July Recap:: Lots of things and offerings

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Ciao All! I hope you are all well and staying safe. I wanted to update all of you about happenings in July. There are lots of things and offerings to discuss…

Offerings: La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats Update

The reality of Italy banning Americans caused us to postpone our SOLD OUT workshops. All of our attendees could not have been more understanding, and for that we are truly grateful. We will have a great time in 2021; I am optimistic about that! As a result of the workshops’ success, we added an extra week with each of these sold out instructors. First, the wonderful and talented stylist, and photographer, Ros Atkinson of “her dark materials”, and then the iconic photographer and incredible instructor Bill Abranowicz. Both will be with us an extra week to conduct workshops. Since their workshops sold out so quickly and had so many inquiries, we decided that we would add another opportunity for everyone to experience these amazing workshops. Check the 2021 La Fortezza Workshop Schedule. It’s really going to be lots of fun.

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Things: New Construction at La Fortezza—our swimming pool

We are finally finishing up the construction of the swimming pool at La Fortezza. It will take a few months to shape it up to get it ready for our guests next year. I am excited to welcome everyone to our pool area next year with Aperol Spritzes under the pergola.

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Things: COOK Corriere 50 Influential Women in Food

I was super honored this month to be included in Italy’s number 1 food publication. COOK- Corriere della Sera. It is the national newspaper’s foodie special interest publication. I was one of the 50 Influential Women in Food celebrated on the cover and inside. I loved the wonderful illustration. Super fun and very humbling. It was a surprise which made it all the more special. The women featured are impressive. They are women I admire, and I even work with some of them, so you can imagine how pleased I was to be included. Definitely a bucket list goal achieved. I will be participating in a virtual food conference with COOK in the fall, too. Stay tuned for more details as we get closer.

 

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Offerings: Italy is My Boyfriend is NOW available in an audio version

July has had lots of surprises. My memoir, Italy is My Boyfriend, came out this month on Audible on Amazon. No, I did not narrate it, as some of you have asked. I wouldn’t have done as well as Devon Sorvari, a trained actress, does. It’s the perfect download for your road trips this summer.

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Things: La Fortezza Cookbook update

I am continuing to work on my upcoming cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook (Rizzoli NY).
I have been writing and testing recipes all year. I will be shooting it with David Loftus, an English Photographer. He also happens to be Jamie Oliver’s Photographer. I will have an Italian chef and styling team, but it will be a small team considering the times. I am excited to start photographing it. I leave soon to begin the shoot! As a side note, some of you may wonder how I can enter as an American. Because we own a home in Italy, I am an Italian resident, and I live there most of the year. Most likely, I will not be back stateside for some time.

Lastly, I am so sorry that no one from the US is able to join us in Italy this year, but this too will pass. Please wear a mask, stay distant and wash your hands. Let’s squash this thing. We are all in this together. One World, one cause.

xx Annette

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From Her Perspective:: Alexandra Korey, ArtTrav

Alexandra Korey in Florence – Photo by Christine Juette

Alexandra Korey runs a successful travel blog, ArtTrav. There, Alexandra reviews temporary exhibitions, wineries, museums and luxury hotel experiences.

A few months ago, Alexandra interviewed me about Italy is My Boyfriend for The Florentine. She had such great insight, I asked her to contribute a little something about the state of tourism in Italy for the blog. Below, she shares her insights and offers us a way to escape to Italy without leaving the comforts of home.

What does tourism look like in popular destinations in Italy so far this summer?

Summer 2020 has been a constant evolution, and as we make our way towards August, tourist destinations seem to be seeing greater numbers, and people seem to be becoming more confident about going outdoors and traveling.

What I have seen is that beach destinations here in Tuscany quickly have become rather crowded, and although regulations have been put into place for greater distance between “ombrelloni” at the bathing establishments, these spaces look and feel almost as full as usual, and masks (which are currently obligatory indoors, and outdoors only where distance cannot be maintained) are few and far between. Although all studies show that keeping a distance outdoors is much safer. The numbers remain low, so safe to say there is less infection floating around. So some things can get back to almost like normal. Like at the seaside.

Friends who have visited Venice and Rome have commented that they are pleasantly empty. Florence feels quiet and in my opinion quite pleasant. Tourists can easily be spotted; there’s a few with maps or speaking another European language, and you look at them and think “Hello tourist! You must be so happy here. Welcome!”. I don’t know what it feels like for them, but I think it must be marvelous.

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On Florence’s main shopping streets between the Duomo and Piazza Signoria, there are people walking but never as many as before, and there’s an absence of a loud buzz that I never really realized was there before, but now that I do, I realize it was one of the things that made the centro storico a stressful experience for me. I wrote about overtourism on The Florentine a few years back, and comparing the photos I took for that article to ones I took last week, it’s a whole other story. Tourism was a big problem. Groups, on a set route, not bringing value to the city. What I pray for is a shift to a kind of tourism that brings real value, both to businesses and to travelers.

What are some experiences that Americans can look into for the future, that they might not have thought about before? For example, I saw your post on your website about visiting (and even staying) at wine resorts.

I’m a big fan of wine resorts, which I have lately billed as the perfect post-COVID experience. These wineries offer a type of experience that tends to appeal to independent travelers, and by their very nature, they have a ton of space. From May through October, wineries and wine resorts offer mostly outdoor hospitality that represents some of the best parts of our culture – products of the earth, presented by locals. That’s authentic!

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If cities remain less crowded, what I hope is that people will stay longer and travel deeper. And also explore beyond the usual cities and regions. I’ve got my eyes on Abruzzo for example, somewhere I’ve never really thought of visiting. During the lockdown, I interviewed Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun about her newly released book, Always Italy, in which she travels to all 20 regions. She suggests we discover lesser-known centres, regions we’d never considered. Many have artistic, cultural, and enogastronomical treasures just waiting for you to discover.

How are some of the museums in Florence adapting to social distancing? Are any museums offering virtual tours?

Museums, as inside spaces, follow social distancing and mask-wearing laws. The museums in Florence have been slowly reopening, with special, limited hours and online booking is mandatory. A free app offered by Mibact, the ministry for culture, can be used to buzz when you’re too close to other people (like when you’re gazing in awe at a work of art). I’m not sure if everyone is using it, though I think they ought to!

The Uffizi has really ramped up its digital content during lockdown and continues to create new material on a daily basis, on social media (including tik tok, an account they recently opened and are totally killing it!) and for their website, which they claim is receiving record viewership. Few museums have the forethought and budget to produce digital content like the Uffizi, so this is the one that stands out the most. Palazzo Strozzi has also produced a regular deep-content newsletter and videos with artists from the current and recent exhibitions, and some smaller museums have put one or two online exhibitions up.

How can we, as Americans and other non-EU residents, “visit” Italy this summer without leaving our homes?

Good question! There are lots of ways you can visit “virtually” and keep your love of Italy alive.

  • Museums: as above, check out what the Uffizi and other museums are doing
  • Travel through Instagram / follow Italy-based bloggers (I’m at @arttrav if you’re interested!)
  • Wine: many wineries are offering virtual tastings that you can complement with a box ordered from them. It supports their business and keeps you closer!
  • Food / Italian cookbooks are the perfect complement to food either ordered online – some specialties from Italy – or purchased locally, maybe at Eataly or if you have a “little Italy” in your area you might have access to small-scale-sourced Italian foods. Some tour operators are offering Italian food tours or cooking classes online.

Thank you for your insight, Alexandra! After looking at Alexandra’s suggestions for cooking classes and virtual offerings, I found a few great resources for you to check-out:

Portrait of Alexandra by Christine Juette.

Other photos via Alexandra Korey for ArtTrav.

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Summer Recipe:: Olive Oil Poached Shrimp

Whenever you order a cocktail at a bar in Italy, there is always food involved. Simply brilliant. I think it may be my favorite part. Full disclosure: I love seeing what bars choose to serve with their cocktails. Sometimes it’s just olives and the humble potato chip, and sometimes it’s the most lovely fresh focaccia with sublime charcuterie, a veggie frittata or mini salad. Poached shrimp, rice salads, and fried calamari are some of my favorites.

Here is a recipe for olive oil poached shrimp, inspired by the tradition of aperitivo. This recipe serves up a true summer delicacy!

Olive Oil Poached Shrimp

You will need:
– 3 cups olive oil
– 3 large fresh rosemary sprigs
– 18 uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
– 4 Lemon wedges

To prepare:

Add 3 cups olive oil into heavy large saucepan, and add rosemary sprigs. Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of saucepan and heat oil over medium heat until thermometer registers between 165°F and 180°F. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper. Add shrimp to hot oil and poach just until shrimp are opaque in center, adjusting heat to maintain temperature between 165°F and 180°F, about 8 minutes. Transfer shrimp to paper towels to drain. Serve at room temperature, garnish with lemon wedges.

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4th of July Cocktail:: American Shakerato

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Today I’ve got a fun summer cocktail for you just in time for July 4th, the Americano Shakerato. Shakerato simply means “shaken.” Shaken vigorously. The agitation of drinks forms a desired foam, and this technique is used in many classic drinks to add a little foam. Almost anything can be a shakerato!

Give it a try, or any other recipes from Cocktail Italiano, and let me know what you think!

American Shakerato
serves 1

You will need:

1.5 ounces sweet vermouth
1.5 ounces campari
– 1 orange peel

To prepare:

Chill a martini glass with ice, then discard the ice.

Place the vermouth and Campari into a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake, and strain into the chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

xx Annette

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AJS Team in Quarantine:: Laura Giannatempo

Laura Giannatempo Photo

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Hello, Everyone,
My name is Laura Giannatempo, and I’m Annette’s travel concierge. When you take one of her future workshops, you can ask me for advice about where to go, what to do and where to eat if you want to extend your trip in Italy.

Right now, I’m not traveling, of course. I’m based in Brooklyn, and the hardest part of this quarantine for me has been not being able to return to Italy. I usually travel there several times a year to scout the best hotels, eateries, artisans and small, local businesses that are hard to find on your own.

Since I can’t travel, what do I do? I “dream travel.” I go over old photos of trips I’ve loved on my phone or in photo albums—yes, photo albums. I took some of my earliest trips before digital photography and smartphones, so the memories are captured in good, old-fashioned prints. Reliving these past travels not only brings up great memories, but it also gets my juices flowing for planning future trips for when we’re able to travel again.

Also, I cook. A lot. Short of being there, there’s nothing that channels a country or a region better than to cook something special from there. As you might have guessed, I cook a lot of Italian food. But I also like to dabble in other Mediterranean flavors and South-East Asian-inspired dishes.

I’ve been cooking a lot of Ligurian food, lately. I’m originally from Piedmont, but Liguria is my second home. My aunt and uncle live in Genova, and I used to spend entire summers in a small town not far from Cinque Terre when I was young. I always loved the food: the incredibly fresh seafood, fished just the night before; the creative use of vegetables and herbs, even wild ones; and the ability to create amazing flavors with very few, simple but great-quality ingredients.

One of my go-to Ligurian foods is farinata. With only 5 ingredients, if you count water, salt and pepper, fainata is one of the most versatile and satisfying snacks—and a true Italian street food. It’s hard to believe that mixing and baking chickpea flour and extra-virgin olive oil can turn into something so delicious. if you don’t believe me, you can try it yourself! Here’s the recipe. Buon appetito!

Farinata (Chickpea Flatbread)
Serves 4 to 6

You will need:
– 2 cups chickpea flour
– 3 cups water
– 1 Tbs. plus 1/2 tsp. salt
– 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
– Freshly ground black pepper

To prepare:
Place the chickpea flour in a large bowl and slowly add the water, whisking constantly to prevent clumps from forming. You’ll end up with a fairly liquid batter.

Add the salt, stir, and let the batter rest, covered with plastic wrap for at least 4 hours at room temperature.

Preheat the oven at 425F, With a large slotted spoon, remove any foam that might have formed on the surface of the batter and stir well.

Pour the olive oil in a 17×13-inch rimmed baking sheet (preferably nonstick) and pour in the batter. Spread it with the back of a wooden spoon to cover the pan and to incorporate the oil. The batter should form only a thin layer, about 1/4-inch thick.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the farinata turns a nice golden yellow. Let it rest for a few minutes and sprinkle on some pepper. Use a pizza cutter to cut it in slices. Serve warm and enjoy!

Photo (shot on film): credited to Michael Piazza

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