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How our Artist in Residence inspired everyone at La Fortezza

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As most of you know, this July was the first time we hosted an “artist in residence” at La Fortezza.

Honestly, It was more than I imagined it could be with Steve McKenzie. His passion for learning about the region and everything related to the art and writings and the history here so inspiring to me. I thought he would be the most inspired, but it turns out our intern, Adri, and I were just as inspired as he was. His excitement was contagious.

From the time he arrived, Steve had a vision for his collection. He wanted to use old scripts, typography and maps from the region in his artwork. That was easy to accomplish since Fivizzano has a rich history with books and the written word. We made an appointment with the librarians at the library in the center of Fivizzano and were given full access to the beautiful and amazing collection. The librarians were so excited to share the collection of rare books locked away in the archives of the library. Rare books also line the shelves of a large book room located inside the library building behind a metal grid door that needed to be unlocked for us. There as special guests in the book room, we spent an entire morning perusing the beautiful books filled with rich history and beautiful script.

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One thing we learned was that the reason there are so many books in Fivizzano is that the Lunigiana was the center of the printing between 1470 and 1474. Jacopo da Fivizzano was the first person to work with the typographic characters that were used to print texts by Giovenale, Virgilio, Cicerone, Sallustio and Cornazzano.

In Fivizzano in 1802, the typewriter is invented, and so the story goes, that Carolina Fantoni, a young contessa living in Fivizzano, was going blind. Neither her parents nor her fiancé believed her. Only her friend Turri, an eccentric local inventor, understood. As darkness erases Carolina’s world, she discovers one place where she can still see – in her dreams – yet, she remains isolated from the outside world. Desperate to communicate with Carolina, Turri creates a peculiar contraption for her: the world’s first typewriter. His gift ignites a passionate love affair that will mark both their lives forever. The book The Blind Contessa’s New Machine, by Carey Wallace romantic novel is based on this story.

We learned that there was a handwriting school in Fivizzano as well, so at one time it was the epicenter of all things written in Italy. The librarian pulled book after book, Adri took meticulous notes and Steve photographed maps and script.

We also went to the nearby town of Pontremoli where we toured the Museo Statue Stele Museum. Steve was intrigued by these ancient sculptures from 4000 BC. The museum is gorgeous and is located in a medieval castle that is beautifully designed; we were all really inspired.

Steve’s been super busy in the studio working on his collection. We are so excited to show it to everyone on July 27th here at La Fortezza, our first opening party ever. But after this incredible summer, it won’t be our last! Big thanks to Steve and our first intern, Adri, from Wellesley College. This July has been amazing! Watch for a full recap of our artist in residence on the blog.

To purchase a piece from his collection link here

xx Annette

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Grab your flights to Italy! Here’s how to get the best prices.

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I was talking to my web manager, Nicole, about Italy during a meeting last month. We were talking about the workshop website and talking about booking flights to Italy. She’s considering coming, but said she was shocked by pricing to Pisa. She told me that Delta was charging $3000 economy round trip. I almost spit out my espresso. I said, “No way, let me tell you how I fly.” She had never heard about half the airlines I use when I search for flights. I thought everyone knew about these airlines. Apparently not which prompted Nicole to say…

“Annette this would be a great blog post,” and I agreed. So I have written this post just for you! That way you can book your budget flights in and out of Pisa to attend my workshops. When I book flights to Italy, my only mission is to get to Italy and then figure out how to get to La Fortezza – sometimes from Milan, sometimes from Rome, and sometimes flying directly to Pisa from a European city like London or Frankfurt. I save money flying to Italy by looking at tickets online to various cities in Europe with several carriers picking the most affordable and shortest duration. Then I fly with local airlines into Pisa from where ever I land. Sometimes I even take a train to to La Fortezza directly if possible.

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Here are my top tips:

1. The main thing is to be flexible with dates to find the best offers. I use all the discount sites to check if there are any great flights I might catch. Kayak, Expedia, Travelocity and Cheapoair. I set up alerts with Airfare Watchdog.

2. Always check the “my dates are flexible” box. A big tip is that I do not look at flights until I am ready to buy them. I start looking 4 months before I travel overseas. Once I find a flight, I book it on the spot it if it’s cheap and mainly if the duration of the flight is not super long.

3. I always book tickets overseas from JFK airport in New York, not from Atlanta where we live. I use points when I can to book flights from Atlanta to JFK on Delta because most of the time, flights are regular and very affordable to JFK. Timing works because most flights overseas leave starting in the early evening into late night, so timing is great to coordinate.

4. I check all the major cities from JFK Airport. Think Amsterdam, Milan, Rome, London, Munich, Frankfurt and sometimes Zurich and Barcelona (I stay out of Paris at all costs; it’s a horrible airport although if it’s super cheap, I book it). I look at budget airlines like Condor, British Airways, Turkish Airlines Iberian Airlines and  Air Canada.

Here’s an example of selections from Air Canada from JFK to Milan June 2-11th , but other dates are available as well. You can see the difference flying out different days, so flexibility is very important.

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Here is an example of Travelocity’s listing from JFK to Milan. There are lots of choices, so make sure to look at flight duration on both legs…

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5. I travel light which means with a carry on. The truth is that you do not need a lot of clothing in the summer, and if you’re carrying camera equipment you should be good with 2 carry-on bags. Plus this is important if you’re flying with budget flights or taking a train.

6. Fly smaller, European budget airlines to reach Pisa. Once I have my flight to a major European city selected, I look for my European leg to Pisa with a European budget airline. I use Easy Jet, Ryanair, Transavia  and Alitalia  for the connecting European legs. For example if you fly into London, book EasyJet or Ryanair to Pisa airport.

Here’s an example of the choices on Easy Jet  from London to Pisa:

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8. Sign-up for alerts. If you’re on an alert system like Airfare Watchdog, you should be able to find flights from JFK to Pisa sometimes as cheap at 700 dollars. So it takes a bit of time, but the effort is worth it. Honestly, I rather enjoy it. Who doesn’t love a challenge?!

If you’re coming to one of our workshops in June or July you may want to start actively looking for your flights now. The key is to look at every option, and be open to travel routes, new airlines and flexible dates.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you loads of other travel content to help you plan your trip. June workshops and July’s artist in residence program will be here before we know it! Stay tuned for packing tips, plane essentials, layover must-dos and more! Have a safe flight xx

 

 

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Phase 2 Our Italian Renovation begins

This summer, I took a mini break for our renovation. Now it's time to rev it up again for phase 2 of our Italian renovation.

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This summer, I took a mini break from our Italian renovation. Now it’s time to rev it up again for phase 2. Sometimes I think it’s a good idea to take some time and think. I know for me that better solutions emerge and more functional ideas come to light. In this case, time has really solidified the functionality of the guest rooms and the commercial kitchen area.

Here are some ideas that showed-up for me. The walls in the commercial kitchen will remain deconstructed concrete and stone. The ceilings are already inlaid with wood and are beautiful. We will have white washed walls and industrial lighting. Of course, our giant stunningly beautiful black Lacanche will be included in the floor plan with plenty of room for prepping and demoing. Side note: I can’t wait to start teaching in our new kitchen.

We will have a student lounge that will double as another guest room. There will be a full pantry and a terrace overlooking the mountain views and the vineyard. We will have a large terrace with a shady pergola for enjoying the mid-day sun. It will overlook the kitchen garden.

Stay tuned for more updates as we start this very important part of our Italian renovation project.

I think the next phase of this project is going to be fun. xx

 

 

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Italy renovation update

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This will be the guest quarters, under the bridge.

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the commerical kitchen and guest lounge ( bat cave) will be below the terrace. Photos by Sarah Dorio

As you all know by now, we worked at our new workshop location in Italy all summer long, La Fortezza. Some of our attendees witnessed the renovation first hand, and those brave soles that signed up for our first ever Style + Photo Workshop got an eye full of what it looks like to do a large renovation project in Italy. We had scaffolding up as we were in the midst of reappointing the dependance which will serve as 3 bedrooms and baths in this beautiful outbuilding on the side of the main house. It will have a beautiful terrace, be near the outdoor oven and have a super view of the vineyard. The scaffolding came down right before our second workshop. At that time we halted all works for the summer and took a well deserved break from hammers, drills and heavy equipment.

After a quiet summer, we are ready to resume all the noise and changes to the property. Here’s a renovation update and what is on the to-do list for this coming winter:

  1. Finish the outbuilding guest rooms and bath rooms.
  2. Finish the guest quarters in the main building.
  3. Finish the outdoor oven and grill area with seating area.
  4. Finish the commercial demo kitchen
  5. Finish the student lounge area which our son Levi named the bat cave (we may or may not have a bat family living there now; don’t worry we plan to erect a proper bat home for them on the property).
  6. Expand the garden – this includes planting an olive grove. Frank is keen on having our own olive oil.
  7. Large stone wall for the front of the house for privacy.

After the holidays in December, work will commence once more. At this point, we are in the planning and design and budgeting stages with our Italian team. Stay tuned for regular updates. Of course, follow along on my Instagram account.

We are super excited to continue work on this amazing project. Stay tuned…xx

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