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My secret mega obsession in Italy

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Hi I’m Annette Joseph, and I am a professional shopper…and I have a problem. Well not a problem exactly. More like a secret obsession. As you all know, I live in Italy about 1/2 the year, with Donald Trump in office, it will probably be more like 12 months out of the year…(not kidding).

I live here, therefore I live a normal life, and I need normal stuff like wrapping paper, light bulbs, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, glass jars, paper plates, and a mop and pail. When I first summered in Italy about 25 years ago, one had to shop at many specialty stores for those items. There were not giant conglomerate hardware stores like Home Depot, or SUPER markets like Whole Foods or even stores that cover it all like Target. We would go from place to place picking up mops here and laundry detergent there, meat at the butcher (which I still do) and wrapping paper…well there was no wrapping paper…none. I used to have to be super creative with birthday wrapping, or I would bring it with me from the states.

My point is like with all things, things change. It’s still hard to find everything in one place like Target, but the world is becoming more homogenized as the internet has made the world smaller and smaller. Something terribly clever is going on here in Italy. The inception of the catch all store. Mostly owned and operated by Chinese families, these mega stores have everything, and I mean everything. I am totally obsessed with them. Need cute cocktail straws or cute ribbon? Doggie poo bags or votive candles? Pots and pans, hardware or sunscreen? Here’s your place. They even have clothing, hats, cosmetics and perfume. The skus go on and on. Need a grill? Charcoal? A chocolate bar? Gum? Motor oil? You get the picture.

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I AM OBSESSED. It is something that has made living here nearly perfect. I know you’re saying what is she talking about? But these stores are literally life changing. It used to take hours to find wrapping paper, gift bags and even cocktail straws, and now with the Happy Megastore, I can get everything in one spot. The thing I like most is that the store is so unpolished, so utilitarian and almost kitsch. No sparkling photography of pretty people trying perfume or walking their perfect pooch. Just down and dirty racks with all sorts of useful items stocked up in obscene quantities.

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The biggest secret is when I am in a bad mood (yes one can be in a bad mood in Italy :-)), I go there for an instant pick me up. I buy a few items, a scented candle or a bag of charcoal for our grill, and I feel 100% better. Let’s face it: it’s cheaper than therapy, and one can pick up some useful hard-to-find items to boot. Next time you’re in Italy in a town, find the Happy Megastore or something like it. (Hint: they look like a Chinese container threw up on the sidewalk) Go in; you will be amazed. If you forgot to bring something from home, I swear they will have what you need. I know this is not the most Italian-ish romantic post I’ve ever done, but it’s a very important post because it documents the changes that have taken place as the world becomes a smaller place. It’s relevant and important and mainly, it’s my happy mega place.

xx Annette

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Sarzana Antique Fair

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Every year in August I wait for it…in Sarzana there’s the most wonderful event, the Sarzana Antiques Fair. Sarzana is about a 40 minute drive from our house in the Lunigiana. Sarazana is a quaint medieval town 20 minutes inland from the sea, right before you get to Cararra where the marble is from. Complete with a citadel and duomo, it’s our region’s fun little secret hipster haven. It’s also virtually unknown by tourists. In fact I cringe a little bit letting you all in on my secret happy place. It’s chocked-full of artisan clothing boutiques and antique stores, yummy hip restaurants, and the most charming little bakery/tearoom, Melissa’s (Ill be writing about it in the next blog post, so you will want to come back, and read about it this Thursday). There’s even a hipster barber shop.

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This year I went twice. Once to scout it out. I found a charming hand painted terracotta urn that I have proudly displayed in our front entry. I headed back to find some pieces for the guest quarters and kitchen, and a trunk for the master bedroom.

The stalls under the brightly lit passageways always make me smile. Striped umbrellas and trillions of trinkets catch your eye. It always makes me a little dizzy with anticipation. Oh, and it’s held at night which is a stroke of genius since the August heat can bring upwards of 100 degrees in the shade. It’s the perfect time to have an aperitivo and people watching at the fair is an added plus.

All summer long there are wonderful antiques markets all around the region, but this once-a-year fair is the one I wait for. Now that I have let you in on my little secret, you should think about visiting our region inland from the Riviera. Thirty minutes from the very popular and incredibly over-crowed over-marketed Cinqueterra, there is a treasure trove of quaint towns and beautiful views, amazing hikes and unexpected local cuisine. Adventure awaits you off the beaten path. Start with Sarzana; you won’t be disappointed. You’re welcome. xx

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Announcing our First Italian Fall Workshop: All About Olives

The premiere olive-centric workshop includes elements of the classic workshop we have offered over the years, but with a unique twist: it’s all about olives!

I am super excited to tell you about our first ever fall workshop in Italy. As always, it will focus on food photography, styling and all things Italian.

We’ve had an amazing summer here at our new location in Northern Tuscany in a region called Lungiana. Our attendees have enjoyed an authentic Italian experience here in the Tuscan countryside all summer long.

I cannot wait to see what this fall has in store!

Here’s what you need to know:

This premiere olive-centric workshop includes elements of the classic workshop we have offered over the years, but with a unique twist: it’s all about olives! The workshop takes place during olive harvest season. The AJ style team photographer Emily Followill will be your photography instructor. Emily will teach you the basics of your camera and for more advanced photographers, you can dig into technical one-on-ones with Emily.

I will be teaching styling in the kitchen and in the studio, with special guest, acclaimed chef Alisa Barry of Bella Cucina who will be in the kitchen teaching cooking lessons. If you have a passion for all things Italian, including Italian food, this workshop is for you. We are a match made in olive oil heaven. If you’re obsessed with olives and olive oil, this is your time to make the commitment and come cook, style and photograph with them.

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Here’s what you’ll be doing for 4 days of olive oil fun: You will partake in foodie excursions. We will visit an organic olive grove and harvest olives. The group will observe and photograph while the olives are pressed and will have the opportunity to taste fresh press olive oil. You’ll enjoy a picnic in the olive groves. Alisa will be teaching cooking lessons with local olive oil including both savory and sweet recipes. Fall is a beautiful time of year to enjoy the seasonal bounty like olives, truffles, persimmons, and even wine tasting.

You’ll have a free day to explore even more of Italy which includes your choice of fall food festival excursions. Post-production lessons in work flow will be offered in the onsite photo studio for those interested.

$2850.00 for shared rooms, $3,275.00 for single rooms

Fee includes breakfast, all lunches (excluding your free day), some dinners, all instruction, and group excursions. Accommodations are also included. Airfare is not included and is the responsibility of the student.

We are selling out fast already, so book your trip now. We look forward to welcoming you to La Fortezza and sharing delicious food, adventures, and drinking the wine from our vineyard.

Reserve your spot!

xx Annette

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Ciao! Workshop Studio Space

I fell in love with the workshop studio space when I toured our house for the first time. When I first stepped in, I could feel the creative vibrations.

We are getting ready because in a little over 2 weeks our first workshop will be conducted in our amazing studio space.

Full disclosure: I fell in love with the workshop studio space when I toured our house for the first time. When I first stepped in, I could feel the creative vibrations. Even though it was filled to the ceiling with junk, I managed to glean the full expanse of this gorgeous forgotten space.

I can hardly wait to share this beautiful location with our attendees when they arrive June 14th. I truly have butterflies just thinking about it. We have now closed the workshop registration for the summer courses, but stay tuned for one workshop in November. If you want to sign-up, email me to get on the list. We have 3 spaces filled already, so we will only be releasing 3 spots end of July. You can reach me at annette@annettejosephstyle.

Stay tuned for BTS of the first ever workshop at La Fortezza with Christina Wedge and some surprise style gurus.

Ciao and see you here soon. xx

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IKEA’s Jassa Collection: A Colorful Bazaar

Ikea's latest collection, the Jassa collection, is fantastic. It's colorful, earthy, and bohemian. With all of its punch, it reminds me of a bazaar. Ikea's latest collection, the Jassa collection, is fantastic. It's colorful, earthy, and bohemian. With all of its punch, it reminds me of a bazaar.

As you all know, Ikea is one of my stylist’s secrets. It’s a great place to find funky, affordable, and chic items for your home and beyond. I’ve even been known to use Ikea items for photoshoots from time to time.

Ikea’s latest collection, the Jassa collection, is fantastic. It’s colorful, earthy, and bohemian. With all of its punch, it reminds me of a bazaar. It just screams outdoor entertaining and summer style.

Ikea's latest collection, the Jassa collection, is fantastic. It's colorful, earthy, and bohemian. With all of its punch, it reminds me of a bazaar. Ikea's latest collection, the Jassa collection, is fantastic. It's colorful, earthy, and bohemian. With all of its punch, it reminds me of a bazaar. Ikea's latest collection, the Jassa collection, is fantastic. It's colorful, earthy, and bohemian. With all of its punch, it reminds me of a bazaar.

The textiles are bold, and the furniture is so fun. It’s just a little bit vintage, but full of modernity. I just love it all.

Toss the oversized pillows on the floor for additional cozy seating, grab a large basket or two to hold blankets or beach towels around the pool, or plan an dinner party around the royal blue splattered serving wear. Most of all, plan some springtime fun!

xx Annette

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