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Meet our new Guest Liaison- Jenna Galowich

IMG_3314 I would like to introduce our newest Annette Joseph Style team member. Jenna Galowich.

Full disclosure: I have been looking to fill this position for a few years. But I took my time to find someone that was the perfect fit. Imagine my delight when Jenna reached out. She told me her family was from Fivizzano. “What luck!” I thought. Then we met over zoom for several interviews, I knew she was just right. She’s enthusiastic and well-traveled, her background includes the hospitality business, as well as marketing. Please join me in welcoming her. I really look forward to working with her and seeing what her talents bring to enrich our guest experience here at La Fortezza. For those of you signed up for fall workshops and experiences, you are in for a treat,

Benvenuta Jenna!

A little about Jenna in her own words, take it away Jenna:

Buongiorno a tutti! It’s Jenna here – the newest member of the Annette Joseph Style Workshops & Retreats dream team. I am so thrilled to be working with our guests as the guest liaison, ensuring that everyone has the best experience possible during workshops, as well as working behind the scenes as we prepare every year for new workshop experiences and offerings.

A little bit about me: although I am a Chicagoan by birth, I am incredibly fortunate to also call Los Angeles and Paris home as well. An interesting fact about me the location of La Fortezza, in Fivizzano, Italy is in my blood – it is my ancestral hometown, as my Italian side of the family has their roots there and called it home for centuries! I recently earned my bachelor’s degree in marketing from The American University of Paris, which was one of the greatest and most transformative experiences of my life. Prior to Paris, I briefly lived in Rome, where I fell even more in love with Italy, Italian culture, Italian food, and the Italian people more than I already was.

When I’m not working at La Fortezza, I love traveling and hanging out at the dog park in front of the Louvre with Charlie my rescue pup, learning new languages, meeting new people from all walks of life, going to the authentic family-owned restaurants and spending time in the mountains hiking. There is nothing that I enjoy more than working with people, and I am so excited to meet and work with our guests at La Fortezza this fall.

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Meet my new neighbor, Julie Montagu, the Viscountess Hinchingbrooke

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Ciao All! I wanted you to meet my new neighbor in Fivizzano. Much to my surprise, I received a direct message from a woman that follows both of us on Instagram. The message read, “You must meet Julie Montagu; she just bought a house in Fivizzano”.

How obscure, I thought. Our region is so unknown and yet this Julie person bought a house here during a pandemic? I did not think much more about it until I got a message from said “Julie”.

I looked at her name, and it sounded vaguely familiar. So I did what anyone would do, I looked at her instagram account. With a little more investigation, I realized I knew Julie from the very short-lived Bravo TV show, “Ladies of London”. I mainly remembered her because she was so unlike the other “ladies”. First off she is an American, and she is a renowned yoga and healthy lifestyle guru! Obviously, I wrote her back that we would need to meet up in Fivizzano.

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We texted back and forth until the moment we met. She really was like seeing an old friend; we shared a driver from the airport, and honestly, it was an instant connection. Julie is a delight, she adores Italy and even though she’s a Viscountess, she’s just a lovely lady from the Midwest. Being from the Midwest myself, I felt an instant connection.

Julie is a busy lady. She’s a mom to 4 children, and she has an incredible You Tube Channel and teaches yoga non-stop, all while helping to run her family estate, Mapperton House. She also hosts a show on Smithsonian Channel. If you’re interested in English estates, you might want to watch it. She’s charming on it. (It streams on Amazon btw)

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I am looking forward to showing her around and introducing her to our beautiful region of the Lunigiana. She, like me, is obsessed with interior design, so it will be fun to show her all my wonderful local vendors and flea markets. You know I love a project. We are even thinking about holding some Yoga Retreats and La Fortezza in 2022. Let me know if you’d be into it? I cannot wait to collaborate with Julie and share her amazing talents and energy!

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Julie’s sweet new home in the heart of Fivizzano. How cute is this place?

I asked Julie a few questions she was kind enough to answer them even though she’s incredibly busy these days. Julie, I look forward to lots of adventures with you. x

Q: Explain your relationship with Italy.

A: Honestly, I wish I could say that even 1/100th of me had some Italian in me, but try as I might, I couldn’t find any.  So my relationship with Italy is one of obsession really. What American isn’t, right?  The food, the culture, the history, the arts, the coffee, the wine and I had better stop here because this could take all day. But equally, I’m obsessed with the language so I started taking online lessons at the start of the pandemic March 2020. I think I have around 120 hours of lessons under my belt but I’m still rubbish!  However, that certainly doesn’t stop me from trying to fit in…. one day!

Q: How did you decide on Fivizzano?

A: My thirst for Italy wasn’t being quenched enough by Italian lessons plus not many people speak Italian in England! Therefore, I made a commitment to myself and possibly not to my husband…shhhh… that I would buy a property in 2020 somewhere in Italy.  That somewhere zoomed in to Tuscany.  I’m an outdoors gal, yoga, cycling, walking, skiing, boating so I knew that having some or all of that was where I wanted to go.  I was told to ‘seek and ye shall find’ in Northwest Tuscany. I like to think that Fivizzano found me! Thank goodness too! I compare my experience of finding a house in Italy and finding this house in Fivizzano to that of my shopping skills: I don’t have the time or the energy to spend hours, days, months shopping. I know what I like as soon as I see it.

Q: Tell us about your house and your plans for the renovation.

A: My new favourite name for my house is: La mia casetta carina – My cute little house. In my eyes, that’s exactly what it is. It’s 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 1 shower room, a sitting room and of course, a good sized kitchen!  But the other feature that sold it to me was the roof terrace.  I distinctively remember walking out onto the terrace in sync with the ringing of the church bells and the view of the spire straight ahead.  All around me were the sights, sounds and smells of Italy – exactly what I had spent years imagining.

I’m in the midst of the very beginning stages of renovation.  The pandemic has of course slowed things down a bit but I’m American and am full steam ahead in my heart.  I’d like to expose more the original, interior stone walls and incorporate beautiful Italian floor tiles throughout but keep the decoration simple and clean.  However, living in England for the past 20 years has converted me into a bath girl!  Long gone are the days of my preference to shower. So the bathroom must have an enormous bath that is big enough for me to lie completely horizontal. And of course, I’m really excited about heading off to the brilliant flea markets too as there lies treasures of one-of-a-kind finds.

Q: How much time do you plan to spend in Italy?

A: How much time am I allowed?! I still have a young(ish) family, so I won’t be an empty nester for 6 more years BUT as soon as the last of 4 chicks have flown the coop, you can count on this mother hen spending as much time in Italy as she possibly can.

Q: How is your Italian?

A: Probably considered rubbish by the Italians and decent by American standards. I’m still beavering away at my 3x a week virtual Italian lessons and will continue to do so until god knows when but the reality of truly becoming more fluent only happens when you’re actually in the country and speaking with ‘in real life’ Italians.

Q: Do you plan to host yoga retreats in Italy?

A: Not at my cute little house which only sleeps 4, but perhaps at yours? Let’s talk!

Q: Will you be my best friend?

A: Yes! As long as you teach me how to cook! 😉 I’m not sure who was looking down on oblivious Julie – but clearly, someone was and for that, I am eternally grateful. Who would have thought that in ALL of Italy, the paths of 2 midwestern girls would not only cross but become the best of friends, in a little town called Fivizzano.

Grazie Mille Julie! Here’s to many hours spent scouring the flea markets and cooking, but mostly drinking and laughing on the terrace and of course hiking up and down the mountainside.. Ci vediamo a presto cara. Ti voglio bene x

P.S. Big Si Si to Yoga retreats in 2022, you teach the yoga, and I’ll teach the cooking.

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Oysters with Lemon Mignonette

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Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web manager and friend, and I’m reviving a recipe from the archives for you today.

This past weekend, my husband and I took a quick road trip to Apalachicola, Florida. Once upon a time, Apalachicola Bay produced 90% of the state’s oysters and 10% of the oysters served across the country. Oyster farming in the area is currently on pause, but we were able to have an abundance of oysters from nearby waters several times throughout the weekend. They were fantastic.

I’ve never tried to shuck oysters on my own, but after this weekend and after digging up this recipe, I think I might have to give it a try. This recipe is from the archives of Atlanta Magazine’s Home.

 

It calls for fresh oysters from your local fish market and includes a fantastic recipe for a lemon mignonette, the tangy, vinegar alternative to cocktail sauce.

Oysters with Prosecco & Preserved Lemon Mignonette
24 oysters, 8 guests (3 per guest)

You will need:

– 2 cups coarse sea salt
– oysters, 2-3 per person*
– 1 tablespoon preserved lemon, finely minced
– 1 tablespoon shallots, finely minced
– 1 tablespoon champagne wine vinegar
– pinch of sugar
– Chervil leaves for garnish, optional
– salt

*Oysters available at your best local fish market; these are from Atlanta’s Star Provisions.

To prepare:

To make the mignonette, remove the pulp from the preserved lemons and rinse well to remove any excess salt. Mince the lemon finely, but leave enough texture for color. Mince the shallot and add to a bowl with the lemon. Add the vinegar, prosecco, sugar, and salt. Whisk until blended and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving, so flavors can integrate.

To serve:

Mound 1/4 cup of sea salt on each salad plate. Carefully open the oysters, checking for any pieces of shell fragments. Arrange the oysters with the bottom shell intact on top of the salt. Top each oyster with the mignonette. Garnish with a small leaf of chervil.

Note* You can easily make your own preserved lemons, but they take time to mature before using. Bella Cucina makes preserved lemons which are available at select southeast Whole Foods stores. You can also substitute preserved lemons with chopped lemon zest if preserved lemons are not available in your area.

xx, Annette

Recipe: Alisa Barry

Photo credit: John McDonald

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Doing Italy’s Thea Duncan, If you’re thinking of moving to Italy, You will want to know her.

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I met Thea Duncan through my friend Georgette, Girl in Florence.

People are always asking me about moving to Italy. I found the person that can help with all the questions you have. Moving to Italy is a very personal experience, and it is not one size fits all by any means. Although there are some basics that one needs to know before embarking on this life-changing endeavor, Thea can help you.

I thought she would be a really cool person to introduce you to. Of course, you can always ask me questions, and I will do my best to answer them. But two heads are better than one, am I right?

I think you will enjoy this interview. Thanks, Thea. xx

A little background on Thea:

Thea Duncan is the Founder of Doing Italy, a company that helps people gain the knowledge they need to move to Italy with ease while avoiding many of the pitfalls that negatively affect most ex-pats when moving abroad.

Trinidad and Tobago-born and Miami-raised, Duncan spent much of her life traveling the globe before Italy captured her heart. She studied for her master’s degree at Milan’s Bocconi University in the early 2000s, later holding roles with some of Italy’s most storied fashion and design houses – including Gucci and Luxottica.

Doing Italy, which began as Duncan’s effort to reconnect with travelers and curate her Milan, now offers individuals the opportunity to get an even more authentic understanding of Italian culture by helping them move abroad. The company offers one on one sessions and group coaching where students dive into just about everything a foreigner should know about moving to Italy. This includes insights into the Italian job market, to why, if an Italian home announcement says an apartment is unfurnished, it most likely means you literally need to bring your own kitchen sink.

I had some questions for Thea:

Q: How long have you lived in Italy?

A: I’m originally from Trinidad and Tobago. My family and I moved to the United States, Miami to be precise, when I was about 6 years old. Miami has a huge Latin American influence, and I’m so grateful that my parents had the hindsight to enroll me into a bilingual school that intensively taught Spanish (and French and German – but I took Spanish). This gave me a very multicultural and intercultural outlook on life from a young age. In fact, in fifth grade, we took a class trip to Spain. To me, that seemed absolutely normal, but I realize now that it’s not most people’s reality. 

Many years later, I met a young Italian man in college, a study abroad student. We started dating, and when his semester was up, he convinced me to come back with him to Italy. It was 2002. 

I ended up doing a semester abroad in Spain, which I absolutely loved, and a semester in Italy, in L’Aquila, a university town in the Abruzzo region of Italy. 

While I had an incredibly memorable time in Spain, Italy stole my heart, and I was committed to figuring out how I could get to experience more of it.

 Q: You are married to an Italian; how did you meet?

A: My husband and I met about a decade after my first trip to Italy. By this point in time, I had returned to Milan to pursue my master’s degree, and then I had returned to the States shortly thereafter. 

 As my husband, Diego, explains it, he saw my photo on a mutual friend’s Facebook page and was convinced that I looked like the Black woman that lived in his building. Evidently, to him, it made more sense to reach out to me on Facebook than to say hi “in real life” to the woman that lived in his building. 

Diego proceeded to Facebook stalk me for months (not in a scary way) until I eventually agreed to meet him in person. During that time, I was working for a company that frequently brought me to Milan, so I agreed to meet him on a work trip. 

The rest is history.

But I think it’s worth noting that I did meet this woman that lived in his building. We look nothing alike. 

 Q: How long did it take you to learn Italian?

A: Only about 8 months. I started studying Italian during my semester in Spain (in a class that was taught in Gallego! lol). Then I moved to L’Aquila, in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Almost no one spoke English, so I was forced to learn and practice. It’s what I call a very intensive Italian school, and I really recommend doing something similar if anyone is really serious about learning the language. 

Q: When did you start your business Doing Italy?

A: You know how people say that when one door closes another one opens…or that when something horrible happens in your life, a lot of times it’s God’s way of point your life in a new direction? Well, that’s exactly what starting my business was for me. 

A few years ago, I had an injury a stupid freak accident that resulted in me being on bed rest for months and in pain for way too long taking high doses of pain killers.

After watching every single episode of Scandal, and just about everything else that I wanted to see (and things I probably didn’t want to see) on Netflix, I decided it was time for me to retake control of my life. 

I decided to spend my time at home learning, so I read more and decided to focus the hours I did spend online on things I found intellectually stimulating. 

One day, I happened upon a woman that was creating these absolutely incredible tours in Latin America. Experiences that were light years away from the cookie-cutter superficial way of doing tourism. I thought, OMG, I have to do something similar in Italy. From my previous years working in travel and tourism, I knew all about those big bus tours where people ate at tourist traps right in front of the Colosseum that sell frozen pizzas to unsuspecting tourists. 

My business was born out of a desire to help more tourists see the real Italy – to travel slowly through this country that I love so much.

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Q: How has Covid changed your business in the last year?

A: Then Covid happened, and obviously, travel and tourism was out of the picture. I spent the first few months of the pandemic, when we really didn’t know what was happening, praying, meditating, and cooking. Then one day, I thought, “I wonder if people want help moving to Italy”. And so I decided to test that hypothesis. I created a program and sold it to my audience. I am so blessed and happy to say that they loved it! Helping people with Master Classes on How to Move to Italy has been amazing.

And oddly enough the whole process felt so incredibly easy. Yes, there were so many things I had to learn and do along the way. I spent quite a few nights up until 2 or 3 AM, and a few times until 6 AM. Plus, I worked just about every single weekend to get it done…

But somehow it still felt easy. Like all of my experience in Italy collided for this perfect moment. For example, I’ve held several very different jobs in Italy – from being a private English teacher to working in the corporate communications department of Gucci. And since I’ve lived in so many different places in Italy – from the small university town outside of Rome, to Pescara the seaside town in Abruzzo, to the internationally acclaimed city of Florence, to the bustling city of Milan — I feel like God has uniquely positioned me to help people navigate the ups and downs of moving abroad and more specifically to moving to Italy. 

I realized that over the years, since when I first visited in 2002, I had gained so much experience on what to do, and perhaps equally important, what not to do. 

 Q: What does your business do?

A: I created an online course that helps people move to Italy. It’s the sum of everything I and lots of expat friends wished we had known when we first moved to Italy. And while my knowledge of ins and outs of moving to Italy is extensive. I don’t know everything, so I have incredible (if I do say so myself) guest speakers (immigration lawyers. tax accountants, and real estate professionals) come on, who also share their experience and know-how. 

Most recently, my team and I have also started offering one on one Move to Italy Coaching and Consulting. We have two programs, one for individuals/families that want to move – for example for people that want to retire in Italy. The other is for people who want to start a business in Italy – either as a freelancer or even a product-based business. 

I was very fortunate that I married a very capable project manager (by profession and mental configuration). We also have a very capable network of friends and professional acquaintances. Trustworthy people that we have been able to lean on and ask for assistance over the years. Not everyone has that. 

We have expat friends that made horrible decisions when it came to setting up their partita iva (their freelance business structure). Or another friend who was going through the hassle of redoing her permesso di soggiorno (permit of stay) every year because she didn’t know that since she’s married to an Italian the procedure for her was a bit different. 

Plus, from doing the course I realized that some people have all their ducks in a row, but they just need someone to metaphorically hold their hand and say, don’t worry it will be okay. This feels like a big leap but lots of people before you, and after you will do it. And you can do it too. 

So the one and one consulting brings together these two aspects professionals they can trust to help them with the bureaucratic difficulties of moving abroad, plus they get more personalized access to me. I kind of see myself as your knowledgeable friend on the ground who you can call and send WhatsApp with questions. The friend that will listen to your problems and help you find solutions. 

 Q: Any future plans or events you’d like to share?

A: I have so many thoughts, ideas, and plans in the works, but for now, you guys are going to have to follow me on my social channels. I’m “Doing Italy” just about everywhere but I especially like hanging out on Instagram these days. That way you can see all the things that my team and I have cooking up. 

Doing Italy: Guidebook Part I

 

 

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William Abranowicz’s new book

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I couldn’t go this month without telling everyone about Bill Abranowicz’s new baby. Some of you already know that I adore him. He is one of the finest humans I know. Not only is he incredibly talented, but he has an enormous heart. Not only is he a fine photography instructor at La Fortezza Workshops, but he is also a social activist and uses his talents to spread his message. His latest endeavor is This Far and No Further, a book that documents the voting rights movement in America.

Beautifully captured this is a book that should live on your shelf.

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I hope you pick up a copy and come to La Fortezza Photography Workshop with Bill in September. Spaces are going fast, and as I like to say, it’s worth the flight just to hear his lecture, and this year we will make sure he talks a bit about his new book. Bring your copy, and he’ll sign it for you. Congratulations Bill, it’s truly an honor and great pleasure to know you. x

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