor. This creative endeavor is always filled with great food, fun hosts and interesting guests, but mainly it gives me the opportunity to shine a light on folks I love in Atlanta and places that are worth paying a visit.

I try very hard to pick hosts that have a point of view on entertaining, food cocktails or a particular expertise at throwing parties. The holiday entertaining feature is one of my favorites to produce since it celebrates the period from Thanksgiving to the New Year. This year our hosts were the co-founders of one of the best of the best specialty stores in Atlanta on the Westside, Hudson | Grace.

The store is located at Westside Provisions and has everything from great hostess gifts to all the accessories you would need to host the perfect party. Monelle and her business partner Gary have pitch perfect taste. As you can imagine ,it was a breeze producing this soiree. Have look at the beautiful party we celebrated together in the winter issue. Pick up a copy on newsstands now!

xx Annette

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Last of the La Fortezza Workshops, end of the season

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I must admit the last 2 workshops in October were amazing. The first workshop was a private group. All I can say is that it was the most amazing group of friends. It was comprised of four ladies that really supported each other and enjoyed each other’s company. I have never seen anything like it.

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Philip and Suzanne prepared a pizza lunch for the group.

We tried a new chef, Philip Meeker, a classically trained chef with tons of restaurant and teaching experience. He was a fantastic addition to the La Fortezza workshop team. He was genuinely enthusiastic about our garden and local vendors like the dairy and the various butcher shops. He loved shopping at the Tuesday local market in the square in Fivizzano, and he became quite the local celebrity as he speaks great Italian and is quite charming, not to mention easy on the eyes.

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His food was absolutely delicious, creative and seasonal. His high regard for great ingredients is exactly what we look for in the meals we serve at La Fortezza – high quality, beautiful and delicious.

Our private group’s organizer, Suzanne Vizethann , is the Executive Chef and Owner of Buttermilk Kitchen. She brought all her best friends with her, and we had an amazing time touring Modena with my sweet friend and stylist/editor Barbara Pederzini. She even gave us the VIP tour of her hometown. As an aside, Barbara will be joining me next year for a couple days to teach the Italian side of styling during my Strictly Styling Workshop 2019; we have lots of surprises up our sleeves, so stay tuned.

We stopped for a bit of power shooppingat Oro Nero a custom design shop in Modena

We stopped for a bit of power shopping at Oro Nero a custom design shop in Modena

We began the workshop with Suzanne’s group with truffle hunting. It was a gorgeous morning trekking through the forest.

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.

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Suzanne treated all of us to her Nonna’s sauce and meatballs at our Sunday supper. Philip rounded out the meal with amazing handmade pasta noodles along with sides and dessert. Private workshops have been very exciting and so fulfilling.T hanks to Katie, Janie and Kristy for joining the adventure and making the dance party so fun.

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For our final workshop of the year, Angie Mosier brought an amazing group of photographers to La Fortezza. We had a wonderful time touring and photographing. Angie is a gifted teacher, and she brought so much energy and expertise to her workshop. Chef Rebecca Wilcomb joined her friend Angie, and we all visited local food purveyors and introduced Philip, Angie and Rebecca to local fare, like panigacci and testoroli. My Italian girlfriends, helped introduce them to all things local in food stuffs. Thanks to Giovanna, local food ambassador, and Federica of China Clementi. We had professional barman Simone join us one night to create cocktails with China Clementi a locally produced Amaro, created in Fivizzano by the family.

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Panigacci made the traditional way on the open fire.

Testaroli being made

Testaroli being made

Me with Giovanna

Me with Giovanna

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Testaroli

Testaroli

Testaroli tasting

Testaroli tasting

We toured the China Clementi Amaro factory earlier in the day, so it was such fun to do a cocktail tasting later that evening for aperitivo with Angie’s group.

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Philip was enamored with our outdoor pizza oven (il forno). He and Rebecca opted to cook a few of our meals in it as well as a pizza lunch for our attendees. It was really an honor to have Rebecca cook in our kitchen, and she and Philip had a blast using fresh local ingredients. Phillip taught handmade pasta to many of our attendees. His charm and ease in the kitchen made him an instant hit with our guests. He’ll be back next year in June to create more exciting meals in our kitchen.

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Roasted in the forno

Roasted in the forno

Wrapping up the workshops with such great people was so rewarding, I am back in the US for a few months. I’ll be on book tour and of course producing a few editorial stories. I will be back to Italy next year. A heartfelt thanks to all who attended. I loved meeting you all and showing you my Italy.

xx Annette

 

 

 

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