Her Dark Materials Workshop, 2019 recap

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Sometimes, one just has a girl crush, and with Instagram out there, it’s more likely that these crushes occur. That sentiment pretty much sums up my feelings towards Ros Atkinson, the woman behind the gorgeous Carravaggio still life styled images “Her Dark Materials” on Instagram.

The Dutch masters had nothing on Ros; in my opinion, she is the master. Although her work is very much in these styles, she very much has her own take with her images. They are simply spectacular. Having said all of this I said to myself, “Why not ask Ros (whom I’d never met in person) to come to La Fortezza for a weekend? Maybe she would agree to conduct a workshop.”

We hit it off immediately as she has a smart sense of humor, she’s cute, and we both wear Jo Malone perfume. A match made in heaven! I talked her into showing me how she constructs one of her very complicated layered still life sets. I was mesmerized.

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This October, she arrived a day early, and we immediately headed out to buy all the fruits, vegetables and things she would need to style with her students. We had a lovely meal with lots of wine and headed to bed. Wednesday, we prepped the studio and all the guest rooms for our group. Everyone arrived excited and elated to work with Ros for the next 4 days.

We had folks from all over the world including our first ever guest from India. Our days were spent with Ros in the lead. The weather even cooperated; we had several very dramatic days of fog and mist covering the fields around La Fortezza, and the vineyard was bright yellow against a gray sky. We tromped around the property all afternoon, and although it was damp and cool, we did not mind. We photographed food with Ros in the kitchen with Philip.

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We visited Parma and got lost in a maze near the city center. We toured Parma and dined the most amazing stuffed pasta, and fried dough with prosciutto and Parmesan cheese.

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It was a magical workshop, and Ros is the most divine inspiration and teacher. She shared all of her secrets, and everyone went away feeling creatively revived. The good news is that she will be back next year in September. Check the site and grab your spot we have limited spaces, and they usually go fast. Thank you Ros for a perfect workshop experience. My Instagram crush has turned into a beautiful real-life friendship with the most amazing and talented woman, love you Ros.

xx Annette

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Announcing 2020 Workshops and Retreats: run don’t walk to sign up!

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Run don’t walk to sign up for 2020 La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats. I feel like this year we have hit the sweet spot with our selections. Photography and styling are, as always, center stage, but we also have a great selection of workshops that highlight the unique part of Italy we call home. You’re going to love it.

Check the selection. I am sure there is something for you with us in Italy.

Click here to see the full descriptions. Keep in mind we have limited spaces, and private rooms are first-come, first-serve. I am so excited to head back to La Fortezza in May to prepare for these amazing experiences.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions, in the meantime, have a look below and grab a spot! See you in Italy x

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Our First Ever La Fortezza Antiques and Merchants of Italy Shopping Retreat

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Ciao Tutti! We had amazing whirlwind of a week with our first ever La Fortezza Antiques and Merchants of Italy Shopping Retreat. My co-leader Lisa Burnett of Inner Pieces Inc. could not have been a better partner in crime. We hosted 7 lovely ladies and toured them all over the Italian countryside, to shop and meet local artisans and vendors that I love. It was an insiders shopping tour that was both exciting and informative.

Every day there were new destinations and some surprises. We could not have asked for a more fun group of ladies. Even though they did not know each other before, I think some solid bonds were formed. We danced, drank, made pasta and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather on the terrace.

Of course, there was a pizza party where a few of our attendees tried their hand at making pizza in the pizza oven. We loved sharing information about how and why we choose certain props, discussed searching for antiques and loved shopping at my super secret locations. Lisa spent a couple of extra days, so we checked out some of her Italian vendors and hope to expand the shopping experience next year.

We will be conducting this retreat again in 2020 because it had such an overwhelming response when we posted it. Since we still have 50 people on the waitlist from last year, we have decided to do this retreat for 2 consecutive weeks in 2020. If you are interested in joining us and want first dibs sign up for the newsletter. We will be sending a private mailing to our list before the workshop goes public.

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grazie Lisa you’re simply the best! x

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We only have 6 spots available in each retreat, so this shopping retreat very limited. We have decided to vary the schedule in case some of you want to join us for both weeks. We have so much to show you. I cannot express how wonderful it is to meet like-minded shoppers, who share the love of beautiful things. As a prop stylist, I have to say sharing my resources with our groups gives me great joy. Thank you again to my most talented and lovely friend, Lisa. x Let’s shop ’til we drop in 2020.

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Preserving Italy Workshop:: the slow food experience

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We just wrapped up the Slow Food Experience workshop, and I must say it was a wonderful experience not only for our attendees but for me too. We visited food artisans in the area and sampled local food like panigacci and chestnut fritters, and with the help of my foodie friends, I think we represented the region of the Lunigiana proudly.

There are so many interesting and different local foods here. It’s so different, in fcct, that I am writing my next cookbook about it (keep your eyes peeled for the La Fortezza Cookbook, due out in 2021). It is a region rich in history and food history with many kitchens born out of need and lack of funds; the “poor kitchen,” or as they call it, “cucina povere” was creative and inspired.

We made pasta with Chef Philip using jarred tomato sauce, (passata) from our kitchen garden tomatoes. We made grape jam with my friend and slow food ambassador, Giovanna, and sampled bread from the local bread maker Fabio

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We enjoyed chestnut fritters with chestnut honey and dined on all the products from around the area breakfast lunch and dinner, and of course many aperitivos…

This workshop will be available next year. All workshops for 2020 will post in November. We would love for you to join us and sample all the local food products and meet all the lovely people that work so hard to preserve the traditions of this beautiful region.

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Thanks to all the attended and we really loved meeting your eating with all of you. See you next year.x

Some imagery is from our team photographer Kate Blohm

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Labor Day Cocktail:: Beer Americano

Italian Cocktails and food

With this weekend’s Labor Day holiday in the states, I thought everyone back home could use an easy, Italian-inspired beverage: the beer americano. This cocktail is perfect for the last blistering days of summer because it’s refreshing and fun.

It pairs perfectly with the salty goodness of potato chips and other cookout fare. Look for this and other amazing summer cocktails in my book Cocktail Italiano!

Beer Americano
Serves 1

You will need:
– 1 ½ ounces Campari
– 1 ½ ounces sweet vermouth
– 3 ounces lager beer
– lemon zest, for garnish

To prepare:

Combine Campari, vermouth and ices cubes in a tall tumbler, stir to combine. Pour the beer into another glass, stir to create a stiff foam, reserve the foam with a spoon top the cocktiail with the beer foam, about 3 ounces.

**Note: For a lighter Americano feel free to pour 2 ounces of the beer in to the cocktail as well. However, this should be done before you top the cocktail with the foam.

xx Annette

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