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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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Meet my new neighbor, Julie Montagu, the Viscountess Hinchingbrooke

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Ciao All! I wanted you to meet my new neighbor in Fivizzano. Much to my surprise, I received a direct message from a woman that follows both of us on Instagram. The message read, “You must meet Julie Montagu; she just bought a house in Fivizzano”.

How obscure, I thought. Our region is so unknown and yet this Julie person bought a house here during a pandemic? I did not think much more about it until I got a message from said “Julie”.

I looked at her name, and it sounded vaguely familiar. So I did what anyone would do, I looked at her instagram account. With a little more investigation, I realized I knew Julie from the very short-lived Bravo TV show, “Ladies of London”. I mainly remembered her because she was so unlike the other “ladies”. First off she is an American, and she is a renowned yoga and healthy lifestyle guru! Obviously, I wrote her back that we would need to meet up in Fivizzano.

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We texted back and forth until the moment we met. She really was like seeing an old friend; we shared a driver from the airport, and honestly, it was an instant connection. Julie is a delight, she adores Italy and even though she’s a Viscountess, she’s just a lovely lady from the Midwest. Being from the Midwest myself, I felt an instant connection.

Julie is a busy lady. She’s a mom to 4 children, and she has an incredible You Tube Channel and teaches yoga non-stop, all while helping to run her family estate, Mapperton House. She also hosts a show on Smithsonian Channel. If you’re interested in English estates, you might want to watch it. She’s charming on it. (It streams on Amazon btw)

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I am looking forward to showing her around and introducing her to our beautiful region of the Lunigiana. She, like me, is obsessed with interior design, so it will be fun to show her all my wonderful local vendors and flea markets. You know I love a project. We are even thinking about holding some Yoga Retreats and La Fortezza in 2022. Let me know if you’d be into it? I cannot wait to collaborate with Julie and share her amazing talents and energy!

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Julie’s sweet new home in the heart of Fivizzano. How cute is this place?

I asked Julie a few questions she was kind enough to answer them even though she’s incredibly busy these days. Julie, I look forward to lots of adventures with you. x

Q: Explain your relationship with Italy.

A: Honestly, I wish I could say that even 1/100th of me had some Italian in me, but try as I might, I couldn’t find any.  So my relationship with Italy is one of obsession really. What American isn’t, right?  The food, the culture, the history, the arts, the coffee, the wine and I had better stop here because this could take all day. But equally, I’m obsessed with the language so I started taking online lessons at the start of the pandemic March 2020. I think I have around 120 hours of lessons under my belt but I’m still rubbish!  However, that certainly doesn’t stop me from trying to fit in…. one day!

Q: How did you decide on Fivizzano?

A: My thirst for Italy wasn’t being quenched enough by Italian lessons plus not many people speak Italian in England! Therefore, I made a commitment to myself and possibly not to my husband…shhhh… that I would buy a property in 2020 somewhere in Italy.  That somewhere zoomed in to Tuscany.  I’m an outdoors gal, yoga, cycling, walking, skiing, boating so I knew that having some or all of that was where I wanted to go.  I was told to ‘seek and ye shall find’ in Northwest Tuscany. I like to think that Fivizzano found me! Thank goodness too! I compare my experience of finding a house in Italy and finding this house in Fivizzano to that of my shopping skills: I don’t have the time or the energy to spend hours, days, months shopping. I know what I like as soon as I see it.

Q: Tell us about your house and your plans for the renovation.

A: My new favourite name for my house is: La mia casetta carina – My cute little house. In my eyes, that’s exactly what it is. It’s 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 1 shower room, a sitting room and of course, a good sized kitchen!  But the other feature that sold it to me was the roof terrace.  I distinctively remember walking out onto the terrace in sync with the ringing of the church bells and the view of the spire straight ahead.  All around me were the sights, sounds and smells of Italy – exactly what I had spent years imagining.

I’m in the midst of the very beginning stages of renovation.  The pandemic has of course slowed things down a bit but I’m American and am full steam ahead in my heart.  I’d like to expose more the original, interior stone walls and incorporate beautiful Italian floor tiles throughout but keep the decoration simple and clean.  However, living in England for the past 20 years has converted me into a bath girl!  Long gone are the days of my preference to shower. So the bathroom must have an enormous bath that is big enough for me to lie completely horizontal. And of course, I’m really excited about heading off to the brilliant flea markets too as there lies treasures of one-of-a-kind finds.

Q: How much time do you plan to spend in Italy?

A: How much time am I allowed?! I still have a young(ish) family, so I won’t be an empty nester for 6 more years BUT as soon as the last of 4 chicks have flown the coop, you can count on this mother hen spending as much time in Italy as she possibly can.

Q: How is your Italian?

A: Probably considered rubbish by the Italians and decent by American standards. I’m still beavering away at my 3x a week virtual Italian lessons and will continue to do so until god knows when but the reality of truly becoming more fluent only happens when you’re actually in the country and speaking with ‘in real life’ Italians.

Q: Do you plan to host yoga retreats in Italy?

A: Not at my cute little house which only sleeps 4, but perhaps at yours? Let’s talk!

Q: Will you be my best friend?

A: Yes! As long as you teach me how to cook! 😉 I’m not sure who was looking down on oblivious Julie – but clearly, someone was and for that, I am eternally grateful. Who would have thought that in ALL of Italy, the paths of 2 midwestern girls would not only cross but become the best of friends, in a little town called Fivizzano.

Grazie Mille Julie! Here’s to many hours spent scouring the flea markets and cooking, but mostly drinking and laughing on the terrace and of course hiking up and down the mountainside.. Ci vediamo a presto cara. Ti voglio bene x

P.S. Big Si Si to Yoga retreats in 2022, you teach the yoga, and I’ll teach the cooking.

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

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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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My Tortellini Recipe

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Ciao everyone! I hope you were able to join Tina Prestia and me on Friday for our IG Live cooking class. We chatted all things pasta and specifically, tortellini. You can watch the class/interview itself here. Below, you’ll find one of my favorite recipes for tortellini. It’s a staple in my house and is not as hard as it seems to make. Give it a try! Enjoy.

xx Annette

Greens and Ricotta Stuffed Tortellini with Walnut Pesto
Serves 4

Pasta: For Tortelli Pasta, use the Basic Pasta recipe. Find it here.

For the filling, you will need:

– 3 cups baby kale
– 2 cups  baby arugula
– 1 cup baby spinach
– 1 1/2 cups ricotta
– 8 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
– 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
– 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
– 1 eggs

To prepare the filling:

Fill a 4-quart pot 3/4 full with water. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring water to a boil. Fill a bowl 3/4 full with ice water. Add the kale, arugula, and spinach to the boiling water blanch them quickly about  30 seconds to 1 minute. Pull the greens from the pot and plunge into the ice water.

Drain the greens in a sieve and then squeeze the liquid out of them by pressing into the sieve over the sink to remove excess liquid. In a food processor place chilled greens, ricotta, parmesan, pepper, one teaspoon salt, and nutmeg. Blend until a smooth, about 30 seconds. Add 1 egg, and blend. Place the mixture into the fridge until ready to fill the Tortellini.

For the walnut pesto, you will need:

– 1 cup shelled walnuts, reserve 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts for garnish
– 1 clove of garlic
– 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan, + ¼ cup for topping
– 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
– 1/4 teaspoon of salt

To prepare the walnut sauce:

Preheat the oven to 350° degrees F. Put the whole walnuts on a sheet tray, and put on the middle rack in the oven to lightly roast them to golden brown, about 3-5 minutes watch them so they don’t burn. When the walnuts cool, chop the walnuts *set aside 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts. Combine walnuts and garlic in a food processor, and pulse about 30 seconds. Add  parmesan, olive oil, and salt, and blend for 30 seconds to a minute, until combined, it should be a loose consistency.

To prepare tortellini: 

Use the directions of the pasta recipe, you should have 4 sheets. Using a  2  “ round cutter to cut the pasta cut our rounds.

Place the filling into a pastry bag. Using the pastry bag place a 1 inch dollop of filling into each circle of dough. When all the rounds are filled. With a finger dip into a bowl of water and then brush water around the filling fold in half press gently to seal, then take the 2 points and pull them to connect press together to form the shape of a tortellini.

Cooking tortellini:

Fill a 7 to 8-quart pot 3/4 full with water and add 3 tablespoons salt. Bring to a low boil over high heat, and then reduce to medium-low retaining the gentle boil. Drop tortellini in the water to cook for 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the tortellini using a slotted. Place them in a 4 quart mixing bowl, toss with the Walnut Sauce. Serve immediately.

To serve:

Spoon the Tortelli onto four bowls, top with grated parmesan.

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