Our fall workshop instructors are amazing

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I’m so excited about our La Fortezza fall workshop instructors roster. It just keeps getting better and better, I swear!

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Starting in September, I will be guiding a slow food experience The Lunigiana Slow Food Experience~ September 4th-9th. I am so excited to make this food forward retreat the most exciting foodies’ retreat yet. Harvest in our vineyard, make handmade pasta, meet all my foodie friends, make tomato sauce, jams, and pickled vegetables from our kitchen garden. Relax, do yoga, and enjoy all that the Italian countryside has to offer; we will pamper you and you will leave refreshed, rested and inspired.

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September 11th- 16th Antiques and Merchants of Italy-  You know how much I love cooking, but right up there is shopping. Since living in Italy, I have loved attending monthly antique fairs, and perusing the local flea markets, and shopping with local bespoke artisans in nearby towns. I’m so happy Antiques Expert Lisa Burnett of Inner Pieces Inc. will be lending her expertise. Lisa and I have been friends for 20 years, and she’s my go to person if I am buying antique pieces. She will be my co-leader and guide to all things vintage, antique and stylish. We will shop private vendors, my go to flea markets, and we will take you shopping in various towns that feature store after store of art, handmade clothing and accessories. Of course there will be beautiful food and wine, and lots of Aperol Spritzes, Lisa’s favorite cocktail. Join us and shop ’til you drop!

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October 9-14th Lifestyle Photography Workshop~ William Abranowicz, world renowned lifestyle and interiors photographer, with beautiful coffee table books to his credit like his latest book America Originals . He will work with students as a group each morning with one on one instruction throughout each day.  Participants will be taught to simplify the technical aspects of photography, understand light and composition to create well executed, emotionally impactful images, and to edit to form a concise visual articulation of what we see and hope to say. This is a once in a lifetime experience. Honestly I can hardly believe he said yes when I asked him to come teach at La Fortezza. Bill is a gentleman and a scholar – spending days with him creating will be an amazing experience. Spots are limited, so grab your spot before they are all gone. I am beyond thrilled to welcome Bill and all attendees to this special creative retreat.

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October 16th-21st Her Dark Materials Old Masters Still Life Photography Workshop~ I have been obsessed with “her dark materials” unique photography for years. I literally am bringing her to La Fortezza to watch her work. Her sense of composition is like nothing I have ever seen. True that Old Masters still life photography is all over the place, but Ros’s approach is both gorgeous and leaves me breathless. I told her that if no one signs up for her workshop I will be the only student, so I don’t care if anyone shows up I selfishly want her to myself… Ros Atkinkson, the photographer behind @her_dark_materials and a still life and food photographer who has achieved international recognition for her Old Masters style set ups and lighting will take students through the process of creating an Old Masters scene. Learn as she teaches you how to choose the right camera setting, capture the light in the best possible way and style using props and local produce. You’ll be guided in how to capture the scene, from tiniest details to the whole frame while using camera settings to maximize the use of light and shadow. I am SO excited to welcome Ros to La Fortezza this year…I am hoping it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and she comes year after year.

xx Annette

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Fall 2019 La Fortezza Workshops Launch

I am beyond excited to announce our roster of fall 2019 La Fortezza workshops in Italy. I have really listened to the feedback of past workshop attendees, and I think that fall simply put, “nails it.”

We have a variety of workshops that speak to everyone. There will be food-forward workshops, shopping excursion workshops and photography workshops with incredible talents and professionals. We want to make our workshops the best they can be, so thank you to all who participated last year and gave us such great advice.

Ready to see what’s in store?

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September 4th – 9th

First off is my Preserving Italy Workshop. We will dive deep into the region I call home, the Lunigiana. I feel passionate about sharing this unknown, and in some cases untouched, region. The people of this region work the land, live off the land and truly live seasonally. I like to say that I learned about the seasons here since we live season to season year after year.

The food artisans, the farmers, the vintners, the cheese makers and the fresh olive oil producers are a way of life. It’s the most authentic life I’ve known. We will be cooking throughout our workshop with Chef Philip and with locals too. I will share it all with you at our beautiful location, La Fortezza, overlooking mountains, vineyards and villages. I am thrilled to show you my secret Italy.

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September 11th – 16th

This one is all about shopping. If you follow me on Instagram , then you know how much I love shopping flea markets in Italy. How would you like to come along and shop with me? This workshop is geared toward the flea market shopper although shopping at this retreat will be peppered with plenty of artisan finds including handmade handbags and bespoke seaside markets.

Coming along to lend her expertise is professional picker and antiques expert Lisa Burnett of Inner Pieces. She will be leading the group and sharing her incredible eye with all of us. This is the perfect girlfriend retreat because of course there will be cooking classes and great food, lots of wine and Aperol Spritzes, Lisa’s favorite Italian Cocktail, and a little yoga as well. I cannot wait. These spots will be snatched-up fast, so don’t think about it; just do it!

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October 9th – 15th

I can’t believe he said ‘yes” when I asked him, but one of my all time favorite photographers is coming to teach lifestyle photography at La Fortezza. I think I jumped up and down for 10 minutes when he agreed. William Abranowicz is an icon in the photography world with many books under his belt. He has shot for every single magazine in the world. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I cannot tell you how much you will learn seeing the world through your lens with Bill as your instructor. He will be able to work with you one on one since the class is small. Imagine working with a world class photographer! Well my friends, you no longer have to imagine it. Just grab your place, and you can. I am beyond excited that we will be hosting Bill. This workshop will sell out fast, so don’t hesitate come to Italy and up your photography game. This is a “pinch me” experience, believe me!

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October 16th – 21st

Ros Atkinkson, Her_Dark_Materials on Instagram, will host our final workshop of the season. I invited Ros and selfishly told her I don’t care if it’s just she and I because I want to learn from her, and I want to walk around in her brain (I know I sound obsessed…and I am). Her still life photography moves me because the emotion and incredibly complex composition makes my heart sing. I was so pleased when she agreed to come and teach at La Fortezza. Apologies for all of the gushing, but I have a serious girl crush on Ros.

Come play with us! If you’re a fan of composition, food styling, photography or beauty in the highest form, please join us. Like I said, I’m happy if you can join us, and fine if you don’t because sharing Ros and her talent is going to be tough for me. There will be plenty of food, and wine and inspiration.

Who’s joining the fun in fall 2019? Book your spot today! 

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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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