My Italian Guestbook Pre-order NOW

As I type this, I cannot believe that I am saying it, but the follow-up to my memoir from May 2020 Italy is My Boyfriend is ready for you to pre-order. I am over the moon. I got some amazing reviews from some of my favorite influencers, and I am extremely excited to share My Italian Guestbook with you. I L-O-V-E the cover! Let me know in the comments what you think of the cover art. I hand-picked the illustrator Melinda Beck; I think she’s extraordinary. Please click here to pre-order your copy. It is full of fun and funny stories from my first ever workshop and last year’s retreats. There’s love, laughter, a few lies, and loads of Limoncello…oh and a little sex too.

Here’s what the Editor in Chief of the Florentine, Helen Farrell, had to say about My Italian Guestbook.

My Italian Guestbook
 is an upbeat collection of stories about Annette Joseph’s revival of a twelfth-century fortress in the Lunigiana countryside. From the unexpected challenges of La Fortezza’s first photo-styling workshop to a romantic liaison between a local butcher and an American vegetarian, the colorful characters and entertaining anecdotes in this galloping read are bound to make you crave a Tuscan adventure or three.

Pre-order it here. I hope you love it as much as I do.

xx Annette

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Meet Our New Brand Identity

I was determined to give La Fortezza it’s own crest. Since it’s a 12th-century fortress, let’s face it, it deserves one. I decided to consult one of the most talented artists I know, Betty Soldi. Betty lives in Florence and is an incredible calligrapher and graphic designer. She’s a delight as a person and wonderful to work with. Over the summer we worked on assembling all the elements that would make up the La Fortezza crest. I think that the collaboration was a dream. I am so pleased with our new crest. It gives our space the branding that was meant for it and brings our home to life. Let me know what you think? In the next months, you will see how I use the crest on branding everything at La Fortezza. Here are a couple of things that I’ve used our new crest on.

I hope you love it as much as I do!

xx Annette

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What is biodynamic wine?

I had the pleasure of visiting the Podere Concori winery in the Garfagnana region of Italy. This region is the mountainous region just south of where we live, as you drive towards Lucca. Our driver Andrea, who owns Tuscan Drivers, did a fabulous job driving us up and through the mountains; he even stopped to show us where he grew up near, Viagli Sotto high up in the mountains. It was gorgeous. Let’s face it we live in one of the most beautiful regions in Italy! We even stopped off at a national park, which once was a stop-over point for shepherds as they crossed the mountain range. It definitely had an alpine vibe and some pretty weird marble statues.

This David Bowie Stature was erected after he was in an Italian movie that used this place as a location.

Okay back to biodynamic wine. Essentially biodynamic wine is grown hyper naturally, using not only natural pesticides but also using the phases of the moon.

The official definition of biodynamic farming according to the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association is “a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, gardens, food production and nutrition.” Biodynamic wine is made with a set of farming practices that views the farm or vineyard as one solid organism. The ecosystem functions as a whole with each portion of the farm or vineyard contributing to the next. The idea is to create a self-sustaining system. Natural materials, soils, and composts are used to sustain the vineyard. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are forbidden for the sake of soil fertility. A range of animals from ducks to horses to sheep live on the soil and fertilize it, creating a rich, fertile environment for the vines to grow in. Biodynamic farming also seeks sustainability or leaving the land in as good or better shape as they found it for future generations.

This vineyard also uses ancient methods to rid the grapes of pests and fertilize using sheep and horses and a crazy donkey as well. The wine we tasted was delicious. Although some of the wines, like the white had a funky flavor, which took some getting used to. The owner is committed to growing grapes in this way, but it’s an amazing amount of work. I did take pause and think that maybe we should convert our vineyard in the coming years to a bio-dynamic vineyard? Right now we are organic, so taking the next step might not be a big leap. I will keep you posted. In the meantime, I highly encourage you to taste some biodynamic wine, let me know what you think. Thank you to our amazing driver Andrea and Tuscan Drivers, our preferred La Fortezza Workshop/Retreat drivers.

xx Annette

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Touring the Marble Mines of Cararra, Italy

When a local Italian home goods manufacturer approached me to collaborate, I was pretty thrilled. I was even more excited when I saw that they made all of their products using Cararra marble. The marble mountains of Cararra are located about 30 minutes from La Fortezza. I pass them all the time and marvel at the glow of the distinctive white marble cavities that have been carved out of the massive mountain range for centuries.

The idea that these enormous craters were carved and transported by hand is mind-blowing. Of course, over the years the cutting, collecting, and transporting of marble blocks has been modernized. Still, it is hard work, and the miners are in danger and take great risks to this day. The FiammettaV Home Collection is impressive. But honestly, when I drove to their location, right under the marble mountains where their materials are mined, I was even more impressed. One thing that I cannot get over is my proximity to amazing experiences. I think sometimes the Italians take for granted the amazingness around them. I guess when your office is at the bottom of a marble mountain with the most incredible view, that’s just normal, right? But for me, I am always in shock and awe and frankly pure glee.

Seriously always pitching myself.

Mattia, the PR director for FiammettaV casually suggested that we take a look at the mines where their product materials are mined. I was like, “Sure why not?!” I never expected to be driven literally into the mine. I have never seen anything like it. I have toured the mines before, but this was VIP access, and I was speechless. Which if you know me, takes a lot.

Our driver Michael was amazing, The ride to the top of the mine was treacherous, and the switchbacks were precarious. Some of the steep angles made me laugh; they were so ridiculously dangerous. Not to mention the giant trucks hauling hundreds of tons of marble down the mountain. We had to pull over several times to let them pass. As you can imagine, it’s hard for the loaded trucks to stop once they start their downhill descent. Let’s say it was the most insane ride at an amusement park you can imagine. Once we reached the top, the giant carving machines were in full action. It was so vast that the full Starwars sized vehicles looked like a child’s toy from our vantage point. Some of it was hard to comprehend. At one point we had a view of the mountain and a view of the sea. It was like a dream.

Watching the giant marble slabs fall as they were pried from the mine walls was amazing and unreal. The sound alone shook the ground as the block toppled to the ground. The walls look like art installations, and even the giant blocks look like they belong in a museum. I have always loved marble and marble products. FiammettaV made the experience very special. I will keep you posted on our collaboration. I can not stress enough if you’re in the area, make sure you tour the mines. Head to my site to the free day activities page to book your tour. Grazie mille FiammettaV for the very very special experience.

xx Annette

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La Fortezza Tomato Sauce

I know you have all been watching me deal with our incredible tomato harvest in our La Fortezza garden this year. Let’s just say we will have tomato sauce for every pizza party until October. Today I am sharing one of the recipes from my upcoming new cookbook, based on the region I live in La Lunigiana, located in the northwest corner of Tuscany. My cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook, will feature the local cuisine, as well as the house specialties we serve during our workshops and retreats on the property. It will be released in fall 2022, by Rizzoli NY, and I cannot wait to share it with all of you. This is a recipe you can jar or simply bag up and put in the freezer to enjoy a little taste of summer in the winter months. Let me know how it goes. xx

Our tomato plants are very prolific; we make about 3 batches of this simple tomato sauce recipe every season. We jar it and enjoy it through the fall, winter, and spring. It is a very simple recipe that highlights the sweetness of the tomatoes. It is used in so many dishes, you will be amazed at how easy and versatile it is. The only piece of equipment needed is a food mill, which is something that is a fixture in Italian kitchens mainly used for “the sauce”.

La Fortezza Tomato Sauce
Makes about 4 quarts 8-16 oz jars

*equipment food mill

You will need:

– ½  cup extra-virgin olive oil

– 1 ½ cups finely chopped yellow onion

– 4 pounds tomatoes, chopped

– 3 clove garlic, lightly crushed

– 1 tablespoon  salt1 tablespoon dried oregano

To prepare:

Place the onion and olive oil in a large saucepan and set it over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring often until the oil starts to sizzle. Cook for 5 minutes, to soften the onion. Add the tomato and the minced garlic to the onions, add the salt and oregano. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a simmer, then lower the heat to low. Allow to simmer gently, stirring from time to time, for 40 to 50 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Run it through the food mill and store in the freezer or jar according to the directions below.

For jarring your sauce these are the directions:

Step 1: Glass jars can also be put through a hot cycle in your dishwasher.

Step 2: Sterilize metal seals in boiling water for 5 minutes and then leave in water.

Step 3: Once you fill the jars, top with lids, put the filled jars into the boiling water for 10 minutes, remove with rubber tipped tongs place on the counter to cool. The lids are sealed when the middle of the lid has an indentation. Note if all the jars do not have a proper intentdation, store in the refrigerator.

  • Note if you don’t want to jar your sauce it is good in the freezer for 6 months.
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