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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Italian Travel Guide:: One Stop Shop

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After nearly an entire month of writing about traveling to Italy for one of my workshops, I thought it would be a good idea to devote a final post to the topic. Think of this as your go-to Italian travel guide, and a one stop shop for all of the information you need to know. It will be a FAQ page of sorts. Here’s a quick reference to all of my tips for traveling to Italy for a workshop at La Fortezza:

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How to Get the Best Airfare to Italy 

What to Pack in your Carry-on

What to Pack in your Suitcase 

How to Spend a Layover in Milan 

Why Mother-Daughter Trips to La Fortezza are a MUST

I don’t know about you, but the past month has me more ready than ever to get back to my Italian home. I’ll be in Italy for a few weeks in March checking-in on La Fortezza and readying it for guests. Then, after a short stint home in the States, I’ll head back to Italy for the summer. Our 2019 summer workshop and Artist in Residence program are shaping up to be absolutely spectacular. From styling workshops with yours truly to one-on-one painting lessons with Steve, this is going to be an incredible season of workshops.

There are only a few spots left, so if you’re planning on joining us, grab your spot soon! Don’t miss your opportunity to come to Italy for a once in a lifetime experience!

xx Annette

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Why you should bring your Mom to a La Fortezza Workshop

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Mother Daughter Truffle hunting excursion

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These sisters brought their Mom to paint with Steve. It was on the bucket list, and they ticked it off the list last year.

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Enjoying the sunshine with a picnic in the olive groves

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Hiking and photography with Emily in the hills above.

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Pasta making lessons in our commercial kitchen.

It’s been brought to my attention that we have a lot of mothers and daughters that join us on our workshops and retreats. I had never thought about it before, but I was chatting with someone about bringing her Mom to our Steve Mckenzie’s Artist in Residence Program in July. I realized how many Moms and daughters had joined us in Italy over the years. There are lots of benefits to traveling with your Mom according to Psychology Today:

“Travel, in and of itself, offers a chance to get outside of our normal, everyday self. When two women who’ve known each other as long or as intimately as a mother and daughter have head out together, they are able to shake off the cobwebs from home as they stir up the dust of adventure down a new path.” 

La Fortezza seems like the perfect place to enjoy some down time with your Mom or your daughter all while learning how to cook Italian foods, visiting our secret places like flea markets and beautiful open air markets in chic destinations and painting lessons in the Italian countryside.

Mother daughter vacations seem to be our thing, and I could not be more thrilled. Book an adventure today and make some amazing memories with your beloved Mom or daughter and bring your sister along as well. You won’t regret it. I am hoping this is a something La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats become known for during the coming years. Encouraging generations of women to explore together is a mission I am focused on. We would love to welcome you and your Mom daughter or sister, head to the site and grab your spots. NOTE* If your Mom is not participating in the workshop you will get special pricing, email me for details before you check out to save.

xx Annette

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