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Private Retreats at La Fortezza Workshops

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Ciao everyone,

We’re gearing up for our next round of workshops. As always, I am excited to welcome everyone, but I am especially jazzed about spending time with our private retreat end of September.

What is a “Private Retreat” you might be asking yourself? Well, a private retreat is just that. It is a retreat put together by a host or organizer, for a private group of friends or co-workers. We offer activity focused vacations or corporate retreats in Italy that include all aspects of our unique Tuscan location. Activities like shopping, art, food and cooking lessons, exploring local food artisans from the region of the Lunigiana, Liguria and Emilia Romagna. With 30 years as a producer, I can tell you with confidence we can facilitate any type of cultural experience. La Fortezza offers yoga, wine tasting, truffle hunting, foraging in the kitchen garden, horseback riding, hiking, cooking lessons, shopping for antiques or at local markets like Forte Dei Marmi, chic beach clubs, lingering lunches at a family-owned village, boat rides, styling lessons, social media tutorials, and outdoor movies on the terrace.

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We are ready to help you enjoy your time in Italy in our bohemian monastic styled guest quarters.

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Make pizza in our pizza oven…

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Harvest from our own vineyard and fruit orchards and kitchen garden, witness olive oil being pressed or wheat being milled.

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Are you ready to experience 5-star food from our amazing classically trained Chef Philip, take a cooking lesson or two in our commercial kitchen?

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and enjoy aperitivo and meals on our three beautiful terraces?

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If you’re ready we are taking bookings through the end of October 2019…

To book a private experience for 2020 email me annette@annettejosephstyle.com for pricing information, Private retreats are for 6-8 people. Gather your group and join us. La Fortezza is a special place to get in touch with your inner creative and to share it with your group. x

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Ode from our Intern:: Meet Adri!

Ciao a tutt*,

My name’s Adri Tan, and I was this year’s summer intern at La Fortezza. I just graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in Computer Science and Italian Studies in May, and I found the La Fortezza internship to be the perfect transition from school to work. After having studied in Bologna last year, I was looking forward to immersing myself in the language once again, and my summer in the historic territory of Lunigiana definitely gave me the opportunity to exercise my conversational fluency.

My daily tasks included helping our chef, Phillip Meeker, prepare meals for guests during workshops, taking care of the outdoor plants, and figuring out the odds and ends to make everything run smoothly at La Fortezza. Beyond that, my fondest memories were my translation work for Annette as well as our artist in residence, Steve McKenzie, and getting to know some of the locals that live their quiet lives in this beautiful countryside.

As a photographer, I always have my camera on me, and I’d like to share a few of the photos of the experiences I had and the people I met:

Agriturismo Cà Vidè

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In a small village of Caprognano, situated in the mountains of Tuscany, two sisters Francesca and Sara operate a restaurant called Agriturismo Cà Vidè. Their family has been the sole occupants of this quiet village since the 1700s, and the sisters manage not only the restaurant but also the production of olive oil and wine. During my time in Fivizzano, I went to Cà Vidè for both lunch as well as dinner, and their corn-based focaccia is so incredible that I almost ate the whole bag while waiting for the main courses.

The China Clementi Factory

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During the second week in June, we went on a tour to the China (pronounced key-nah) Clementi factory, owned by the Clementi family that also owns the oldest pharmacy in the town of Fivizzano. Annette’s friend, Federica, gave us a wonderful tour through the factory and explained the painstaking process of maturation of the digestif.

I helped a bit with translating the tour for the rest of the workshop guests, and we learned a lot about how carefully monitored and balanced the drums are to produce a consistent flavor that truly speaks to the artisanal history of the liquor. As a small portion of each batch is left in the drums, each bottle of China Clementi is augmented by the remnants of dozens of years of maturation. We ended the tour with a cocktail of China Clementi and pomegranate juice, which I very much enjoyed as someone who loves bitter tastes.

Hiking in the Apuan Alps

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Last but not least, I drove to Equi Terme on a free day to go on an ~8km hike in the Apuan Alps. The Equi Gorge, where I started the hike, is known for its unusual landscape as a narrow valley incision that comes from the glacier and river modelling processes in the in the quaternary period. It has a unique geological makeup of marble, cavernous limestone, moraine deposits, and more. In particular, I came across a marble quarry adjacent to my trail and later heard some explosions from the site as they were working.

In Italy, all trails are marked with red, white, and red stripes, and I made the mistake of wearing shorts as the trails are certainly not as well-maintained as those in the US. Upon meeting an older Italian couple a bit into my hike, I was reprimanded for my outfit choice and was then advised to wear long pants next time I go hiking in Italy. We all got a bit lost going up the mountains but figured out how to get back on the trail. The trail passes through a beautifully-reconstructed village called Ugliancaldo that is home to only 18 inhabitants according to the most recent census, and ended in a loop back to Equi Terme. Before heading back and concluding my successful day trip, I cooled off in the Equi Terme streams while having lunch.

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Thanks Annette for this opportunity! Starting a new chapter of my life in Brooklyn will certainly be a change of pace compared to my two months living at La Fortezza, but I’m grateful for this Italian summer of incredible food and new experiences.

Non vedo l’ora di tornare!

Adri Tan
IG: @atangerinee
https://www.adriannatanphotography.com

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Our first Artist in Residence Program at La Fortezza::Summer 2019

Well he’s here! Our first ever artist in residence, Steve McKenzie has arrived, and he’s set up shop in our studio. When he arrived, we visited our favorite art store in the neighboring town of Sarzana. He was shocked at the low prices, so he loaded up. I would not be surprised if Steve loaded a suitcase full of art supplies to take back to the US.

We also paid a visit to the library in Fivizzano where antique books are archived. Steve will be using ancient maps, letters and documents from the region in his artwork. He talked to the head of the library in Fivizzano, with a little translation assistance from our intern Adri. We are planning a trip to the print museum as well since Fivizzano was the site of one of the earliest printing presses in the world.

For one month, Steve will create an abstract collection based on inspiration from the region we live in the Lunigiana. The collection is yet to be named but will be shown here at La Fortezza on July 27th. We are super excited to welcome him and have our first ever art opening. I love his work, and I am very curious about how the Lunigiana will inspire his artwork.

The best part is we all get to assist him and paint with him, including guests visiting this month. What a wonderful opportunity. It is assured that this program is something that we will implement every year in July.

If you’re interested in applying to paint, print, photograph, create and show here in 2020 please contact me at annette@annettejosephstyle.com

If you’re in Italy and would like to stop by the opening on July 27th please contact me at the email listed above.

Follow along on instagram, mine and Steve’s, to see all the painting as well as the opening party at end of this month. We are so incredibly happy to be creating with Steve in Italy.

xx Annette

 

 

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Styling Your Life Workshop Recap:: La Fortezza, Italy

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Ciao guys! Well, our first La Fortezza Workshop went off without a hitch. We welcomed back Maren and Joanna for a La Fortezza Workshop reunion of sorts (they both attended my Strictly Styling Workshop last spring), and we met Joanna’s friend florist Sarah.

Eliza Honey was supposed to be our floral instructor, but the timing of her first baby made it impossible for her to join. I am looking forward to having her join us to teach us everything floral here in the next years. We missed her, but the trio did a great job and everyone who attended had a great time.

We enjoyed many dinners on the terrace including a lovely apperitivo prepared by foodstylist/insturctor Maren. There were many beautiful florals around La Fortezza made by our attendees, and you gotta love that. Joanna taught a table setting class on the terrace; it is always fun to see how instructors use our things. The table was lovely.

Thanks to the attendees, who quite frankly, I now call friends. The best part about these workshops is that new friendships forged, especially the friendships between the attendees. We had another duo form with 2 of our guests who met at the airport and became fast friends. We called them the “2 Kims”.

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Chef Philip blew it out of the park, once again, with his amazing meals so thoughtfully prepared from all local ingredients from our kitchen garden. We welcomed our first intern ever, Adri. She’s a wonderful addition to our close-knit team.

The highlight of the workshop was that Heidi Rew from the Heidi Rew Show was here as well. She filmed and interviewed all of us including my stylist friend from Modena, Barbara (she’s teaching with me this weekend at my “Strictly Styling Workshop”). It was wonderful having her with us. Heidi is a delight and her podcast is amazing. I hope you give her “The Italian Chronicles” a listen over the next couple weeks and make sure to subscribe to her channel. Her show is great!

If you’re in media drop, me a line. We are welcoming all media this year to help us promote this incredibly gorgeous place in Italy. Reach out at annette@annettejosephstyle.com

xx Annette

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The Tale of Ancient Bread of the Lunigiana

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Once upon a time, there was a region in Italy far to the north of Tuscany called Lunigiana. This beautiful place of rolling hills, green land, of olive groves and chestnut forests was remote and magical. The folks living in the region were very creative and clever with what the land provided.

They harvested and sold olives and the oil extracted from the olives. They kept the chestnuts for themselves to live off of and use in many incarnations. The chestnuts were fired on a low burning fire dried to be milled into flour. The leaves used in the kitchen as parchment.

The low constant fire also gave way to utility by way of cooking on low fire. Large covered cast iron pans called “testa” were put on the low fire and used to cook many staples like bread while the chestnuts dried.

Last week our workshop chef, Philip, and I went to observe a loaf of local bread being baked in this cast iron vessel over the open fire. My friend Cornelia, invited us; she and her family own Podere Conti an Agriturismo in Flatteria about 45 mintues from our place. Cornelia is passionate about food and very passionate about local food. She was preparing to be part of the regional slow food competition presented in Parma at the famous cooking school, ALMA

We were lucky enough to watch her practice with her assistant at her beautiful location. The process is very specific. They had been testing variations on proportions of wet the dry ingredients for weeks. Finally, after several attempts, they came up with the perfect ratio for a moist and light bread. Careful not to give away too many secrets, she simply had us watch as they heated the testa pans in the open fire and then gently placed damp chestnut leaves onto round wooden boards. While the bread rose, we enjoyed the beautiful grounds and talked about her sheep and the olive harvest last season.

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Cornelia dampens and then presses the leaves between heavy boards to flatten, before using it as natural parchment for baking the bread.

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Dried Chestnut leaves, picked at the waning of the moon. Cornelia believes in Luna harvesting technique. https://www.gardeningbythemoon.com/

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I’ll let you know how they did at the competition, but after tasting everything, I think we have a winner. Their entry for the competition: bread baked in the testa with chestnut leaves toasted and rubbed with sweet garlic, local head cheese, local Pecorino cheese, homemade persimmon jam, and their own fresh pressed Bio olive oil. These offerings should surely garner first prize. It was certainly a gold medal experience for Philip and I. Thank you Cornelia for your warm hospitality and friendship.

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Podere Conti’s Bio- Olive oil.

Living in the Italian countryside has certainly opened my eyes to a whole new lifestyle, new foods and ways to harvest and cook in season, but mostly to some very dear friends.

xx Annette

 

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