On May 26, 2020, my memoir, Italy is my Boyfriend, was born. It was a monumental moment for me. It complies all of my experiences in Italy, including finding our home here, all in one place.
It was a strange year to be releasing a book. No book signings. Everything was via Zoom or Instagram stories and lives. Different, but necessary. I had a wonderful interview to kick off the virtual book tour with The Florentine and at The Atlanta History Center via Zoom, with my great friend and Editor and Chief Betsy Riley. I also did a fun podcast with Bit by a Fox. But to be honest, I would rather have been on the road meeting people and signing books. Having said this, the response was amazing. I had so many people reach out that had read my book, and tell me that in some small way, my book gave them a little reprieve from what was happening in the world.
To celebrate it’s one-year birthday, I will be giving away lots of books and one very large prize. Of course, there will be some surprises, too, so make sure to follow me on Instagram to keep up with all the birthday celebration events.
The celebration will kick off the week before the birthday with all sorts of announcements, Instagram lives and much more. On May 18th, I will be chatting with my friend Thea Duncan of Doing Italy about buying a home in Italy and writing my book. I will be giving away books live during the interview, so you won’t want to miss it. May 21st, I will be on IG live answering questions and giving books away live again. We also will be doing TWO major book basket giveaways: one to an individual and one to a book club. You will not want to miss it. Come and join me as I celebrate one-year with Italy is my Boyfriend.
Ciao All! I hope you are all well and staying safe. I wanted to update all of you about happenings in July. There are lots of things and offerings to discuss…
Offerings: La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats Update
The reality of Italy banning Americans caused us to postpone our SOLD OUT workshops. All of our attendees could not have been more understanding, and for that we are truly grateful. We will have a great time in 2021; I am optimistic about that! As a result of the workshops’ success, we added an extra week with each of these sold out instructors. First, the wonderful and talented stylist, and photographer, Ros Atkinson of “her dark materials”, and then the iconic photographer and incredible instructor Bill Abranowicz. Both will be with us an extra week to conduct workshops. Since their workshops sold out so quickly and had so many inquiries, we decided that we would add another opportunity for everyone to experience these amazing workshops. Check the 2021 La Fortezza Workshop Schedule. It’s really going to be lots of fun.
Things: New Construction at La Fortezza—our swimming pool
We are finally finishing up the construction of the swimming pool at La Fortezza. It will take a few months to shape it up to get it ready for our guests next year. I am excited to welcome everyone to our pool area next year with Aperol Spritzes under the pergola.
Things: COOK Corriere 50 Influential Women in Food
I was super honored this month to be included in Italy’s number 1 food publication. COOK- Corriere della Sera. It is the national newspaper’s foodie special interest publication. I was one of the 50 Influential Women in Food celebrated on the cover and inside. I loved the wonderful illustration. Super fun and very humbling. It was a surprise which made it all the more special. The women featured are impressive. They are women I admire, and I even work with some of them, so you can imagine how pleased I was to be included. Definitely a bucket list goal achieved. I will be participating in a virtual food conference with COOK in the fall, too. Stay tuned for more details as we get closer.
Offerings: Italy is My Boyfriend is NOW available in an audio version
July has had lots of surprises. My memoir, Italy is My Boyfriend, came out this month on Audible on Amazon. No, I did not narrate it, as some of you have asked. I wouldn’t have done as well as Devon Sorvari, a trained actress, does. It’s the perfect download for your road trips this summer.
Things: La Fortezza Cookbook update
I am continuing to work on my upcoming cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook (Rizzoli NY).
I have been writing and testing recipes all year. I will be shooting it with David Loftus, an English Photographer. He also happens to be Jamie Oliver’s Photographer. I will have an Italian chef and styling team, but it will be a small team considering the times. I am excited to start photographing it. I leave soon to begin the shoot! As a side note, some of you may wonder how I can enter as an American. Because we own a home in Italy, I am an Italian resident, and I live there most of the year. Most likely, I will not be back stateside for some time.
Lastly, I am so sorry that no one from the US is able to join us in Italy this year, but this too will pass. Please wear a mask, stay distant and wash your hands. Let’s squash this thing. We are all in this together. One World, one cause.
To celebrate, I am hosting a giveaway on my Instagram page. The winner will receive all three of my books, signed. Head over to myInstagram feed to enter!
Frances Mayes, the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, will be joining me on my Instagram Live, Thursday May 28th at noon. We will be discussing her latest book, Always Italy, as well as my book, Italy is My Boyfriend. I cannot wait to chat all things Italy with Frances! Grab your lunch and join us on Thursday.
Additionally, plan to join me and editor in chief of Atlanta Magazine, Betsy Riley for a virtual talk in partnership with the Atlanta History Center on June 18, 2020 at 7 PM. Find more information here.
Where this all began… The last week of February, Frank and I traveled back to our fortress in Fivizzano, Italy. I was there to start shooting my new cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook (Rizzoli, NY), when the virus started to take hold in Milan and the surrounding area. I thought I was safe from the virus’s reach since the fortress is in such a remote area of Italy. However, shortly after I arrived, the local hospital shut down because 2 patients tested positive for COVID-19 and the entire staff was quarantined. After speaking with my family (Frank had left a couple of days earlier), I made the difficult decision to travel back to the United States, putting my cookbook shoot on hold.
Coming back to the United States was a surreal experience. I departed Italy on March 7th, just three days before President Trump closed all travel between the United States and Italy. I had a mask and plenty of Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer. The surgical mask was mainly so I would not touch my face. It also gave me a vague sense of comfort. And, we now know now that was a very good decision on my part. On the bus to the plane, a man was standing next to me in a full hazmat suit carrying a briefcase. I was the only other person wearing a mask; me and the hazmat suit guy. I was nervous and filled with a sense of dread.
I wiped down the seat, tucked into my book, and we took off. In Rome, I headed to the Alitalia lounge near my gate. Usually, my husband and I look forward to spending time in this lounge as the food is amazing, and they have a pizza oven. However, this time I was full of anxiety. I had an espresso and washed my hands about a million times until it was time to board.
At the gate, we all filled out a form and had our temperatures taken before we were allowed to board. The flight was long, and I could hardly wait to land. Once we got to customs, I was asked where I had been, a standard question. I replied, “Italy”. The customs agent stamped my passport and said welcome home. That’s it. No temperature taken, no special line, nothing. I was concerned since so many people, most likely some infected just walked through into Atlanta or other destinations. It makes sense how this virus spread so easily in the months before. But I was so dismayed that this was not being taken seriously at the Atlanta International customs terminal entry to the US. What the heck?
I arrived and immediately was on a two-week self-imposed quarantine, as was Frank (his company suggested it since he arrived from Italy, one of the most infected countries at the time. Now England has surpassed Italy’s numbers, sadly). We watched the grave news from Italy, talking to friends in Italy every day—thank God for the internet and WhatsApp! I left on a Saturday, and by Sunday the Italian Prime Minister put Italy into lockdown. They were completely locked down for 2 months.
Back in the US… After our 2 week self-quarantine, Frank and I remained locked down at home upon our return. His practice shut down, except emergencies. I was worried every time he had to go take care of patients, but that is all part of being a doctor’s wife. He’s careful. I had plenty of time to work on writing my book, La Fortezza Cookbook, and test recipes with Frank as my taste tester. We watched endless reports and lots of old movies. Read books and took long walks every day since our street is beautiful and deserted. Of course, we cleaned the house since our housekeeper was not coming anymore. We walked the dogs, who were endlessly grateful that we were home 24/7. Since I am very organized, I did minimal reorganizing.
Our daughter just moved into a new house, and she was homebound working. She’s a lawyer and luckily was able to work from home, but since her house was empty, she started to look around and realized she needed to get a few things for their home. Lucky for her, so many things were on sale, and she was able to support the economy by taking advantage of great sales. We managed to decorate using emails and Facetime to place things. She’s got a great eye, and she has been doing a great job. Our son, who lives in Austin, is a Data Scientist, so he too was able to work from home. He also just moved into his place, so I did help him as well with placing furniture via Facetime.
La Fortezza Chef Philp and I have been doing Instagram Live La Fortezza Cooking Classes every other week; we have had hundreds of people join us which is so much fun. Look out for more cooking classes coming in the next weeks!
Every Saturday I have cocktail hour (aperitivo) with my Italian and US friends via Zoom.
We talk about our families and still gossip and laugh. It’s been a highlight of the week since we can’t go out. We have ordered in from local restaurants at least once a week. I fear for the restaurants during this time. But somehow we will survive.
Things will be different, but I am an optimist so I always hope for the best. This week I will attempt to cut Frank’s hair; I have been watching loads of tutorials I think I can do this. I have been coloring my own hair which I am fairly good at since I did this for years in Italy until I found a hairdresser I trusted there. I have been writing marketing copy for my book, Italy is My Boyfriend, that releases in a couple of weeks. It should be interesting seeing how book talks and signings pan out. Stay tuned….
Back to Italy…
Many of you wonder when you can travel, and I am right there with you! I hope to return to Italy as soon as it is allowed. Italy is now in phase 2 of opening the country. I am optimistic that I can return to my beloved Italy in a few months to work on La Fortezza Cookbook, and welcome people to La Fortezza in September. That is the goal and the hope. I will continue to keep you updated about La Fortezza workshops. Right now we are a go for late August and September workshops. Of course, we will be very aware that we all want to be safe, so we will make decisions based on safety as we go it will become clear what best steps are.
More quarantine stories…
Please enjoy the quarantine stories from the La Fortezza team this month. Nicole, my web manager, and I thought it would be a fun idea for everyone from the La Fortezza team to tell us how they have been coping in these days of stay at home orders. As the country opens, we hope everyone takes their time and proceeds safely, so we can get back to normal, however that might look… Look for all the quarantine stories this month, and thank you to our incredible team and the folks we work with in Italy for the support in the uncertain time. We love you.
As many of us are in our homes sheltering, we are slowly seeing things improve all over the world. In Italy, hopeful signs appear every passing day as things are very slowly starting to open, and people are starting to adjust to the new normal.
Today, I am sharing a few updates of my own. Below, you’ll learn the latest with our workshop schedule, more about my book launch and a few happy news items I am delighted to share with you.
I have been in communication with all of our instructors and my friends overseas. They are hopeful that come fall, we will be able to meet again. I am optimistic that we will be able to return to Italy early September and conduct workshops with small groups on our compound in the Italian countryside. We will see and make decisions as we go. As always, I’ll update you here and on Instagram.
In the meantime, as you know, I am conducting La Fortezza cooking classes every couple of weeks with our La Fortezza workshop chef, Chef Philip. Most recently, we have been making handmade pasta and focaccia! You can find the homemade pasta recipe here. Check my Instagram for announcements, and always right here on the blog for recipes we have prepared as well as instructions and shopping lists.
As always, there are some very wonderful things happening in our La Fortezza world. Italy is My Boyfriend, my memoir, will be released this month May 26th. I am hoping that you have already ordered your copy and will be enjoying the tale of how we came to renovate and own a 12th-century fortress in the Italian countryside. Trust me, it is quite an adventure. ORDERyour copy here.
As with my past books, I will be doing a book launch for this exciting title. The launch will happen on June 18th at the Atlanta History Center with Betsy Riley, editor and chief of Atlanta Magazine. She will be interviewing me—live or virtually—it is yet to be determined.
I am working on my next book, a La Fortezza Cookbook. I feel blessed to work on this project while at home waiting for all of this to pass.
La Fortezza is featured in the May Issue of Elle Décor magazine. It is an issue devoted to Italy giving you a complete virtual vacation. It is on newsstands now. Check out the online feature here.
I am also excited to say that we were featured in Quin in partnership with Lacanche. See the beautiful photos and full spread here.