Tag Archives: summer

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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Steve McKenzie’s Abstract Painting Workshop at La Fortezza + Artist in residence announcement.

567F7AB6-8841-48B2-B15C-B6FE204B368F IMG_2712 IMG_2788 Ciao all!  by now you know we have been trying out a few different workshops and retreats here at La Fortezza. A few weeks ago, I had my dear friend and amazing artist Steve McKenzie here with students painting all over the place. Of course like with all workshops, we served local food and our own wine. It was 5 days of pure creative bliss. Our newly renovated out building, known as the “dependence,” worked perfectly and all guests were comfy and cozy.

Our farewell pizza party was a huge hit and visiting a local castle owned by artists was a big thrill. Thank you to Steve for making every minute count and every lesson so valuable. I even stopped my duties here to paint one morning, and it was divine. Steve is an amazing teacher. Oh and we picked a few grapes with our handsome vintner Manolo since our grape harvest was in full swing! The looks on their faces tells the story. They were all so happy!

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We also had a cooking lesson, as we do with every workshop, with retreat chef, Teri. Homemade pasta was so fun to make.

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This season we have been thinking about how to come up with a way to offer a more flexible workshop experience to folks. I have people that email us all the time asking if they can come during a visit to Italy, but we were bound to our workshop calendar. I think we have come up with the perfect solution. We have a new and exciting addition to our 2019 summer retreat roster. We will be starting a new creatives program, an “Artist in Residence” program here at La Fortezza the entire month of July.

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Steve will be the very first artist to spend a month here creating under the Tuscan sun. He will be starting here the 1st of July. If you are in Italy during the month of July, or planning a trip here in July, here’s how it will work:

You will be able to book as many days as you like based availability to assist or create art with Steve. He will be working on a collection that will be hung here end of July. He will have an opening exhibition party here at La Fortezza which will be another opportunity for you to come join us at his opening the last weekend of July. More details about Steve’s art opening to come.

Your stay at La Fortezza will include:

  • Accommodations
  • All Breakfasts
  • Some Lunches
  • Some Dinners
  • Aperitivo-( Italian Cocktail hour) with me, author of Cocktail Italiano
  • Excursions with Steve
  • Lessons with Steve
  • All Art Supplies

If you’re not a painter but want a creative experience, you will be able to assist and apprentice with Steve. This retreat is open to all levels. The rate will be $500 per day. We have 5 rooms available, so if you are coming to Italy in July, please sign up early as this experience will be first come, first serve.

There will be more information on the website mid-November when we plan to announce all the spring and summer creative workshops. So if you’ve always wanted to live in the Italian countryside, paint and co create with other artists, this opportunity might just be for you. As always feel free to email me at annette@annettejosephstyle.com for more information about July’s Artist in Residence Program with Steve McKenzie.

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Have a peek at Steve’s instagram to see the whole story of his week here teaching abstract painting to our great group!

xx Annette

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Summer Zucchini Pasta

Zucchini Pasta

Since we are still in the thick of summer, summer veggies like squash and zucchini are still abundant, and you can easily find them at your local grocery store or farmer’s markets. I love zucchini because it’s so versatile. Zucchini can become bread, soup, or antipasto. When I want something light and satisfying yet seasonal, it’s a no brainer. I turn to zucchini and pasta.

Add a bit of garlic, good Parmesan cheese, and some truffle oil, and you’re left with a fantastic weeknight meal that screams summer. Feel free to toss in other summer vegetables too. Tomatoes from your garden would be divine!

Summer Zucchini Pasta
Serves 4

You will need:
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 3/4 pound whole-wheat dried spaghetti
– 3/4 pound zucchini sliced into coins
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 2 tablespoons minced garlic (btw I always use a micro plainer to grate the fresh garlic into the oil)
– 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
– 3 tablespoons truffle oil

To Prepare:

Cut the zucchini into thin coins then put oil and grate fresh garlic into a skillet. Heat oil and garlic and add zucchini, saute on high heat until the zucchini is evenly browned. In the meantime, boil the pasta on high, until al dente. Drain and add the pasta with to the zucchini, and toss with cheese. Pull off heat and put pasta into a bowl, finish with the truffle oil, salt and pepper.

Serve hot with a nice tomato salad.

Note: I like adding truffle salt if you have it.

xx Annette

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A Weekend in Palermo, Sicily

Ciao everyone! As most of you know, I have spent most of July and August working on finishing our Italian house renovation. It’s been 2 years of lots of blood, sweat, tears and $$$$, but it is beautiful and worth all the effort. (Read about the renovation here).

Since I have not had a lot of time this year to travel to places I’ve not been in Italy, I decided, like many Italians, to take a weekend during holiday time known as Ferragosto. Most Italians take this time to travel and be with family mid-August. Since my family is not around, I thought that going with my workshop chef, Teri, would be fun, and we could eat our way through the large metropolis of Palermo, Sicily. Teri is Italian, and like many American Italians, she has roots in Sicily.

We rented an Air B&B. Full disclosure: this was not my choice, and I suggest if you’re only going for a weekend and not planning on cooking or buying groceries, a hotel is the way to go. Staying in a hotel also gives one the opportunity to use the concierge services, and if you’re not familiar with a city, it’s a great help. Since we were not familiar with Palermo, I had to do a lot of research about what to see and what was open and of interest in August.

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Of course we had to hit the markets. There are 3 main open air markets, and since it was August, they were smaller, so we could see them all in one morning and then head to lunch.

Ballarò: Located a few steps from the Martorana Church and Quattro Canti, the Ballarò market extends from Piazza Ballarò in the Albergheria district (near the medieval church of San Nicolò) along Via Ballarò past Piazza Carmine toward Corso Tukory, roughly parallel to Via Maqueda toward the main train station.

Capo: The Capo market, located behind the Teatro Massimo, extends from Via Porta Carini off Via Volturno near the old city wall toward Piazza Beati Paoli and can also be reached from Via Sant’Agostino, which runs off Via Maqueda, though this section includes various vendors of dry goods and articles rather than food. In many respects, this is the most “atmospheric” and “complete” of Palermo’s street markets.

Vucciria: The Vucciria (from the Norman French “boucherie”), perhaps the favorite Palermitan market for visitors, begins at Piazza San Domenico, off Via Roma, running parallel to Via Roma (from which it is hidden) along Via Maccheronai toward Piazza Caracciolo and Corso Vittorio Emanuele, branching off along Via Argenteria. It is much smaller than the other two markets, having lost many merchants in recent years, it is but a shadow of its former self.

I was so struck by how much the markets reminded me of Marrakech. The Arabic influence in Palermo, especially in the market, was so interesting and made it lively and colorful.

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For those of you who love flea markets, there is a great area not to be missed. It’s on Piazza Domenico Peranni and it’s delightful.

With the exception of some Norman-Arab architecture and a number of words in the Sicilian language, the markets are perhaps the best-preserved of Sicily’s Arab traditions. Following in the footsteps of their medieval predecessors, Sicily’s new North African immigrants — a growing presence in Palermo — feel perfectly at home here, and are beginning to establish businesses in the Palermitan “souks.” Palermo is truly a melting pot of not only flavors but cultures.


I suggest you take a tour around town in a surrey like vehicle called an Ape (pronounced Apae). Reserve yours here . I found it was a great way to get a sense of the city in an hour, and they are a blast! Palermo has gorgeous architecture from a fusion of Arab and Norman styles which makes the landscape ethnic and eclectic. Read more about the history here. Safe to say it was stunning.

A word about food: The markets have many street food vendors. They make a variety of Sicilan specialties, like fried chick pea cakes served as a sandwich, lots of offal fried as well. Along any street you can find Arancini the symbol of  Sicilian street food. An Arancino is a saffron rice ball stuffed with a filling like cheese, ragu or sausage breaded and fried. It’s basically Italian junk food. Katie Parla does a great job describing the offerings of offial, anancini, pastries and the rest read about it here.

Since it was August, the markets were downsized, so not a lot of street food was really available. However, we did find the most amazing place while walking to the Botanical Gardens our last day. Thanks to my eagle eye (when it comes to food and props:-)), I noticed all the locals holding a arancino the size of their head filled with piping hot ragu, I said to myself I gotta try one. Full disclosure: since we did not have the best introduction to arancino, even though our AirB&B host gave us a list of local favorites, the street food for me was underwhelming. And a little warning: if you’re not a fan of fried food or cheese filled desserts (which I am not), you may not love the food here. Although there is a great selection of seafood and yummy pastas for those not too keen on eating street food. Bar Touring serves the Arancino Bomba, and it is truly the bomb in every sense of the word. It was the best arancino I tried the entire weekend.

My suggestion is to have one, then walk it off it the beautiful Botanical Gardens, and in midday in the heat of the day, it is a lovely, shaded wander indeed.

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We did find a terrific place to perch to have an aperitivo or 2 in a very patina-ed part of the city. Bar Garabaldi has a lively crowd and great bar menu.

Note: taxis are not cheap, so if you dare, rent a car. It’s cheaper than taxis and is a great way to drive out of the heat of the city and to one of the many beach towns on the island. I did just that. I rented a car, and I drove us to Cefalu a gorgeous beach town about a 1 hour drive. Once you make your way out of Palermo, it’s quite a pleasant trip. Parking was quite easy, too. You just wind down to the boardwalk, and there is a big parking area. We grabbed lunch on the seaside, and then headed to one of the many beach clubs to enjoy the breeze and the sea. I highly recommend it.

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It’s safe to say I will go back. I really feel like I just dipped my baby toe into the Sicilian landscape and all it has to offer. A weekend trip is too little time to explore this beautiful island.

xx Annette

 

 

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Classic Summer Cocktail:: Aperol Spritz

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As you might know by now, I am the entertaining editor for Atlanta Magazine’s HOME. It’s a role that I truly love because it allows me to tap into my hostess side. After all, who doesn’t love planning a party?

The summer issue of the magazine featured a party showcasing Italy’s cocktail culture, aperitivo, and my new book, Cocktail Italiano. If you haven’t snagged a copy by now, today’s recipe might make you add it to your cart.

The Aperol Spritz is a classic summer cocktail. It’s refreshing and quintessentially Italian – the perfect drink to whet your appetite before a meal. Let me know if you add it to your classic summer cocktail arsenal. I know you’ll love it as much as I do.

Cin Cin!

Aperol Spritz
serves 1

You will need:
– 3 ounces prosecco
– 2 ounces Aperol
– 1 ounce soda
– 1 orange slice

To prepare:
In a glass filled with ice, pour Aperol and prosecco, and finish off with the soda. Serve in a large wine glass. Garnish with a slice of orange.

xx Annette

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