Tag Archives: travel

The UPside of Lock DOWN

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Last time this year…one of our first zoom aperitivi

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Always with a cocktail , Barbara at her mountain house in Northern Italy, Oma in Iowa and me in Georgia

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Barbara with a cap on , she was henna-ing her hair, I told her she looked like a tellatubbie…

Ciao everyone! By now you all know that I am here in Italy. Spring has sprung, and I await summer with bated breath. As I reflect on 1 year ago when we were locked in the house, frightened and had no idea what was about to come, I can’t help but think about all the good things that came from this apocalyptic event. I always look at the bright side, even if there appears to be zero. But spending loads of time with my husband and pets, the ability to test new recipes for my new book, La Fortezza Cookbook, write recipes and do research, made the lock down bearable.

And the one thing that was a lifesaver and a constant (it kept me sane) was the Zoom Aperitivo every Saturday at 8:30 pm CET, in Italy and 2:30 ET  in the US. with dear girlfriends Barbara and Oma. I can’t even remember how it actually started, most likely a split-second idea that blossomed into a weekly event, an event I truly looked forward to, and one that kept me going through the endless lockdown weeks on the calendar.

At first, we invited many friends and girlfriends to join, but our weekly Aperitivo eventually came down to just us, the core 3, the original gang, the best friends. One in Italy, Barbara, one in the US, Oma, and me either in the US or Italy. We have been religiously meeting every Saturday with few exceptions for 1 year. One year of sharing, complaining, laughing, worrying, giving advice. One year of loads of cocktails and glasses of wine.

We watched the seasons change together, and Presidents come and go. We talked about the world, the pandemic, politics, our children, our husbands, our work or lack of work. Occasionally one of the family members would stop by say to hi, or just walk through and wave as we zoomed our troubles away. It was less lonely, and gave us all a reason to show up for each other.

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Sometimes things were just stressful, Oma with one of her signature expressions…

I love these ladies, more than I did before the Zoom Aperitivi, and believe me, I loved them a lot before the pandemic. But showing up for each other at a time of uncertainty and making each other laugh really took the edge off an uncertain time. It is a reason to celebrate our 1 year anniversary. We made it. I am sure as the summer approaches and things get better, this ritual will have had its run, but I sure hope not. Maybe we can switch to once a month, but right now it’s still going strong. I still look forward to the conversations, words of wisdom, and emotional support these Aperitivi provide…

The UPside to the lock DOWN was this Zoom Aperitivo, and I will never ever forget what a gift it was and is…

Happy Anniversary, Tanti Auguri on our 1 year milestone. I love you ladies and I always will.

Cin CIn. x

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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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Garden Update

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loading these baby olive trees to be added to our grove

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Ciao Everyone! If you’re following me on instagram, you most likely saw me at the local garden center yesterday. My groundskeeper/gardener Gianluca accompanied me. We had a great time. I thought I’d share an overall garden update, along with a few more updates about the grounds.

One of the things I will be working on this season is adding 50 olive trees to the grove. We currently have about 150 trees on the grounds. We had to plant an olive grove on the property. Oddly our property had a few olive trees, but the terraces had no more than 10, so Frank decided we needed a proper olive grove. We had a fully functioning vineyard, but not an olive grove which in these parts is pretty rare since we are surrounded by abundant groves. I asked Gianluca what he thought had happened to our olive groves, and the only thing he could come up with is the maybe the property was planted with grain-like wheat. I guess we will never know, but right now our olive grove is expanding.

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The pool project is a big one this year. I met with the company working on the pool hardscape. Tiles will go on the deck in April once the chances of freezing are reduced. Our timeline is to finish by the end of May. I bought two large olive trees, one large pomegranate tree, a huge agave, and some fucshia azaleas. We will plant lavender and rosemary, succulents and cactus as well around the pool plus loads of soft green grassy areas. We will also have a fire pit on the lower portion of the pool deck.

Right now the pergola is going up at the end of the pool. It will provide loads of shade for relaxing, dining and reading. It’s pretty exciting around here. I love designing the garden. There will be loads of additions this year to the landscape, but the most beautiful part of our garden is the view. I never get tired of it.

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Our incredible view

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Gianluca with our new addition

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I am excited for our workshop attendees to come and enjoy the pool addition this year. I can’t believe I am saying this, but we are almost full. Folks are signing up every week. I guess everyone is excited and optimistic. I am too. Working outside always gives me a boost and puts me in my happy place.

For more updates from La Fortezza…definitely follow me on instagram if you aren’t already.

xx Annette

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Dip into spring with whipped ricotta

whipped ricotta dip

Hey everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web manager and friend. Glad to be here again!

Warmer temperatures have become the norm in Atlanta. While I’m not totally convinced they’re here to stay (we always have a late winter freeze), I have been enjoying a few glasses of rose and lots of outdoor dining.

On the weekends, I try to spruce-up our at-home dinners, especially while dining out is a little more limited. One of my favorite things to nibble on is a hearty dip with veggies. I found this recipe for whipped ricotta dip from the archives.

Annette first learned about it after attending a workshop in Medoc, France a few years ago. When Annette returned stateside, she came up with this rendition, an Americanized, healthy version. I think it sounds absolutely perfect for spring! I also think it sounds fabulous for Easter. Give it a try and let us know what you think.

Whipped Ricotta Dip

You will need:
– 1 cup whole milk ricotta
– 1/4 cup whipping cream
– 2 garlic cloves minced
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
*(1 cup finely chopped walnuts optional)

In a medium bowl, using a whisk whip all the ingredients until well-blended and whipped. Store in the fridge for at least 2 hours and serve with crudite.

It’s the perfect appetizer!

Enjoy xx

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5 Reasons to Watch “Stanly Tucci: Searching for Italy”

Final Portrait Photocall In Rome

Hi everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web manager and friend, and I am here to share something shocking:

I hated traveling to Italy.

It’s blasphemy around here, I know. And before you worry about my job security, Annette is fully aware of my feelings, too. In fact, I think it’s one of the reasons she keeps me around: so she can one day try to change my mind. And to be honest, after nearly seven years of working together, she’s finally wearing me down. Well, Annette along with Stanly Tucci.

The first and only time I found myself on the streets of Italy was June of 2009. My best friend and I were teachers at the time, and we made the very responsible decision to use our first tax refund check of our adult lives to purchase a Greek cruise bookended by a few days in Milan, Florence and Venice. School ended, we hopped on a plane for what was going to be the trip of our twenty-something lifetime, and we landed in Milan.

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From the top of the Duomo in Milan, taken by me in 2009!

The streets were bursting with people, the duomo casting a shadow over everyone below. Cars, bicycles and Vespas zoomed left and right. The sun pressed down on us. I was sweaty. I was tired. I was not impressed. This was basically New York City…but in Italy. I cried to my now-husband that I was already ready to come home. It had been 3 hours.

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Me, left, and my BFF Lindsay, right in Florence.

Florence captured my attention only slightly better, thanks to various art museums and markets. Venice…well, I found it to be about as pleasant as Annette does. Other than the Italian food, of which we have plenty in America, I decided Italy was not AT ALL for me.

I confessed this during my interview with Annette in 2014. She vowed to change my mind, and I have to say, it’s working. Before the pandemic, I had, rather hesitantly, started doing my research to visit Annette at La Fortezza. But to be honest, I wasn’t too disappointed when it paused my travel plans.

Last weekend, after watching more than my share of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and even Disney+, I decided to give a new CNN show a try: Stanly Tucci’s Searching for Italy, released one episode at a time, old school style. Within one episode, I was happily hooked, and already singing Italy’s praises to Annette, ready to book a ticket. Truly. That’s how good it is. Besides completely converting me, an Italian naysayer to an Italian wanderluster, here are 5 other reasons to watch the show:

Stanly’s voice is soothing. I watch The Barefoot Contessa nearly every weekend right when I get up because I find Ina Garten’s voice such a pleasant sound to wake up to. Stanly Tucci’s voice is no different. It ebbs and flows in such a way that you barely notice that he curses every time he takes a bite of pasta. It must be good.

The Italian pride is palpable. After reading, Italy is My Boyfriend, I think I came to understand the great pride within Italians. But seeing it on screen takes it to an entirely new level. There are restauranteurs who have carried on their family recipes for hundreds of years. There are butchers protecting the name and preparation of prosciutto, so phonies cannot trick the public. There are families who still gather around a table every single Sunday for supper, serving the main course as their ancestors did, no matter how antiquated it might seem.

There is a depth to every region. I think this is what has struck me as the most interesting aspect of the show. We might be familiar with the bright colors and stunning seas of the Amalfi Coast, but what we don’t realize is how poverty-stricken it is. Or how Napoli’s infamous pizza was born out of a pandemic. There’s more to Italy than Milan, Florence, Venice, Rome and Pisa. This show takes us there.

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He’s the Rick Steves of 2021. I have to say the most enjoyable moments of my 2009 trip were when my BFF and I busted out our trusty Rick Steves’ book when exploring. We found the most amazing pizza down the scariest alleyway in Venice, and rested our heads only in Steves’ recommended lodgings. Even though Stanly isn’t a food writer on a budget, he is bringing viewers to some obscure places, and for that, I love the show even more.

We meet Stanly’s wife. Did you know Stanly Tucci is married to Emily Blount’s sister? It’s true! Emily and Stanly met while filming The Devil Wears Prada. He was later invited to Emily’s wedding. There, Emily introduced Stanly to her sister, Felicity. Stanly and Felicity were married two years later. Felicity is the woman behind the camera for all of Stanly’s cocktail posts on Instagram. Now, we see her in front of the camera on the show.

Will you watch? I hope so! Let me know what you think.

xo, Nicole

 

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