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William Abranowicz 2019 Photography Workshop recap

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There are some people that just impress you. Bill Abranowicz is one of those people. He and I worked on a Rolex photoshoot together, at Augusta National Golf Course. It was a bit stressful as the masters location is much like visiting the Whitehouse. Think credentials, and lots of checks and cross checks. It’s like performing a military operation. But Bill was cool as a cucumber and sailed through the assignment. I liked his vibe from the start: super chill, sort of funny and very professional without being intimidating.

I knew I had to have him join us at La Fortezza.

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Bill arrived at Pisa airport with his striking wife Andrea in tow. Andrea, a location scout by trade, is chic, funny and endearing. To say she and I hit it off would be an understatement. The group of attendees was small but completely delightful. It was all men, and they were happy with everything; easy and amusing. I worked styling for all the attendees as they worked on their still life assignments.

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Bill’s powerpoint presentation was amazing. I must say one of the best I have seen. Bill told us about his influences and his early days as a printer (he printed for Horst). When he revealed that, I almost fell off my chair. He’s a humble guy who is completely focused on the work. He has so much knowledge that 5 days with him did not seem like enough time. Luckily for us, he returns in 2020 to do it again.

I can hardly wait for his return. He is truly a prince of a guy, and his wife ain’t so bad herself. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from the master, at the ultimate masterclass at La Fortezza.

xx Annette

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Announcing 2020 Workshops and Retreats: run don’t walk to sign up!

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Run don’t walk to sign up for 2020 La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats. I feel like this year we have hit the sweet spot with our selections. Photography and styling are, as always, center stage, but we also have a great selection of workshops that highlight the unique part of Italy we call home. You’re going to love it.

Check the selection. I am sure there is something for you with us in Italy.

Click here to see the full descriptions. Keep in mind we have limited spaces, and private rooms are first-come, first-serve. I am so excited to head back to La Fortezza in May to prepare for these amazing experiences.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions, in the meantime, have a look below and grab a spot! See you in Italy x

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Arrivederci Italia 2019

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It’s always hard to say arrivederci, but his year, in particular, was bittersweet because it was such a wonderful season. Our La Fortezza Workshops started off with a bang: 2 styling workshops in June kicked off the season. We had 3 talented instructors and 4 lovely attendees. Joanna and Maren and Sarah, had a lively group and did some really fun projects with their guests. The second styling session was with moi, the Strictly Styling Workshop. I had my BFF Barbara, a stylist from Modena, join me to teach styling. She brought all sorts of foodstuffs from Modena. It was epic.

This workshop also marked the yearly return of PR maven Liz Lapidus she brought her mega bloggerlious friend, Alexandra Darling in the City (although unfortunately she never wrote about her experience at La Fortezza on her blog? 🙁  But she did write about neighboring towns lol) NOTE* bloggers do not bother to contact me about a free workshop and that you’ll post about it. No comping anymore…live and learn…). I digress…

During that workshop I met one of my favorite guests (there’s always an upside to all negative experiences) of the season, the super talented photographer and stylist Alicia, The Chic Shot. You can see some of her amazing shots of La Fortezza on this post. Thank you, Alicia, for sharing your amazing talent. I LOVED working with you, and thank you for all the beautiful photos of your experience here. We hosted the fantastic podcast host Heidi Rew, her podcast featured me and Philip and Barbara, and the ladies from our first workshop in June. Listen to it here. It’s a great look into what we do.

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We also had our first ever intern in June and July from Wellesley College, Adri. She was a wonder and delight. She speaks perfect Italian and was energetic and eager to learn. We loved having her help us with guests and chores around the fortress. We loved her so much that we are bringing another intern from the same Wellesley Italian Studies program back next spring. Let’s just say whoever she is, she has big shoes to fill.  Plus Adri learned to drive a stick shift during her 8 week stay – pretty impressive!

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In July we hosted our first-ever Artist in Residence with abstract painter, Steven McKenzie for the month. It was a stroke of genius on my part, if I do say so myself. Steve was a delightful addition to the La Fortezza Workshop roster, and he brought the sunshine everyday in the studio. Because of Steve’s curiosity, I visited places and experienced things I never would have. Like visiting the antique book archives at our local library in Fivizzano and caving in Equi Terme. Some I loved more than others. (Caving not my thing, go figure) He made jam from our plum trees and filled the studio with his beautiful art inspired by the region. Even during his opening party when we had a torrential downpour, he never lost his bright smile and positive attitude. The Opening Party was amazing, sometimes when the best-laid plans are dashed, and the skies open up, it turns out to be just as great. At his opening, we had visitors from London, Paris, Greece, and the US and of course all of our friends from all over Italy. It was a great July. We had a fun visit with Rue Magazine Editor and Chief Kelli Lamb, and her lovely artist hubby Timmy, Kelli made an amazing video series about La Fortezza.

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In August our son visited with 3 friends; we cooked and toured and ate plenty. Then I visited Pulglia, a place the had been on my list for a while. I experienced the Messors Workshop, which was interesting. read about it here.

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September was filled with great cooking by Chef Philip. There were cooking lessons and artisan food visits with our Slow Food Experience group. We had the lovely photographer Kate Blohm visit again, she was part of a workshop with Angie Mosier in 2018. This year she was our BTS photographer; she’s amazing and will be joining us every year in the fall to document the Slow Food Workshops, something that is close to my heart.

September is the time of year we do our grape harvest, although this year the harvest was a month late, we still had an amazing time with our incredible group. One of our guests were a married couple, PR team Valerie and Garrett, a powerhouse PR team in Atlanta specializing in Chefs and Food, from Via Failla PR and Events  They will be part of the La Fortezza PR team helping to promote La Fortezza Workshops in 2020. I can’t wait to see what they have in store. We also hosted a shopping workshop with Lisa Burnett a whirlwind tour with shop til you drop attendees that left me breathless.

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October was the month of photography with 2 of my favorite photographers joining us. Bill Abranowicz and Ros Atkinson of Her Dark Materials on Instagram. I am honored to call them friends and I am excited to announce they will be back with us in fall 2020. The workshops were not only informative but really fun. We got so many beautiful shots!

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These incredible workshops have proved to be even more wonderful than I had imagined. People gathered around the table, like-minded with so much passion to add to the discussion. Being surrounded by creativity from all creators, from what Philip creates and places on the table, to the interesting creatives from all over the world, (this year we had our first attendee from India) they have so much to offer. It is my idea of heaven.

Although our surroundings are gorgeous, I must say without the people that come to visit, it would be much less beautiful. Thank you to all the support people in our village that take great care of me, and to Chef Philip who is gracious and talented and helpful always with a smile on his face he goes above and beyond. Thanks Philip for all the amazing Pizza Parties!

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To the guests that grace our doors, grazie mille. I look forward to welcoming new faces in 2020. Please check the website November 9th for our new workshops to post. We have limited spots, first come first serve with private rooms. So grab your spot in 2020 La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats.

x

Photo Credit: The Chic Shot, Kate Blohm, Nandi Shaw, Ros Atkinson, William Abranowicz

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Slow Food Cheese Event in Bra Italy 2019

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Ciao Tutti! As you may have seen from the complete coverage on my instagram feed, Philip Meeker our chef, and Rachel Ritchie our guest liaison, and I headed to the region of the Piedmont, known for delicious wines like Barolo and Barbaresco. Our destination was Bra, Italy, the Slow Food capital of the world. We wanted a little R&R and lots of cheese, wine and truffles.

As a girl from Wisconsin, you can imagine my pure joy. I was excited to share cheese with the team and few truffles as well. We stayed in Alba, the truffle capital of the world, so with all the food groups covered, we relaxed and treated ourselves to endless aisles of cheese, cheese talks and local makers’ booths. We stayed in an Agriturismo by a local wine maker who had a few rooms to rent on the top floor. In truth, the entire foyer smelled of wine-no complaints from me. The location was great and staying at a working winery was kind of fun.

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We got in around 5 pm in time to do a little aperitivo, but not before stopping at my favorite truffle store, Tartufi Ponzio, to load up on Truffle potato chips. Yes, really, truffle potato chips. They are truly the crack of the potato chip family. You can’t eat just one. The owner was there Gianfranco, a very energetic, and enthusiastic man, especially about truffles. He’s a hoot! He’s taken over the family business, and from what I can see, he has brought it into the 21st century with the utmost care.

There will be a documentary coming out on truffle hunting early next year, so keep your eyes peeled for “The Hunt” and look out for Gianfranco. It will be shown for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival 2020.

Gianfranco showed us all his new products, improved both inside and out. We bought a few more staples to bring back to La Fortezza to share with our guests. As I always do, I asked him where he liked to eat. He immediately told us and picked up the phone to make us a reservation for that night. All set, we said our goodbyes, and told him we hoped he would stop by after closing the store and join us for dessert. The meal was impeccable, more truffles and butter than you could imagine. Divine. GF, as we call him, stopped by for dessert and told us a few stories about truffles and hunting and his family business. All in all, he was quite amusing. Great food, great stories and a great night.

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The next day, we headed to see and eat more cheese than we could have imagined. The festival was huge and would take days to see. We tried cheese from all over the world, all kinds, to the point that we could not eat anymore. Our bellies were full and our feet were hurting which surely means we had an amazing day.

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I will say, most people would say you can’t have enough cheese. Oh but you can. I still cannot think about eating cheese. Vegetables? Yes. Although I never get my fill of truffles. We ate, we drank and we walked and walked all weekend. It was a great little break and mini vaca with the team, but now it’s time to get back to the business of taking care of our workshop attendees. Of course, there will be cheese and there will be truffles, as we love to share.

I highly recommend the slow food cheese festival! It’s in one of my favorite regions in Italy. Piedmont is not to be missed. Tutto il Formaggio. (all the cheese)

xx Annette

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Our First Ever La Fortezza Antiques and Merchants of Italy Shopping Retreat

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Ciao Tutti! We had amazing whirlwind of a week with our first ever La Fortezza Antiques and Merchants of Italy Shopping Retreat. My co-leader Lisa Burnett of Inner Pieces Inc. could not have been a better partner in crime. We hosted 7 lovely ladies and toured them all over the Italian countryside, to shop and meet local artisans and vendors that I love. It was an insiders shopping tour that was both exciting and informative.

Every day there were new destinations and some surprises. We could not have asked for a more fun group of ladies. Even though they did not know each other before, I think some solid bonds were formed. We danced, drank, made pasta and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather on the terrace.

Of course, there was a pizza party where a few of our attendees tried their hand at making pizza in the pizza oven. We loved sharing information about how and why we choose certain props, discussed searching for antiques and loved shopping at my super secret locations. Lisa spent a couple of extra days, so we checked out some of her Italian vendors and hope to expand the shopping experience next year.

We will be conducting this retreat again in 2020 because it had such an overwhelming response when we posted it. Since we still have 50 people on the waitlist from last year, we have decided to do this retreat for 2 consecutive weeks in 2020. If you are interested in joining us and want first dibs sign up for the newsletter. We will be sending a private mailing to our list before the workshop goes public.

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grazie Lisa you’re simply the best! x

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We only have 6 spots available in each retreat, so this shopping retreat very limited. We have decided to vary the schedule in case some of you want to join us for both weeks. We have so much to show you. I cannot express how wonderful it is to meet like-minded shoppers, who share the love of beautiful things. As a prop stylist, I have to say sharing my resources with our groups gives me great joy. Thank you again to my most talented and lovely friend, Lisa. x Let’s shop ’til we drop in 2020.

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