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2020 What can I say…

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When we welcomed 2020, we had no idea what the year had in store, nor could we have imagined it. As always, we celebrated with our family at a restaurant, but little did we know it would probably be the last restaurant visit all together of the entire year.

Frank and I went to our home in Italy as we always do in February, although the Corona Virus had already taken hold in Italy, we were blissfully unaware of how devastating it would be—how deadly how frightening 2020 would be. Frank left early, and I was 2 days behind leaving behind any notion of working on La Fortezza Cookbook winter chapter photoshoot.

As I write this blog post, help is on the way. The FDA has just authorized the use of a vaccine and is distributing it. I watched as the Vice President, his wife and the Surgeon General took the vaccine on live television. I am hoping that people will take it as well and this nightmare will be behind us. In the meantime we still have to pay close attention and alter our behavior until we are all vaccinated. I have always worn a mask, and distanced. I am a germophobe, so I wash my hands constantly. Of course, I am lucky to work at home, so I have very little contact with people in general. The only thing that’s changed is no restaurants, no dinner parties, and sadly, no workshops.

I am looking forward to heading back to Italy in February to continue photographing my latest book, La Fortezza Cookbook with David Loftus and our tiny EU, British crew. Since the US is still not allowed into Italy, for now, we will stick to a local group of pros. We have Rosie Scott a food-stylist from London, along with our Italian chef Leo. They will make up the food prep and styling team. Barbara Pederzini will continue as prop mistress, and production advisor once again.

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I am excited to finally get the winter chapter under my belt. I will stay to shoot the spring chapter in June, and IIwill be staying Italy until late fall. Frank will come back and forth since he’s a medical worker, a doctor, he will be vaccinated early. I am relieved that he will be safe.

I am pretty sure things will be looking up in the fall and all of our scheduled Workshops and Retreats will go on. It is going to be an amazing workshop roster. Bill Abranowicz will be back along with Ros Atkinson Her Dark Materials, and Our Slow Food Experience, if you’re interested in joining us, hurry because it’s almost sold out. An Olive Eccentric Experience will be once again on the schedule. I can’t wait to welcome our groups.

From my family to yours and from the La Fortezza team.

Happy Healthy 2021, see you at La Fortezza, see you in Italia! Speriamo. XO

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The Florentine holiday lights in 2020

IMG_9214 I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to my friend Alexandra Lawrence, when we visit with guests in Florence she is my go to tour guide. She’s one to put into your contacts and make sure to book her early.

I know we all miss travel to Italy, so today I am taking you all to Florence to tour the Holiday Lights in Florence. I’ve invited Florentine Alexandra to join me on the blog as a guest contributor to tell you all about the lights this year. The Holidays lights of Florence are always an exciting subject. In fact she will take us on a virtual tour on Wed. Dec. 9th at Noon ET on my IG LIVE so mark your calendar and be whisked away to Florence to see this year’s holiday lights in Florence.

Take a moment to read as Alexandra explains the meaning behind 2020’s holiday lights.

Take it away Alexandra:

It’s no secret that Italians love to commemorate things. Ceremonies, exhibitions, and conferences are constantly being dedicated to an artist’s 500th birthday or to the 1000th anniversary of a church consecration. Some of the commemorations come and go without much notice (there are a rather lot of them), but others are rightfully treated as a ‘big deal’.

The upcoming celebrations surrounding 700 years of Dante Alighieri are of the latter variety.

Born in 1265 in Florence, the great poet was exiled from the city in a particularly explosive moment of political drama at age 27. Already quite famous for his verses—mostly love poetry—Dante spent the rest of his life wandering the Italian peninsula serving various noble courts. He brought them prestige, and they let him use their libraries.

It was there, in those libraries, where he wrote his epic poem—a journey he claims he actually took down through the underworld, up the mountain of purgatory, and straight-up through the heavens. He called the poem the Comedy. (Another Florentine author one generation removed, Giovanni Boccaccio, would add the superlative ‘Divine’ to the title.)

The Comedy was an immediate smash—copied and recopied, read and re-read out loud for all to hear and to enjoy. As the first epic poem since antiquity to be written in the vernacular, Dante’s journey was meant to be understood by everyone, not just scholars and nobles.

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graphic by Betty Soldi

Dante fills his tale with well-known names from history, from The Bible, from Greek and Roman mythology, but also with contemporary figures—ones that would raise eyebrows and elicit both hidden smiles and out-loud-gasps from readers. It is just one way he ensures that we are there with him, adventuring along with the poet-pilgrim on this terrifying and exhilarating ride.

It is a salvation story and a hero’s journey all rolled into one. It is, Dante tells us, also our story—if we want it to be. Offering a sort of existential road map to a happy ending, the Comedy is proof, to paraphrase Robert Frost, that the best way out is through.

All of us who have lived through this incredibly trying pandemic year know a little something about that kind of resiliency now. It is a truly glorious thing that we can read Dante’s Divine Comedy 700 years after it was written and find that universal truth inside. And that alone is worth celebrating.

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We hope you will join us on Wednesday, December 9th at 12 PM EST, 6 PM CET for on my IG Live for walk through of the Florentine holiday lights, which are dedicated to Dante Alighieri for the very first time.

Alexandra Lawrence is an expert in the language and art of Italy. She has lived in Florence for over 20 years, where she is a lecturer of art history and contemporary Italian cultural studies. While completing her graduate work in Italian Language and Literature, Alexandra concentrated primarily on writers and poets and their relationship to the visual arts—a subject that continues to inform her work.

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Alexandra is an accredited guide for Italian museums and archeological sites, and has worked with several high-profile clients including England’s royal family. Her walks are featured in Condé Nast Traveler as one of the ‘Best 16 Things to Do in Florence’.

In 2020, she founded Forma Sideris, a space to have guided conversations about Italy and its art, literature, culture, and history. She is currently offering a virtual 6-week course on the Divine Comedy which will begin in January 2021. For more on ‘Divine Dante’, please see the course page here.

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Autumn Chapter Shoot for La Fortezza Cookbook

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Ciao Guys! If you follow me on Instagram, you know the legendary food photographer David Loftus was back during the first week of October to photograph the autumn chapter of La Fortezza Cookbook.

Autumn is my favorite time of year; I love the color palette. We smoked pumpkins, used the outdoor oven, “the “forno,” and implemented lots of fire and Medieval cooking techniques. We went to local purveyors and had great field trips. The olive harvest is starting, so we were able to witness the first press too. Green gold; it’s so delicious.

Of course, we had our trusty prop mistress and brilliant producer Barbara Pederzini. I flew chef Philip in from the US to work on this chapter. It was a huge effort and stressful to get him into Italy with the travel ban. He quarantined for 2 weeks prior to the shoot and then worked the week of the shoot with the team. We made beautiful images, and I am so excited to share this book with you. Thanks always for the support and lovely DMs on my Instagram. It’s always so wonderful to hear from you.

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Instagram Live Cooking Class from Italy, October 1 Noon EST

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fresh ricotta being made

Ciao!  If you’d like to cook with me in Italy at La Fortezza, I would love to share a recipe from my new cookbook that I am here working on this month, La Fortezza Cookbook. Since we can’t be together in person, we are sharing a recipe with you on Instagram LIVE later this week. Come take this cooking class with us.

IG LIVE October 1 at noon EST.

I will be preparing tiramisu with a twist. Our local dairy supplies us with the most delicate and delicious ricotta cheese. It is handmade every day and is incredibly fresh. The owner of the dairy was kind enough to share her unique recipe for tiramisu using ricotta instead of the traditional mascarpone cheese. This recipe will be featured in my new book which will be released spring 2022 with Rizzoli NY.

If you want to cook along with us, I’d love that! Or, just come and hang out. You can always make the recipe later. In fact, it would be wonderful to add to your menu this holiday season. See below for the necessary ingredients as well as the recipe. I hope to see you on Thursday!

Nadia’s Ricotta Tiramisu
Serves 6

You will need:
– 3 large eggs separated
– ½  cup sugar
– ¼  teaspoon sea salt
– 1 cup whipping cream
– 2 (8 oz.) containers ricotta cheese drained
– 1 ½  cups espresso
– 4  tablespoons Marsala wine, or Rum
– 24 crisp ladyfingers
– 1 cup whipped cream for the topping
– 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder (for garnish)

To prepare:
Place egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment,. Beat on high until soft peaks form. Transfer to a bowl.

Beat egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow about 2 minutes. Add cream and beat 1 minute.  Add the cheese with motor running on low until combined and smooth. Fold egg whites into custard mixture.

Combine espresso and marsala wine.  In a  9”x 13” glass dish place ladyfingers into the bottom of the dish sprinkle with espresso mixture, then spread ½  of the custard mixture on top. Place the ladyfingers on top of the custard until the dish is covered once again drizzle espresso mixture on top of the ladyfingers. Spoon remaining custard on top of lady fingers. Place into the refrigerator until ready to serve. Whip cream 1 cup cream and spread on top then dust with cocoa powder.

Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

xx Annette

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Summer Chapter Shoot for La Fortezza Cookbook

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As you all know, I am back in Italy. Mainly for 2 reasons:

1. Check on our house, La Fortezza.
2. Shoot the summer and autumn chapters of my next cookbook La Fortezza Cookbook, Rizzoli NY, Spring 2022.

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This project, for me, is a passion project. The book will be an epic and a beautiful depiction of the region we live in, in northern Tuscany. The book will be filled with local recipes and delicacies, gorgeous travel shots, typical local flavor, and purveyor portraits.

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These photographs will all be captured by the incredibly talented British Photographer David Loftus. I have been an admirer of David’s work for many years, as he has shot for some of the most famous chefs in the world; Jamie Oliver just to name one. His work is insanely beautiful. His discerning eye and recognizable style sets him apart as one of the world’s most respected food photographers. I was thrilled when he agreed to photograph my book.

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My sweet friend and producer, stylist Barbara Pederzini, agreed to help me with the prop styling. She brought all sorts of amazing serving pieces and plates to play with. I used a local chef to help prepare the dishes. It really was a magical team.

Without giving too much away, I believe that this book will take you on a journey and leave you with the lasting memory of a trip to our little piece of heaven. We will be shooting the autumn chapter starting October 5th, so be sure to follow the journey on my insta-stories. I can only tell you this is one of the best projects I have ever worked on. The love I have for this place, La Fortezza will shine through on every page and you will taste the love in every bite.

Until October, stay well x

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