Italy Workshop excursions :: Custom Textile Studio in Florence – meet Margherita Pandolfini

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One of the many wonderful things about conducting creative retreats in Italy is all of the available talent around our area. Florence is about 2 hours from our doorstep; it’s a beautiful drive or train ride, so the time just speeds by.

I was contacted by the lovely and talented textile designer Margherita Pandolfini, and she invited me to bring my workshop to her gorgeous studio on the outskirts of Florence, located in the middle of the most beautiful courtyard I’ve ever seen. Sometimes opportunities appear that are just unreal here in Italy. Margherita, greeted us at the meticulously handpainted door which foreshadowed the magical storybook journey through the courtyard up some rickety stairs into her surreal world high a top a centuries old building. The loft studio had the most glorious view of the Villa courtyard and gardens. It was a courtyard that could inspire anyone to create beautiful, whimsical, playful patterns of her and her partner’s company MK Textiles and Atelier. Sometimes the wonky creative spaces are by far the most inspiring to me. This space was one of those places that spoke to me.

Margherita, set up painting stations for our attendees, and then gave a brief demo, so we had plenty of time to paint our own cloth bags. As the birds chirped and the sun shined on the incredible view, we happily painted away all morning long.

Please make sure to visit their site and if you have the chance schedule a time to visit.

I have invited Margherita and her partner to Atlanta to speak at Americasmart, too, so please stay tuned for those dates.

In the meantime, look for these beautiful textiles out and about in London and Florence.

xx Annette

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Strictly Styling Workshop June 2018 a recap

As many of you already know, we have been working like crazy to get the Fortress ready for upcoming workshops. Our maiden run was last week for our strictly styling workshop. Needless to say, I was a little anxious to see how our new guest quarters stacked up. I painlessly attended to every detail. Sticking to the idea that less is more and that the ancient walls would speak for themselves. Making sure the beds were comfortable, and the sheets were soft and inviting. Crossing fingers that our bathrooms – which are wet rooms – worked the way we wanted them to. They did.

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Our attendees were a super talented group that consisted of a florist, bloggers and foodstylists, and the stylish owner of a PR firm. This group instantly bonded, and the bond grew tighter as I watched them help and advise each other throughout the their days together. Our team building event of hiking into a waterfall was such fun, and it really showed off the natural beauty around us. We had a picnic, and we chatted and shared our goals and desires throughout the week. All the our days were filled with endless possibilities and inspiration.

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This time I tried something a little different and incorporated a textile painting workshop into the mix. We traveled to Florence for the day to meet Margherita Pandolfini at the studio she shares with partner Karl Jorns.

We had an amazing visit, painted textiles and then headed for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in Florence. La Menagere.

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After an absolutely stellar, lunch we met up with our tour guide and walked all over Florence with our group ending up at the David. I had not seen the David in so many years; it was fun to see him again.

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We grabbed an aperitivo, and then ended our visit to Florence attending a Sunday Supper’s Sobremesa is a global dinner.

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We ate in what was a former glove factory, with a gathering of creatives from all over the world. The lovely Gaia Cozzi and her adorable father prepared everything and were the perfect hosts. We had a great time with everyone and ended the evening with lots of stories to tell and a fun ride back to the Lunigiana recapping our day.

The workshop was a huge success making it hard to part ways. My hope is all of our workshops will be like this one, and the creative juices will keep flowing.

If you would like to join us in the fall we have a couple of places left in our workshops. They are closing end of July so think fast and join us in September and October. Sign-up here.

xx Annette

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Greetings from Italy!

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Ciao everybody! Greetings from Italy! If you follow me on my instagram feeds, you know that I have been BUSY!!! Honestly, that’s an understatement. Busy getting everything in ship shape for our upcoming workshops and photoshoots.

It feels like I have been here for 3 months, but it’s only been 2 weeks with all that we have accomplished on getting everything from the new renovation ready for guests and attendees.

The guest quarters are ready to house everyone all comfy and cozy. It’s been a lot of fun pulling all the decor together with a little (a lot) of help from our friends. Steve and Jill McKenzie helped with styling touches and great advice. Look for their guest post coming up soon! Let’s just say we are excited to welcome them back in September for Steve’s abstract painting workshop in the Italian countryside. We had some great brainstorming sessions as we were busy fixing up the guest quarters.

The commercial kitchen is ready for some cooking action. Here’s where we will cook, offer cooking lessons to workshop attendees and of course have breakfast every morning.

Teri Mammini, our private chef, and I worked our tushes off to make sure the kitchen is perfection. We are really going to enjoy working in this beautiful place all season.

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To say that putting all of this together was daunting is an understatement, but it has been worth every bit of sweat every step along the way.

Our Strictly Styling Workshop is underway. Head to my instagram account to check out all the best bits. I will be back with a recap of every adventure and workshop experience soon on the blog.

xx Annette

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Workshop Announcement :: Join us in October

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Ciao guys! As you know, our summer workshops have sold out.

However, fall workshops are now up for grabs. Full disclosure: we only have a couple spots left in each workshop in September, so we have added a workshop in October. Since it’s olive oil season, it’s the best time to visit our region in Lunigiana. We will be visiting food vendors and the oil press, and tasting wine and truffle hunting will also be on the schedule.

However the most exciting part of this workshop announcement is who will be joining us touring and teaching. Drum roll please…

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Angie Mosier, America’s food styling sweetheart, food writer, food stylist, photographer and producer. Yes, she even styled and photographed for Eric Ripert. Angie is someone I look up to. She is incredibly talented and knowledgeable, well respected, and an all around lovely soul. She will be joined by James Beard award winning chef Chef Rebecca Wilcomb, chef at Herbsaint in New Orleans. Rebecca comes from an Italian background, so returning to her heritage is very exciting indeed. Join us as we cook, style, and photograph our region, take tours of purveyors and food artisans, enjoy visits to farms, dairies, cheese makers, olive groves and orchards, cook with local seasonal ingredients, and drink our own wine from our vineyard at La Fortezza. I am over the moon that these two food superstars will be exploring our food culture with all of us in tow.

This is a very special opportunity to explore our region with these amazing instructors, and it is available to you. To say we are amazed and thrilled would be an understatement. Angie and I have been friends for many years, and the idea that she will be joining me in Italy is a dream come true.

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We will be launching her workshop on the site May 1st. I suspect it will sell out in a day. If you want the opportunity to be first on the sign up list, please join our mailing list as we will be sending a newsletter a couple days before it posts live.

Join us for our Angie Mosier workshop in Italy, The Story of Place and Taste: Cooking, Styling and Photographing the Food of Lunigiana. Will launch soon.

See you in Italy.

xx Annette

 

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Renovation at the Fortress :: Where are we now?

Commercial kitchen view from the dining room, you can see the configuration and where the student lounge is located on the left

Commercial kitchen view from the dining room, you can see the configuration and where the student lounge is located on the left

Hi Guys, time for another update about our renovation in Italy before I head over in mid May. Here’s where we left off in case you need to catch up.

We had specific areas of the fortress we wanted to focus on this winter.

  • the fortress guest quarters
  • the commercial kitchen
  • the student lounge which also serves as an extra bedroom that sleeps 3 people
  • outdoor oven, the forno
  • kitchen garden patio under the pergola

The guest quarters are almost finished. We will have 3 bedrooms and one with a fireplace. All of the bedrooms will have bathrooms with soft comfy towels and a custom natural soap collection. Our beds will be very comfortable with 100% cotton sheets bedding from Merci in Paris. We will make sure everyone has a stellar experience during our workshops; luxurious monastic rooms are our credo. I had so much great feedback from our attendees last year about their expectations and desires as far as housing goes. We listened, and we hope that our guest rooms will meet your expectations. Our goal is to make you feel super comfortable.

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We found a great checked concrete vintage tile to use in the kitchenette in the guest quarters.

We found a great checked concrete vintage tile to use in the kitchenette in the guest quarters.

As you know, we live in a defensive tower from the 12th century. It has 4 floors. The main house is located on the 3rd and 4th floors, the guest quarters is located on the 2nd floor under the main house, and the cantina (storage room) is located on the ground floor.

pictured the defensive tower the guest quarters on he 2nd floor

pictured the defensive tower the guest quarters on the 2nd floor

We finished the main house project last May 2017, moved in, and then used the main house kitchen for our workshop cooking lessons and photo lessons last summer and to prep all meals for our attendees and guests. Full disclosure, having lots of people cooking in your own kitchen is challenging; we all had a great time but at times it was a bit out of control. Teri, our private chef, really cranked out some incredible meals for a large crowd during our workshops from our smallish narrow kitchen.

Teri working her magic

Teri working her magic

Commercial Kitchen

entrance from the student lounge to the commercial kitchen dining room

entrance from the student lounge to the commercial kitchen dining room

As you can imagine, it was so exciting once we pulled the trigger on completing the commercial kitchen located under the studio. Of course, Teri was also excited. The studio is a separate building from the tower, a space we teach and work in all year long. Our styling and photography lessons happen in the studio. It’s where we store props as well.

We have most meals outside the studio on our expansive terrace. However now with the commercial kitchen, we will have another gorgeous dining space where we can all gather for breakfast and some dinners and use for photos and extra prep space.

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The kitchen has Cararra marble countertops all around to allow everyone cooking to have their own prep area. Watching the delivery complete with a crane was so exciting. Of course the highlight of the kitchen will be the Lacanche stove. It’s a biggie, and I am excited to welcome my second baby to the family. The floor is terracotta tile which was installed in the last few weeks. The decorative tiles behind the counters are coming soon.

Next to the kitchen will be a full pantry, and full bath complete with shower. The student lounge is next to the kitchen as is the entrance to the kitchen and dining room. Double metal doors with glass panes will lead you to the kitchen garden from the student lounge area where we have built a patio area that will be under a wisteria covered pergola. Here breakfast or drinks can be enjoyed while taking in the kitchen garden and rose garden view. It will have large pots surrounding the vintage tables and chairs, planted with herbs and eatable flowers.

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The most exciting addition this year is the outdoor oven. I can hardly wait to stoke the fire and make homemade pizzas, focaccia, flat breads, and slow cooked Tuscan beans. I am jazzed!!!

I can’t wait until mid-May to share the progress with you all. Our summer workshops are full, and I can’t wait to meet everyone! x

Photo credit: Forrest Spears

 

 

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