Tag Archives: tips and tricks

How I plan a layover on my way to La Fortezza:: Milan!

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The Duomo

When coming to my workshop in Fivizzano, the cheapest flights are to Milan. Why not spend a day or two exploring the city?! I love layovers especially, Milan layovers.

The Milan Airport, Malpenza airport is about 45 minutes from the city center. Needless to say, taking the train from the airport is the way to go. Note driving in Milan is very challenging. Parking is virtually impossible (unless you stay over night then parking at the hotel makes it easy).

If you’re staying over night, then feel free to rent a car, although honestly, I still advise against it.

Overnight, I recommend the Rosa Grand Hotel.  It has a great location, is affordable and well run. Of course you can stay in the Armani, or Bulgari, but I prefer to have aperitivo in those hotels.

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Aperitivo at the Armani Hotel

Once I check in, I head to the the Duomo. It’s a great place to take a selfie and to people watch. Plus there are tons of places to grab an espresso.

The Galleria is amazing and is located adjacent to the Duomo.

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The Galleria

I like eating at the top of the Rinascente Department store rooftop restaurant .Yes it is literally right next to the Duomo, and you can enjoy breakfast, lunch and aperitivo on the rooftop.

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roof top of the Rinascente department store

After lunch, I love going to the Brera Shopping district. It’s where the art school is, so you can imagine it is filled with amazing shops and hip artisan wears. Of course if you’re more interested in designer shopping, there is the  Via della Spiga shopping district.

There are so many must sees in Brera:

Don’t miss the Rosanna Orlandi store. They have home furnishings that will blow you mind. Wait and See is one of my favorite clothing stores in Milan and across the street is Funky Table Milano, my favorite home accessories and tabletop store. Here’s an entire blog post about Wait and See.

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wait and see

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funky table milano

You can also visit the Villa where I am Love was filmed in. Read about it here. Villa Necchi IMG_9789

Screen Shot 2019-01-26 at 7.53.40 AM If you want a destination that you can tour and have lunch, head to Prada Foundation, a wonderful museum that is architecturally inspirational…with the Luce restaurant designed by Wes Anderson, it’s a great way to spend a few hours on your layover.

Don’t forget to grab an espresso and a pastry at one of the oldest pasticceria in Milan, Marchesi.

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Whatever you plan, make sure to wander the city and enjoy all the sites.

Layovers can be great. Why don’t you join us in Italy, so you can plan one soon?! Safe travels!

xx Annette

 

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How I fly:: My carry on essentials

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I have had many people ask me about how I travel since I spend lots of time traveling overseas. After many years, I think I have it down. Having your products and snacks all sussed and organized makes travel easier and more comfortable. If you make the effort before you fly, it will pay off, believe me.

In order to have a great trip, it all starts with what you put in your carry on for the plane (not the one you put overhead with your clothes). I have serious opinions about how to put a carry on together.

For many years I carried a big carry on bag – a shoulder bag. It was a bag big enough for my computer to fit in. My shoulder nearly broke by the time I got to my destination. Why did I do it? Well for fashion, of course!

I travel with loads of photographers, as you can imagine, and they all carry backpacks…not chic. But over the years, and after tons of travel and a little prodding, I finally broke down and became unfashionable (in my mind, anyway) and started carrying a backpack. Let me tell you it’s a revelation. Why did I wait so long?! Now I carry a bag from The North Face which can fit all of my carry on essentials.

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What’s in my backpack?

1. The must-haves: my computer, my iPhone, my Passport, Vivi’s passport (yes she has one), wallet, water bottle, sunglasses, a scarf to wrap up in in case it’s cold, and sanitizing wipes. I wipe down the entire seat, back of the seat in front of me, arm rests, table and monitor. Yep I am that person. If there’s a remote, I wipe that too and the seat belt as well. I also always have noise canceling headphones. I like Beats.

All cameras and essential equipment should also go into your backpack. Non-essentials can go into your luggage, like portable hard drives, flash drives, converters and extra batteries.

2. Toiletries Pouch – I use one from Mochithings. What’s in the pouch? Tooth brush, tooth paste, travel size mouth wash, floss, hand sanitizer, Kiehls lip balm #1 Jurlique moisture replenishing day cream, sample size Aveeno body lotion, Evian facial spray, Susanne Kaufmanm moisturizing spray, spare contact lenses, spare glasses, band-aids, an eye mask to sleep, under eye masks, and lavender facial wipes from goop

3. Cable Pouch – I use one from Mochithings. In it, I store all chargers, cables and converters.

4. Snacks Pouch – I love to bring my own food. I always bring my dinner on the overseas leg. It’s usually sushi, an amazing sandwich or salad and crackers, dark chocolate, my own peanut butter, (usually Justin’s small pouches; they’re great on crackers for breakfast), and a chocolate chip Cliffbar. Airline food is the worst, so I make sure to bring plenty of snacks.

Why all the pouches? It just makes everything easy to pull from your backpack and place in the seat pocket in front of you. That way, you’re efficiently putting your seat together with all of your comfort things. I love the idea that everything is organized and at your fingertips. I like everything streamlined, and in it’s place, and traveling is no different. If you have everything in a pouch, you will most likely never leave or forget anything.

5. Most important is that I have all my documents in my favorite passport holder. Lodis makes it and I have used it for 15 years. I like the bright color because it’s easy to see in your backpack, plus it fits perfectly in the front pocket of the backpack I use for easy access.

The main thing about traveling with ease is organization, and that involves a bit of thought about what you need and what will make you feel comfortable. Travel can be challenging, so ease is essential.

xx Annette

 

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How I pack:: Workshop Wardrobe Essentials

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Happy Valentine’s Day! As our month of travel advice and tips continues, I’m sharing all of the things I *love* to pack to Italy. How apropos for today, right?!

I have rounded up the few wardrobe essentials you will need to pack for one of our creative workshops in Italy. I pack light, but I am all about comfort and mixing and matching. I always include comfy shoes, a little fashion and some really fun pieces as well. If you want to participate in yoga on the terrace, then a yoga top would be essential. I hope this helps you pack, so you will feel great while joining us this spring and summer in Italy.

To pack one carry on of clothes, which is what you should plan to do, the Away Bag is the way to go. Your camera equipment, if needed for the workshop, can be packed in your backpack along with your other carryon items (more on that soon!).

As far as clothing selections go, remember versatility is key. Sundresses that can double as bathing suit cover-ups and cropped jeans that you can wear more than once. For travel days, plan to wear leggings, sneakers (a MUST!), and a tee shirt on the plane, and plan to carry a shawl with you as well. Some folks, like me, like carrying-on their jacket, too. A denim jacket is perfect for layering and is a great choice.

Other items of note to consider:

  1. Dressy option for dinner on the terrace or dinner out. I love this breezy dress, and this sun dress for other dinners and outings.
  2. Don’t forget to pack practical shoes for walking like Converse or other sneakers.
  3. Rompers or shorts are good choices for workshop days. Jumpsuits made of light-weight material also make great choices for excursions.
  4. I love overalls, too. You can easily travel and work in these. Add a summery checkered shirt or a striped tee underneath.
  5. Wrap sweater for the cool summer nights on the terrace.
  6. A denim shirt and white slacks is a great, neutral combo for day or night. Just trade your sneakers for sandals.
  7. As for accessories, don’t forget chic sunglasses and a catch all bag for excursions and beach day. A small clutch can be used in your plane bag to store necessities, but double as an evening bag during the workshop.
  8. Finally, a bathing suit is a necessity in the summer!

This is not a sponsored post. All choices are my own, and I believe these examples are a wonderful starting point to assemble the perfect wardrobe for ultimate function and comfort during our workshops and retreats in Italy. Happy packing xx

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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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Swedish Death Cleaning and Musings on Marie Kondo

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WARNING THIS IS LONG POST, GRAB A BEVERAGE OF YOUR CHOICE AND HAVE A SEAT.

As you all know, I am a stylist. I edit objects for the camera, so I am great at making sure everything looks perfect and edited at all times. I am not bragging when I say that people look to me for answers about how to style and organize their spaces. I have a big prop collection that I regularly cull and edit. I go through my closet every 6 months, I used to do it every 3 months, but spending 6 months in Italy has really changed my point of view about clothing. Since I am in Italy in the summer, my summer wardrobe in the US  has shrunk considerably. I am cleaning up, throwing out, scanning and donating all of the time. It is part of my weekly routine, sometimes 4 or 5 times a week. I am always editing, asking myself, “Do I need this? Have I used this? Have I worn this?”

I like to think I am a minimalist, but I am not really a minimalist. The truth is that, like everyone, I do have hidden corners in my house, and some things I don’t want to let go of emotionally. I am a prop stylist after all, the collector of beautiful interesting objects that all have a story. So here’s my true story…

Recently our daughter temporarily moved back in with us, and she seriously lives like a monk. No stuff, very, very pared down. She is here with us for a few months while she settles into a new job and looks for a house to buy with her husband. She looked at me about 2 months ago and said, “Mom you have too much stuff.” I thought she was kidding! After all, we had just done a huge purge in the past year thanks to her. But according to her, it was not enough…

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Last year, our daughter had talked to her dad and I about Swedish Death Cleaning . I know, horrifying concept right? Dying. But it’s actually a great concept. You can read about it here.

Here’s the concept in a nutshell: as you age you should simply your life. When you’re young and have kids, it’s natural to have clutter. But as you age, you should work on getting rid of possessions. This is the ultimate kindness to your children and family.

With my daughter living at home and pushing for another purge, I decided we needed to revisit the entertaining pantry (I have 2 of them)–lots of platters, plates, coffee makers and cups and saucers and bowls and decorative trays, baskets and bowls and bowls and bowls. She and I tackled the pantries. It took us 2 days to excavate the items and rearrange everything. Believe me, it was not smooth sailing. She was merciless and ruthless in her editing. Yes it’s true, even I have to have some things pried out of my hands.

I love organizing, and I think everyone needs to do more of it, everyday and every week of the year. That’s why I was very excited to see that Marie Kondo was getting her own organizing show on Netflix.

Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizational guru. Her show “Tidying Up” started streaming January 1st on Netflix – perfect timing for organizing and cleaning right?

A little about Marie… Marie Kondo achieved worldwide fame in 2014 when her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, was translated into English and published in the United States, where it became a New York Times best seller and sold more than 1.5 MILLION COPIES!!!

My take on her show...anything that brings awareness to cleaning up your stuff brings me great joy! Anything that makes YOU think about purging and cleaning is a good thing in my book.

On to the show…Marie shows up with her translator and briefly speaks to her clients through a forced smile. First things first, she “introduces herself to the house” by doing some kooky made up woo woo ritual which involves her meditating when kneeling on the floor.

I am an organizing freak and wanted to love the show! But honestly, I found the show very boring. Her offerings are superficial fixes. She never addresses the real issues–like what to do with paperwork? She never talks about technological fixes like a scanning paper and becoming paperless. Instead she has people put things in paper boxes? Huh? She’s very simplistic, and of course, very Japanese in her approach. No one ever reminds her that Americans do not live like the Japanese, we have larger spaces and as a result, MUCH MORE JUNK. Her show features clueless band-aids on the epic problems of the obsessive, non-stop-buying culture of America.

Though entire show, I wondered what she really thought of our culture of hoarding and buying beyond our means compared to the pared-down lifestyle in Japan. I am sure she thinks it is horrible! But her face cracking smile never lets you know what she is thinking. Mostly it just got on my nerves. Basically, Marie offers small boxes to people that have BIG box problems.

The best thing about this show is that purging and cleaning is now the part of a larger discussion in America. And people are indeed looking at their stuff and assessing and tossing and donating it. For us, the Swedish Death Cleaning lifestyle is a better fit, but if Marie’s method is your style, go for it. The truth is: We all need a complete paradigm shift in how we shop, how we consume, and how we teach our children to live.

*to read more about the mental effects of clutter click here

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