Tag Archives: italian riviera

chestnut honey, mountain views, secrets things and places, and other sweet things about living in the Italian countryside

The only way to see Italy is with an Italian, or someone that has lived here for many years. We are still discovering secrets about Italy everyday.

As most of you know, Frank and I have lived in Italy now for over 15 years, enjoying our summers here with family and friends. You have also heard me say that Italy is like an onion. Most tourists only scratch the surface, so when reading all these travel guides, keep in mind the best stuff (just like the olive oil) is reserved for Italians.

The only way to see Italy is to see it with an Italian, or someone that has lived here for many years. We are still discovering secrets about Italy everyday. It’s actually one of the many things I love about Italians. Unlike Americans, Italians are not over-sharers. In Italy you have to earn trust, and then the world opens up to you like an exotic flower. The treasures here are endless, and the rewards of putting your time in will be the exquisite payback for your patience. Finally, right about now, I am starting to feel like I have a few Italian secrets of my own to share. It only took 25 years, LOL.

We lived on the Italian Riviera for 15 years, and now we are living the countryside in a very unknown region called Lunigiana. We live on 27 acres with a working vineyard and giant ancient fortress that has kept me on my toes for just about a year.

I will say country life agrees with me, and I can see growing older here watching the changing seasons in mountain range that is our view. The life is slower here, the people are authentic and friendly which is a big difference from living in a bustling vacation destination like Alassio where people only appear each summer.

People here stop by and drop off eggs from their chickens, chestnut honey from their bees, freshly jarred preserves from their fruit orchards, and olive oil from last fall’s harvest. It’s pretty much what I expected in my fantasies, but the reality is so much richer.

Everyone eats local here. Hell, we eat out of our garden: lettuce, eggplant, zucchinis and herbs. Tomatoes abound; they literally sprung out of the earth as soon as we planted them. We have sour cherries and figs, and our plum trees and grape vines are maturing as well. Unlike in the US, in the country here in Italy, it’s no big thing to eat off the land everyday. So yes, I love it. Milk comes from the cows and goats up the mountain, and beef comes from the steers down in the valley. You can smell the steers as you drive by the butcher/slaughter house everyday.

One of the things that surprised me was that when we lived in Alassio, there was so much pressure to dress in the latest fashion and look presentable everyday. I would never go out on the streets without the “right” look. Here it is easy, and the feeling of fashion pressure is gone. It’s more laid back and therefore much more livable. I have slowed down. Enjoying nature is something that is a daily routine. What’s in my closet is an after thought.

I will continue to write about my experiences here in the Italian countryside this summer.

As you know, I am in the middle writing a book of our story here in Italia.

Stay tuned for more updates, and for now I will relish all the gifts from my surroundings, the people that live here, and all the secrets Italy has to show me. The secrets I have patiently waited for.

ciao xx

Photo credit: Frank Joseph MD

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Book two is full speed ahead….Join me for Aperitivo on the Italian Riviera

My next book, Cocktail Italiano, will literally be a guide book to my favorite pastime in Italy, "Aperitivo," here's the first glimpse!

As most of you know I have 2 big projects going on at the same time: our Italian house renovation and my second book, Cocktail Italiano, a book about Aperitivo, the cocktail culture of the Italian Riviera.

My next book will literally be a guide book to my favorite pastime in Italy, “Aperitivo”. The book will be a perfect Apero primer to toss into your suitcase and accompany you on your cocktail infused travels along the coastline of Italy. The book will be chock-full of beautiful destinations along the Ligurian coastline. Cocktail Italiano includes all my favorite little bars, seaside joints, and swanky hotels to pass the night away sipping spirits and partaking in scrumptious nibbles. The book will also be filled with the most popular Italian cocktails and nibbles recipes for you to enjoy Aperitivo in your own home Italian style. It’s the ultimate insiders’ guide to some of the authentic Italian Aperitivo destinations.

A little about the title “Cocktail Italiano”: it is a riff on my all time favorite Italian song “Mambo Italiano.”  I am super jazzed to share my book with you as it captures the Italian Riviera Lifestyle and showcases the cocktail culture of my favorite Italian region, Liguria, where we have lived for the past 13 years every summer.

You will be transported to this gorgeous vital region of Italy. I have spent the last 2 years photographing the book myself with a little help for my friends. It’s been a passion project and tons of fun. So look for little snippets on my instagram feed, along with the release next Spring 2018.

Let the cocktails begin, cin cin xx


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10 things I love about Italy…


Many people ask me why I love Italy so much. The truth is if I ask myself this question, there’s no one answer, really.

So here’s a list of 10 things I love about Italy. Some of these may surprise you, and of course, some are very obvious.


1. Espresso with a brioche, from the right bar is the best way to start the day. Lucky for me in our little village, 3 sisters own the best bar in town complete with homemade pastries. The crowds throwing down espresso and scarfing down pastries in the early morning at the bar gives me such joy. It’s like watching some strange and other worldly ritual.

2. Small cars. I love the idea that my Fiat 500 is not considered a tiny car in Italy.


3. Pop-up markets. All over Italy, markets in the square are a common thing featuring everything from winter coats and antiques to porchetta sandwiches.



4. Nonni (grandmas and grandpas) sitting in the square. One thing about Italy is that they love their elders.


5. Church candles, always lit inside. I love stepping into a church anytime of day.


6.Everything opens early. I love that everything is open in the morning and the bustle of daily chores.

7. The Butcher. One thing I miss when I am back in Atlanta is a proper butcher shop.


8. The train. The train to anywhere in Italy is exciting. I love the discussions and the polite behavior in a first class cabin. So old world.


9. Toast at the Autogrill, my guilty pleasure. Whenever I can, I have a grilled sandwich at the Autogrill.


10. Aperitivo, the cocktail ritual that is the best time of the day. It’s so fun. In fact, my next book is based on the subject.


xx, Annette

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Traveling in Italy in October? Start planning in September!


It’s September, and I always get about two or three emails about traveling to Italy in the fall. Most of you will be hitting the usual suspects like Rome, Milan, Venice and Florence, and those destinations are great.

Honestly, when I get questions about those cities, it’s kind of a no brainer; there are so many sites and great restaurants, not to mention the internet and social media can certainly fill you in.

As for me…I like the off the beaten path things; things that Italians like to do…and I like TRUFFLES. If you’re not a fan of truffles or wine then stop reading this right now.

If you’re like me, and are a HUGE fan of truffles, red wine, red meat, cheese, pasta, olive oil, and sheep…keep reading.


Last year, I checked Truffle Festival in the Piedmont region of Italy off my bucket list. It’s held in the town of Alba. The truth is that there are truffle festivals all over Italy in the fall, but this one is huge and filled with truffles, and everything truffle like potato chips and cheese. It made my head spin and made me smile from ear to ear…for hours.

If you’re heading to Italy this fall, I highly recommend you make the journey and eat truffles on top of fried eggs which is the traditional way it’s done in the Piedmont. The whole city is perfumed with the stuff.


You’re welcome. You can read last year’s original post here


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Recipe:: Almond Biscotti


This recipe is courtesy of Tuscan chef Guilia Scarpaleggia. Guilia has been an instructor at my style + photo workshop in Italy for two years. Here’s one of her recipes for Almond Biscotti, a perfect dessert or mid-afternoon snack. It’s one of my favorite simple recipes. This cookie can be dipped into Vin Santo; it’s perfect with espresso or as pictured with a cappuccino. I like to make them and store them in an air tight container. They are also the perfect hostess gift. Let me know how you like them.


Almond Biscotti 

You will need:
– 2 eggs, whites and yolks separated
– 230 g sugar
– 20 g orange honey
– 250 g flour
– ½ teaspoon baking ammonia
– Grated peel of 1 orange
– 125 g unpeeled almonds
– 1 bottle of vinsanto

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 180°C, fan assisted.

Whip the egg whites for about 5 minutes until they are firm, then add the sugar and whip until you get a glossy and thick meringue. 

Fold in thoroughly the honey and the egg yolks, then fold gently in the flour sifted with the baking ammonia and the grated orange peel. Mix in the almonds.

Line with parchment paper a large baking pan and with the help of a spoon form two loaves of dough keeping them well separated, about 5 cm wide and 30 cm long.

Bake them for about 15 minutes, then remove them from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes and then cut them slantwise into 2 cm thick slices with a sharp knife, then arrange them cut-side-down in the baking tin and put them back in the oven for about 5 – 10 minutes, until toasted.

You can store them in a tin for several days.

Photo by : Anne Sage

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