The Dapper David Loftus, photographer and fashion plate sipping the Rosé named for him.
Chef Leo, garnishing the local dish, in an authentic Lunigiana cast iron cooking vessel, called a testa.
Me at my new bar, that was a delivery saga let’s just say I was happy it arrived and was in one piece.
Ciao everyone! I can’t believe I am saying this, but I am done with La Fortezza Cookbook. The manuscript? Check,. The recipe testing? Check. Edits? Check. Photo-shoots per season? Check.
La Fortezza, capture by David, his POV is perfection.
As you can imagine, shooting a seasonal cookbook in Italy has been a challenge. We had to cancel the very first shoot for the winter Chapter in February 2020. We were finally able to shoot the summer chapter August 2020, and with lots of restrictions and hurdles, we managed to shoot summer with me and my local chef Leo, then in October. I brought our workshop chef from the US which was no small feat. He, unfortunately, was going through some personal issues which did affect the quality of his work and the food which was another challenge on top of the other challenges was a lot for me to process. We soldiered on in March, hiring a new food stylist from England, the incredible Rosie Scott. All the while David Loftus, my photographer, was truly brilliant and consistent and created the most beautiful images. Rosie, our stylist from London, joined the team in March, along with our local chef Leo. We tackled the re-shoots from October’s shoot, as well as the new images for winter (yes, winter at the end of March. We lucked out with some unseasonably cold weather). Rosie and Leo knocked it out of the park. We had the crew back from London last week to shoot the final chapter, spring. With London lockdowns, endless covid 19 tests, daily temperature checks, travel restrictions, and tons of paperwork, we made it happen. My friend and superstar producer Barbara Pederzini was one of the reasons the shoot went so smoothly. She was my rock, to say the least.
Daily temperature checks, Rosie and Charlie doing their temperature checks.
With endless playlists, espressos, market runs, sunshine, heat, rain, and cold days, we had a great time. There were many many challenges, but I am beyond pleased with the recipes, and the images are outrageously gorgeous. This book, as we referred to it, will be “the most beautiful book in the world”. I am delighted that all of our local slow food purveyors’ stories are included, and the rich history of this little-known region of Italy, The Lunigiana, will be the star. I am proud and so excited to share it with all of you. Endless thank yous to David, Rosie, Leo, Barbara and of course, Charlie, Rosie’s lovely and helpful husband, who saved my ass driving to see the Shepherdess in Zeri…that’s another story for another time… dream team does not begin to describe this crew. Fin…xx
“As a prop stylist, I regard shopping as a sport”…
I am pretty over the moon to announce this 2022 spring retreat, The Great Italian Shopping Experienceis back. A couple of years ago, I did a shopping retreat. Let’s just say it was super popular. We instantly sold out. We had a waiting list of 50 people…I am not even kidding…
So, next year, in June, I will be revamping this one with more shopping and more locations. Only 8 people can come for 5 days of non-stop flea-ing and shopping at all of my secret haunts. Who’s coming?
The dates are June 22- 27th 2022. Mark your calendars now! For all of you who missed your chance, we are launching this workshop on Friday, May 1st, so be sure check back in (or even better, subscribe to my newsletter).
We will be going to flea markets, junk shops, artisan food purveyors, vintage dealers, Italian merchants from this region and beyond.
I could not be more excited to go hunting and gathering with you…
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,
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.
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.
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)
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!
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.
Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web manager and friend, and I’m reviving a recipe from the archives for you today.
This past weekend, my husband and I took a quick road trip to Apalachicola, Florida. Once upon a time, Apalachicola Bay produced 90% of the state’s oysters and 10% of the oysters served across the country. Oyster farming in the area is currently on pause, but we were able to have an abundance of oysters from nearby waters several times throughout the weekend. They were fantastic.
I’ve never tried to shuck oysters on my own, but after this weekend and after digging up this recipe, I think I might have to give it a try. This recipe is from the archives of Atlanta Magazine’s Home.
It calls for fresh oysters from your local fish market and includes a fantastic recipe for a lemon mignonette, the tangy, vinegar alternative to cocktail sauce.
Oysters with Prosecco & Preserved Lemon Mignonette 24 oysters, 8 guests (3 per guest)
You will need:
– 2 cups coarse sea salt
– oysters, 2-3 per person*
– 1 tablespoon preserved lemon, finely minced
– 1 tablespoon shallots, finely minced
– 1 tablespoon champagne wine vinegar
– pinch of sugar
– Chervil leaves for garnish, optional
*Oysters available at your best local fish market; these are from Atlanta’s Star Provisions.
To make the mignonette, remove the pulp from the preserved lemons and rinse well to remove any excess salt. Mince the lemon finely, but leave enough texture for color. Mince the shallot and add to a bowl with the lemon. Add the vinegar, prosecco, sugar, and salt. Whisk until blended and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving, so flavors can integrate.
Mound 1/4 cup of sea salt on each salad plate. Carefully open the oysters, checking for any pieces of shell fragments. Arrange the oysters with the bottom shell intact on top of the salt. Top each oyster with the mignonette. Garnish with a small leaf of chervil.
Note* You can easily make your own preserved lemons, but they take time to mature before using. Bella Cucina makes preserved lemons which are available at select southeast Whole Foods stores. You can also substitute preserved lemons with chopped lemon zest if preserved lemons are not available in your area.