Tag Archives: renovation

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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2018 The year in highlights!

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Wow what a year 2018 has been! It marked the conclusion of the Italian renovation of La Fortezza which was a milestone indeed.

Our second season of the La Fortezza workshops were a huge success. We had the opportunity to delve into our region in Italy more deeply, and we welcomed 40 guests this year.

We also welcomed our new chef, Chef Philip Meeker, to our workshops. We cooked in the kitchen with Angie Moser, preserved, jarred and canned and cooked with Domenica Marchetti and enjoyed showing James Beard Award winning Chef Rebecca Wilcomb our region. We introduced Rebecca, Angie and Philip to some local slow food artisans and purveyors. We harvested our vineyard and pressed olive oil at the local press with students in tow. We seasoned our new pizza oven and cooked with all the local products with locals. We ate every single thing out of our kitchen garden. We hunted truffles and sampled our wine (non stop) it was amazing.

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Testaroli tasting

Testaroli tasting

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Truffle huntiing followed by a 4 course truffle lunch, left us stuffed and sleepy.

Truffle huntiing followed by a 4 course truffle lunch, left us stuffed and sleepy.

We had Steve McKenzie paint with our guests. Lucky for us, he will be returning in 2019 to stay for a month and paint a collection that will conclude in our first ever Art Exhibition at La Fortezza.

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It was a rewarding year, and with rewards naturally come some challenges. After all renovating a 12th century fortress in the Italian countryside can be bit daunting, but if you know me, you know I love a challenge. It’s great fodder for my next book, my third book, Italy is my Boyfriend.

Speaking of books, this was the year my passion project, Cocktail Italiano, was published in April. I was overwhelmed by the support and how much everyone loves the book. We’ve put it up for a Book Award, so keep your fingers crossed, and I will most definitely let you know if it wins. To all of you who came out to various book signings, know I loved meeting all of you, chatting about my favorite subject, Italy, and hearing all of your travels and impressions of my adopted country.

Me with Penny Randolph who illustrated my map

Me with Penny Randolph who illustrated my map

Me mixing up a Campari Shakerato from my book

Me mixing up a Campari Shakerato from my book

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Here’s to hoping that 2019 will be filled with new adventures, and new friends. I look forward to meeting all of you at our workshops, and of course, I am excited to send my 3rd book off to the publishers in the spring.

Happy and healthy new year to everyone, and big grazie to all that made 2018 a perfect year. Cheers to La Fortezza and many dinners and drinks on the terrace with all those we love.

xx Annette

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…leaving Italy 2018

 

2018 has been the year of renovation. We switched into full gear this year, renovating the rest of our fortress. We added a kitchen, a lounge area next to the kitchen, 6 guest rooms, a kitchenette and a new outdoor seating area outside the dependence (the out building that serves as 3 guest rooms).

It was challenging in a way I have never been challenged. That is saying a lot as I have built and renovated many residential and commercial spaces, but this one was a beast. It was challenging but not why you think. Our contractor, project manager and geometra (the architect/engineer, that is required for any construction in Italy) were incredible. The electrician, painter, plumber and marble guy were top notch. Mostly, everyone working on the project was really efficient. However, the mere  scope of the project was daunting. Resurrecting a medieval fortress is not for the faint of heart.

I am happy to say that it’s all behind us. It is finished. We still have many projects ahead, but the idea that the majority of the renovation is history is quite frankly the best feeling in the world.

I loved all the workshops this year. The privates were fulfilling, and everyone who attended this year had a special point of view. I loved doing our wedding shoot; it was fun to imagine a wedding at La Fortezza. Frank and I really had a blast with all of our guests and loved showing everyone our little part of Italy.

La Fortezza guest rooms were a hit with all of our guests, too which was especially rewarding after all of our hard work. Everyone loved all the special touches, and it was really fun hosting everyone. All the aperitivi and all the suppers and discussions around the table were exactly how I imagined it would be. It warms my heart that I made so many new friends and got visit with old friends as well. I hope everyone comes to visit us again. Such precious memories make all the work the past 2 1/2 years so worth it!

Many ask if I am sad to leave Italy. I am sad, but being back in the US with my family and friends is great. I will be back next spring and in the meantime, I am enjoying all the peace of not making renovation decisions every day, but I will miss all the group dinners under the stars and the moon. Until next year…

xx I will miss you Italy. cin cin

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The Harvest 2018

Chardonay Grapes

I know some of you know that we have a vineyard here in the Lunigiana. It came with the house. The funny story is that when we bought the house, the vineyard was never mentioned. It was only mentioned when the sellers accepted our offer, and we were toasting with their (now our) wine. Imagine how happy and surprised we were. As we always say, “only in Italy!” It’s actually a longer story, one that I am including in my next book Italy is my Boyfriend, which I am in the middle of writing right now.

Every year (it’s been 3), I look forward to the harvest. I excitedly wait for our vintner’s entire family to arrive. Even the dog joins in.

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One of the Vinter Brothers

For me, fall is thee best time of year in Italy! It’s the harvest, and it’s just so amazing to watch everything ripen. You literally see the seasons change here in farm country.

Fingers crossed this year’s harvest will make for a delicious vintage. Cin Cin from the vineyard…

xx Annette

 

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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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