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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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Roberto’s Fresh Artichoke Salad from Cocktail Italiano

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It’s the last week of Juice January, so I’m giving it an incredible, celebratory send-off with this recipe from Cocktail Italiano.

When I found baby artichokes at Fresh Market in my neighborhood, I thought it was a fluke. Maybe a food stylist had special ordered them? But much to surprise they have appeared more regularly over the past few weeks this winter.

I had taken a photo and posted them on an Instagram story, and Nicole, my web manager, messaged me asking what they were. I told her they were baby artichokes. She asked what I was going to do with them, and I told her that I was going to make Roberto’s fresh artichoke salad, using the baby artichokes fresh. I explained that the recipe was in Cocktail Italiano and that she should try it. She suggested I put it here on the blog, so I listened to her, and here it is!

I had never eaten a raw artichoke until about twelve years ago—and, of course, it was in Italy.

We were visiting our best friends in Genova, Forrest and Roberto, chatting away in the kitchen, when Roberto (who’s actually an Italian Prince from the region of Savona on the Riviera) grabbed a few baby artichokes, and began running them under cold water. He patted them dry and quickly ran them through a mandolin, slicing them paper-thin. He put them in a bowl, and proceeded to douse them in Ligurian olive oil, added salt and a flourish of lemon juice, and finished it all off with shaved Parmesan. While Forrest poured a lovely chilled Verimentivo, we snacked on raw artichokes and sipped vino. For me, this was for me a whole new way of enjoying artichokes.

Let me know if you give this recipe a try. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

Here’s Roberto’s recipe for fresh artichoke salad. Tip: make sure that the artichokes are very fresh and tender.

Roberto’s Fresh Artichoke Salad
Serves 8

You will need:
– 2 pounds (about 20) tender baby artichokes Note: you may substitute the interior soft leaves and heart of larger artichokes, but do not use the tough outer leaves
– 2 lemons, halved
– 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons salt
– 2 ounces Parmesan

To prepare:

Trim away any tough outer leaves of the artichokes to expose their tender pale green interior. Using a knife with a serrated-blade, cut off the spiky top 1/3 of the artichokes. (Note: baby artichokes will not have the spikes.) Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer layers around the base and stem.

Using a mandolin, slice the artichokes paper-thin and transfer to medium bowl.

Squeeze the lemon halves over the artichokes, and toss with the oil. Sprinkle with salt, and use a potato peeler to shave the Parmesan over the salad. Serve in small bowls.

 

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renovation update: our final phase the dependence, 3 bedrooms 3 bathrooms

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Before of the now main floor bathroom

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The last and final piece of our renovation was an out building, the dependence. It was a very fallen down structure when we bought the Fortress. Forgotten and neglected, I knew it would be make a fun and funky addition to our compound. We brought it back to life last summer by literally rebuilding the structure stone by stone. Reinforcing the structure, tying it together with earthquake bars and creating lofts and doorways. In many ways, it was one of my favorite projects, and the design possibilities were both endless and limited. Endless, because we could put anything into the space, limited because the size was finite, and we needed to house specific features: 3 bedrooms and 3 baths. I love when projects are so precise in nature.

We came up with a clever design for the smallest room: the bathroom would be on the main floor and the sleeping nook in the loft above. It turned out great with lots of character as I used an antique wooden and zinc tub as the vessel that would be the shower. I found a ready made vintage library staircase that fit perfectly into the space and leads to the sleeping loft. A Moroccan window shutter became the door, and we retrofitted an iron cage as a hanging lamp.

The other 2 bedrooms are situated in the room next door. We decided that the best thing was to make it an a joined room sharing the loft space. Although it is a shared space, there is a sense of privacy because of the half wall. The only shared space is the ceiling. Each room has its own bath and its own entrance.

The dependence has a wonderful outdoor seating area overlooking the vineyard which is a completely different view from the terrace that has mountain views. I am pretty pleased with the outcome.

The proof will be in the next weeks as fall workshops begin. I’ll keep you posted. x

Before

Before

Many thanks to my design partner Forrest. Although it’s come to an end, we will always be collaborating. x

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The artists that live in a Castle

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When you live in Italy in an ancient place, you never know what is around the corner. There are always surprises. However, quite honestly, sometimes the surprises are not that hot. Like your kitchen is flooded because of a faulty part, or bees have decided to build their nest on your window sill (twice).

But sometimes something magical happens that makes up for all the mishaps and unfortunate situations. Last week I had some darling visitors. Full disclosure we have a rating system at La Fortezza: 1-5 (yes, just like Uber, we figure if you’re rating us, we get to rate you). These guests were a 5. Why you might ask? They are pleasant, funny, flexible, and non-complaining. Plus, the reason for a 5 rating is that they were very helpful putting last touches on the new guest rooms. As a special treat, I drove them to a nearby village that features a local specialty restaurant and a beautiful quaint village with a big ass castle perched on top. After a lovely lunch, we decided a stroll was in order. I vaguely remembered that the castle was inhabited, but I did not fully remember by whom, until we swung around the corner after ascending to the top of the village wall.

There stood a middle aged man in a red sweater with droopy shorts and cascading curls on his forehead. He looked a little like a middle aged Little Lord Fauntleroy. He smiled, and then I remembered him: we had met at a local pizzeria. He was with a friend, and my friend Forrest had introduced us. “I remember you,” I said. “You do?” he replied. “Yes, we have met before do you know my friend Forrest,”I responded. “No”, he said. After a rather confusing exchange, I did remember that he lived in the castle; he was an artist, and he lived with his mother. His name was Jacabo. That’s about all I was told. So it did not seem odd when he asked, “Do you want a tour of the castle?” Without hesitation I said “YES”. My friends and I looked at each other, and all said yes again in unison.

We headed through a gate. Off to the right, there was another gate with a barking puppy, and off to the left his Cordelia von den Steinen (his ,other’s) art studio, a sturdy, a low stone building with windows all around. We walked past her studio and up a small ramp to the giant castle doors. Inside the vaulted room seemed to climb up up up. With our mouths agape, we looked all around to find stone sculptures everywhere. It was massive and impressive. We all looked and asked questions. There were studies of what would become huge important sculptures, commissioned from all over the world. Jacabo’s parents were very important artists, highly regarded, and very successful, as was his grandfather. He and his family grew up in the castle. His father had bought is from a wealthy American who had bought it and painstakingly renovated it. They had moved there in the 60s, so this place was his childhood home. We could not get over the ground floor with all the gorgeous pieces displayed. We followed Jacabo, up the massive stone stairs to the 1st floor living space. When we entered the space, it impressed me how massive it was, decorated with modern low slung sofas, draped with Moroccan textiles with all the family artwork on display. It took my breath away, I felt like I had stepped into the pages of World of Interiors magazine. All I could say was “Wow.”

We strolled through the living area like it was a museum – which it was in a way. Jacabo casually told us about his parents and his siblings that lived in Rome. He was the only one living with his mother. He too was an artist, a painter. His work was surreal and impeccably detailed. I must admit, he is quite a character, a little eccentric and little disheveled, his shorts kept falling down to reveal his plumber’s crack. His English was all over the place even though I said to speak in Italian, he continued in his own form of English. The castle was spectacular, impeccable, a dream.

Jacabo was sweet, and he was so pleased we loved his place. After about an hour, the tour was finished. We found out a few things, but Google did a much better job of explaining the history than Jacabo. We thanked him and he asked for a small donation for upkeep etc. When he pocketed the cash I gave him, he stuffed it into his wallet that was literally filled to capacity which made me laugh to myself. As we were walking back to the car, we were struck by how wild it must be to have living in castle be your reality. A fun surprise tour, something that could only happen in Italy. It’s why I love it here so much. People just living and creating in the family castle as they say in Italy “Normale”. x

Read about Jacabo’s Father here

Read about his Mother here

Read about the castle in Veruccola here

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Flea-ing and Finding Workshop with Lisa Burnett

Ciao guys! If you followed my instagram stories, you know that I spent a week last month showing Lisa Burnett from Innerpieces around the Italian countryside and the seaside. Lisa is an antiques dealer in Atlanta. I have been buying from her for almost 20 years, and she has a warehouse and shows at Scotts and Americasmart, as well as Roundtop. She’s the real deal. She has an amazing eye and the best part is the after such a long relationship, I now call her a dear friend. When I proposed doing a flea market tour here in Italy, she jumped at the chance, so here we are planning her workshop for 2019.

We will have her here for 5 days of flea-ing, picking and honing your eye. If you’re interested, email me annette@annettejosephstyle.com. We are almost sold out, and we don’t even have a date yet. We are zeroing in on early September of 2019 because it is the best time of year in this area, the Lunigiana. We will be posting registration in November for 2019 workshops here at La Fortezza , so stay tuned!

Forrest and I showed Lisa so many wonderful places. We will be putting together an amazing list of activities, including a cooking lesson, and of course dinner and a movie on the terrace. Keep an eye on the blog for more information coming your way soon. In the meantime, enjoy a few photos from our excursion last week.

xx Annette

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