Tag Archives: the fortress

Meet the La Fortezza Wedding Team:: Philip Meeker

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The final member of the wedding dream team I’d like you to meet is our chef, Philip Meeker. Philip joined us for the first time last summer, and he was an amazing fit for our workshops and weddings at La Fortezza. Learn more about Philip in today’s interview!

Q: What is your culinary background/expertise?

A: My formal training is in classical French cuisine, but my first serious restaurant job was garde manger at a little Italian place. I learned to make pasta and tiramisu in the pastry kitchen, and I fell in love. I couldn’t believe how much better food tasted when it was made from scratch which I’d never really experienced before. From there I moved to Paris where I spent years studying the fundamentals of French cuisine, working in a two-star Michelin restaurant, baking bread in a traditional boulangerie, and learning how to properly handle and break down meat in an artisanal butchery. I moved to Atlanta in 2008 and spent several years in the restaurant industry making use of the amazing bounty of local vegetables, cheeses, meats, and grains. I’ve spent the last few years working as a private chef and food stylist which has allowed me to travel the world and deepen my knowledge of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.

Q: What is your role at La Fortezza? In what ways are you providing more than great food?

A: I get to nourish guests with all the wonderful foods from the garden, local farms, and shops in nearby villages. We often eat yogurt and cheeses from the dairy just across the river as part of our breakfast. I make sure to use local flours from the mill for everything that I bake. Having such fresh ingredients to work with is like being in heaven for me. And then I get to sit down with everybody and hear their reactions while we dine – what a treat!  My attitude towards cooking is pretty playful, so I like to think I add a sense of joy and lightheartedness to La Fortezza.

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Q: Why does La Fortezza make an inspiring backdrop for everything from photoshoots to weddings?

A: From the moment you set foot on the property you’re engulfed in beauty. There are mountains surrounding you, gentle breezes, chirping birds, olive orchards, and little villages with terracotta roofs dotting the landscape below. Then there’s the house itself: the ancient fortress that Annette has brought back to life. The vineyard is full of grapes and the cellar is full of wine pressed and brewed by the local winemaker. The garden is full of tomatoes, herbs, and delicate greens. Each season different trees bloom and fruit. I loved eating the persimmons growing outside my room last fall.

Q: Why should someone consider planning a trip to La Fortezza?

A: La Fortezza exposes you to a side of Italy that you wouldn’t be able to get if you spent your time with tour guides, and Annette has a particularly unique point of view given her 15 years in Italy. The location of La Fortezza is near so many delicious locations: Emilia-Romagna and the towns of Parma and Modena, Carerra with its marble and lardo, and Liguria with its own riviera full of focaccia and fresh seafood. Annette is familiar with all of these regions, and La Fortezza provides easy access to each of them.

Q: What is your favorite part of preparing meals for La Fortezza guests?

A: I love cooking for people – it feels like my life’s purpose. It’s great getting to chat with (and sometimes teach) the guests as I cook, showing them how to roll out pasta or prepare pesto. The kitchen is totally inspired as well, from the marble countertops to the Lacanche oven to the ancient farm table and sunsets outside the kitchen window.

Finish this sentence: I love Italy because people in Italy understand how to live well.

Q: What is one food/beverage/ingredient you couldn’t live without?

A: I couldn’t live without olive oil, especially when it’s sourced from local olive mills.

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Meet the La Fortezza Wedding Team:: Kim Cheney

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Today I’m introducing you to our talented stateside wedding liaison, Kim Cheney of August Floral and Event Design.

As we launch weddings at La Fortezza, I thought it was important for you to meet the amazing team that will be carrying out all of the details. Here’s a little bit more about Kim:

I can’t remember exactly where Kim and I met; I think I approached her at a restaurant many years ago in Atlanta. She had a great fashion flair, and I knew she owned a very stylish vintage home store at the time. I felt compelled to know her. I was working with the Michael C. Carlos Museum on an event and needed artisans to design table-scapes for an event. I think I said something like, “You’re an artist.” Kim has always been very humble, and I think she was a little surprised by my straight forwardness, or maybe she thought I was crazy. Whatever the case, she looked up at me and said, “NO”, I said “YES! You need to design a table for us.”

She agreed maybe because she was a little scared of me. I would like to think she was just up for a challenge. The important part is that she agreed, and she did an amazing job. I hired Kim to design and install another huge event for me, and the rest is as they say is history. It was a new friendship and a new passion that would turn into an incredible business. I like to think I had a little something to do with her path. But mostly, Kim is one of the most visionary and talented hard working boss ladies I know. I am honored to call her a friend, and thrilled she’s agreed to help us with our weddings at La Fortezza. She is the best of the best. That’s the truth. I trust her implicitly. I am beyond thrilled to have her working with us. Get to know her below. x

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Q: What is your wedding expertise? How long have you been a part of the wedding industry?

A:  I have been part of the industry for 11 years. I started in Atlanta as the floral director for 2 large design companies. In the spring of 2015, I moved to Savannah and opened August. I am a member of Chapel Designers. I have built a studio on my property where I live with my husband Dale and my giant Goldendoodle, Grits.

Q: What is your role when it comes to weddings at La Fortezza?

A: We are primarily a floral design company, but I hope to lend support to the wedding planner with design aspects of the event. Whether that be linens, place settings, paper products or ensuring the entire party is cohesive is crucial to a successful design.

Q: Why does La Fortezza make an exquisite wedding venue?

A:  The fortress is stunning! It has several fantastic spots to have the vow exchange…including an on-property vineyard!  Being in the mountainous region provides breathtaking views and awe inspiring sunsets. The effortless elegance of the property lends itself to boho, adventurous couples. The layout of the property allows for guests to stay and eat and drink and celebrate in one spot. It has a charming little “downtown” area and is close to the west shore of Italy where attendees can venture out for day trips.

Q: Why should someone consider planning an Italian destination wedding?

A: If the couple enjoys adventure and travel and the size of their wedding guest list is on the smaller side, Italy is perfect. Italy is wildly romantic! The food is AMAZING! And lastly I believe that travel is important in this day and age. I think it opens the mind to new people, experiences and culture diversity that is transformative.

Q: What is your favorite part of a wedding day?

A: I love when the couple first lays eyes on the designed space. I always make sure I am there to help walk them into the reception. They are at their happiest because they have just been married and now it is time to have fun!

Q: How do flowers set the tone for a wedding?

A: Flowers can be very emotional for people. They are the living element of the design. They can elevate anything! They soften hard surfaces; they provide a focal point, and their beauty adds to the importance of the day.

Q: What is your number one piece of advice for brides?

A: Trust the professionals you have hired! They are there to relieve all the stress of the day, so you can focus on the  most important part…sharing the love of your life partner with those closest to you.

If your dream is to have your wedding in Italy, I’d love to hear from you. Email me directly at annette@annettejosephstyle.com for more information!

xx Annette

Photos by Pictory Productions

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Get Married in Tuscany at La Fortezza

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It’s here! The wedding page on our site launches today, and brides can officially get married in Tuscany at La Fortezza! I am beyond excited. We had the brilliant idea to host 2 weddings per year with the help of my amazing team, and as of today, it’s actually a reality. Pinch me!

Over the next couple weeks, we will be introducing you to the talented wedding team that will be working with brides to make their day absolute perfection. I will make sure styling is on point. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by such amazing talents. Our chef will oversee every delicious detail; our wedding planner will attend to every wish, and our events designer will make sure the the atmosphere is heavenly.

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Please take a minute to check out our new page. If you are interested in having your wedding with us, email me directly annette@annettejosephstyle.com, and we can begin the creative process of making your wedding day all that you imagine.

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Italian Travel Guide:: One Stop Shop

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After nearly an entire month of writing about traveling to Italy for one of my workshops, I thought it would be a good idea to devote a final post to the topic. Think of this as your go-to Italian travel guide, and a one stop shop for all of the information you need to know. It will be a FAQ page of sorts. Here’s a quick reference to all of my tips for traveling to Italy for a workshop at La Fortezza:

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How to Get the Best Airfare to Italy 

What to Pack in your Carry-on

What to Pack in your Suitcase 

How to Spend a Layover in Milan 

Why Mother-Daughter Trips to La Fortezza are a MUST

I don’t know about you, but the past month has me more ready than ever to get back to my Italian home. I’ll be in Italy for a few weeks in March checking-in on La Fortezza and readying it for guests. Then, after a short stint home in the States, I’ll head back to Italy for the summer. Our 2019 summer workshop and Artist in Residence program are shaping up to be absolutely spectacular. From styling workshops with yours truly to one-on-one painting lessons with Steve, this is going to be an incredible season of workshops.

There are only a few spots left, so if you’re planning on joining us, grab your spot soon! Don’t miss your opportunity to come to Italy for a once in a lifetime experience!

xx Annette

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Why you should bring your Mom to a La Fortezza Workshop

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Mother Daughter Truffle hunting excursion

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These sisters brought their Mom to paint with Steve. It was on the bucket list, and they ticked it off the list last year.

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Enjoying the sunshine with a picnic in the olive groves

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Hiking and photography with Emily in the hills above.

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Pasta making lessons in our commercial kitchen.

It’s been brought to my attention that we have a lot of mothers and daughters that join us on our workshops and retreats. I had never thought about it before, but I was chatting with someone about bringing her Mom to our Steve Mckenzie’s Artist in Residence Program in July. I realized how many Moms and daughters had joined us in Italy over the years. There are lots of benefits to traveling with your Mom according to Psychology Today:

“Travel, in and of itself, offers a chance to get outside of our normal, everyday self. When two women who’ve known each other as long or as intimately as a mother and daughter have head out together, they are able to shake off the cobwebs from home as they stir up the dust of adventure down a new path.” 

La Fortezza seems like the perfect place to enjoy some down time with your Mom or your daughter all while learning how to cook Italian foods, visiting our secret places like flea markets and beautiful open air markets in chic destinations and painting lessons in the Italian countryside.

Mother daughter vacations seem to be our thing, and I could not be more thrilled. Book an adventure today and make some amazing memories with your beloved Mom or daughter and bring your sister along as well. You won’t regret it. I am hoping this is a something La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats become known for during the coming years. Encouraging generations of women to explore together is a mission I am focused on. We would love to welcome you and your Mom daughter or sister, head to the site and grab your spots. NOTE* If your Mom is not participating in the workshop you will get special pricing, email me for details before you check out to save.

xx Annette

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