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Pool Furniture in Italy

FINALLY!!! The pool was ready for furniture.

While the workers constructed the pool deck and the pergola, I shopped for outdoor furniture.

The first thing I wanted to establish was the vibe. Since I have a rather bohemian approach to design, I wanted the pool design to reflect the rest of our space. We love Mykonos, so I thought drawing inspiration from the hotel pools there would be a good jumping-off point. Plus it would look great with the gorgeous view surrounding the pool area. I wanted something serene and cool but nothing fussy or colorful. Although I do love a little quirkiness in my designs, I found that all white was the way to go, and I could add a little whimsy as well.

photo: David Loftus

Most of the furniture is very natural and organic. I found the most amazing pink Bulgarian fish stand at one of my favorite props houses outside Bologna. My friend and partner in crime and producer, prop mistress Barbara took me to this place over the winter. When I entered this warehouse, I nearly fainted from overload…yes beauty overload. I saw this amazing ‘bar.” Actually, they had some extraordinary bars, but this pink one had my name on it, and it was the perfect addition to my pool vibe. We love to make cocktails and serve them, so why not have a really cool pink bar to serve them from?! The bar really made the look of the pool perfection in my eyes.

We bought it, and set a delivery date. Of course the delivery date was on a day we were shooting my new cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook, and let me tell you, thank God it was because the company sent 1 driver to deliver 1 heavy heavy bar, and we needed all the crew to help unload it. Barbara was a super hero as she not only made a plan of how to unload this 500 pound bar, but she jumped up on the truck and single handedly unloaded it with help from our chef Leo and our stylist’s husband Charlie. It was quite the group effort. Along with the driver, a very nice woman, they managed to unload and place the pink bar without injury to them or the bar.

The pergola serves as a respite from the sunshine, and a breezy place to read or take a nap. I have also been working at the table. In fact I am writing from here right now. I found this really cool table at one of my favorite little stores. It’s actually a chain store much like World Market in the US. I saw the table, but unlike my usual shopping decisions, I did not buy it right away. When I went back the next day, it was gone. They had sold the last one. I asked if possibly there was another at another store location? They looked at me like I had said something so odd they could not wrap their brains around it. In the states that would be the natural question, but in Italy not so much. So I googled the store locations while the girls just looked at each other and scratched their heads. “Here,” I said. “Livorno, could you call and ask if they have the table?” “Livorno?” one of the girls replied, “I guess we could, Si.”

They called the store, and they had 2 tables. “Please have them hold one, and I will come get it,” I said. Now in the US, they would have taken my credit card, and then had it shipped to the house. But not in Italy, no such thing. I waved goodbye, and I jumped in the car and headed to a strip mall in Livorno, about 30 minutes away. When I arrived at the store, I made my purchase and met the salesgirl at the back door to load my table. It would not fit. She said you could strap it to the top of the car. Um, no that sounds dangerous and illegal I thought. I asked for the manager. She walked to the car and looked at the table and the Land Rover, and said this will not fit. “So can I have it delivered?” “No”, she said. Pretty blunt, I thought, but there was no way that this table could not be delivered. She worked at a furniture store how could that be?

Then I looked at my phone and realized it was lunch time, and everything stops in Italy at lunchtime. I surmised she just did not want to deal with me. “We can give you a refund,” she said, mildly annoyed. I was going to have it delivered I thought; nothing would stop me. I asked her to call a delivery company and find out how much to deliver. About 15 minutes later she walked towards me phone in hand and said, “It is very expensive”, …”How much?” I said. “100 euros”, she replied. “Sounds good, I said let’s have it delivered.” She continued to talk on the phone for another 10 minutes and then turned to me and said, they can’t deliver it.” Then she hung up.

Mildly pissed off, I called Barbara the solver of all things. It took her about 5 minutes to call a delivery company and arrange to have the table delivered, the same day. I handed to phone to the store manager, and she and Barbara got it all worked out. I profusely thanked Barbara. Jumped into the car an drove off. In Italy this entire scenario is what we all to refer to as “Normale”(normal). Everything is more complicated, but in the end I got my table, and I LOVE it.

The pool is really great. We love the entire set up, and although it was a project and a half, it was worth all the effort, all the pain, and the endless work involved to make it happen. Remember I am a pit bull when it comes to projects, and NO is not an option. When in Italy renovating, this is the best way to be. Ciao all and hope to see you poolside, here at La Fortezza someday. xx

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Building our Pool in Italy.

It’s been a long haul building the pool at La Fortezza. It seemed like an easy task, but then Covid struck and everything was put on a BIG hold. I arrived here in February, greeted by the pool covered and surrounded by loads of dirt and debris.

One thing about projects in Italy is they can be on hold endlessly. The idea of starting, let alone totally completing a project is in normal times pretty daunting, so with this monkey wrench thrown into the works, it is truly a miracle that it is finished.

Well almost. The truth is that building projects in Italy are a never-ending story. The idea of everything being perfect and completed is not a concept here. Nothing is perfect, and for my ever-present OCD, this fact is the medicine that I need in order to chill out. When I say chill out, I mean I can sleep at night knowing that there are 10 tiny steps to completing the project, and those may never come to fruition, and I can live with it.

The nighttime lighting has just been completed at the pool. The stairs leading to the pool deck have been a challenge as I bought lighting and the electrician kept dragging his feet to place the final 3 spots light on the bottom step. HE thought I did not need it, but I thought that I or our guests might break an ankle if we missed the last step because of the darkness. We literally fought about these lights for 2 months and FINALLY, he gave in. Now we won’t miss that last step. The last 3 spots on the final step will save lives. He was semi unhappy that I did not take his suggestion of a big stadium light mounted on the house to flood the entire pool area. He actually thought it was a great solution. See what I am dealing with here?

I compare building the pool and the pool area to being pregnant for 2 years and delivering a 400 lb baby…yes painful. The pool company was alright, but we ended up firing them because their service was subpar at best. Which means they barely came to clean the pool and complained if we called them. Yep. But finally, finally on June 12th, 2021 we had a pool. Only 1 1/2 years late. You ask why it was so daunting? Well, let’s just say micromanaging was a must, as the work schedule was all over the place. Then, of course, the weather it rains here a lot in March, April, and May.

The time came to start furnishing the pool deck which was the fun part. I looked online and then discovered a local outdoor furniture and accessories place that was fantastic. It literally is 3 football fields chocked full of the most amazing outdoor furnishings. I will post about my choices in the next blog post so stay tuned!

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Happy Birthday to my baby Italy is My Boyfriend!

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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.

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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.

See you on the gram x

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My Seasonal Vegetable Grain Bowl

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Ciao everyone! As you know, I am in Italy. Every Tuesday, we have a lovely little outdoor market in our village. I try to go every week and load up on what’s seasonal in the veggie department. I try to eat at least one veggie grain bowl per week, sometimes two.

One thing I always have in the fridge are my pickled red onions from my book Picture Perfect Parties *(recipe included below). They add a nice tangy flavor to any salad or grain bowl. The grain I used here is Farro. It’s grown locally, and I use it in soups and all sorts of dishes. It will also be featured in my upcoming cookbook La Fortezza Cookbook, Rizzoli NY, releases Spring 2022. The cookbook is about the Lunigiana, the region we live in. It’s a really delicious grain.

These grain bowls, like the one pictured above, are a great way to incorporate seasonal vegetables into your diet. Try this bowl and let me know how you like it in the comments below. No need to stick to the vegetables I used in my bowl. Be creative and try your own versions.

Seasonal Vegetable Grain Bowl
Makes 2 bowls

You will need:

– 1/2 avocado sliced
– 1/4 cup Pickled Onions
– 2 cups Kale, I use Cavalo Nero *I bake this and it adds a lovely crunch to the bowl.
– 2 cups sweet potato peeled
– 2 cups Cauliflower
– 1 cup Arugula
-1 teaspoon Maldon Salt
– 2 tablespoons Balsamico
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 hard boiled eggs
– 1 cup Farro
– 1 1/2 cups Water

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Cut the cauliflower and the peeled sweet potato into bite size pieces, sprinkle with oil and salt, place into the oven for 45 minutes, until fork tender. Cut the Kale into bite size pieces and add to the baking sheet of sweet potatoes and cauliflower 30 minutes into baking time. The Kale will become crisp. Remove and cool. While the vegetables are baking. In a small sauce pan place water and Farro. Let simmer stirring a few times to prevent sticking, cook until all the water is absorbed about 30 minutes, set aside to cool.

To Assemble:

In a large bowl, add Farro, then Arugula, kale, sweet potatoes, then cauliflower into quadrants of the bowl. Add avacado slices, then pickled onion, and 1 egg sliced in half, then drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with Maldon salt. To eat toss everything together in the bowl and enjoy!

Pickled Red Onions

You will need:

– 1 large red onion sliced thin
– 1 cup red wine vinegar
– 2 tablespoons salt
– 1 teaspoon celery seed or peppercorns
– 3 tablespoons sugar
– ½ cup water

To prepare:

In a sauce pan put all the ingredients, and bring to a boil allow about 1 minute to cook. Turn off heat and let steep until cool. Put into a mason jar and place in the refrigerator for 2 days before using. Can be stored for up to 2 weeks.

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The Ultimate Italian Shopping Experience: What to expect

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We held our first shopping retreat in 2019, and it was such a smashing success, I couldn’t wait to do it again. I announced the retreat last week, but I thought you might want a glimpse into what we do every day. Here’s a recap of my post from 2019, a few days after our first retreat. Give it a read and then head over to the workshop site to sign-up. Trust me, you’re going to want to be there!

You can register here! Take a look at a behind-the-scenes peek at what to expect:

 

From our 2019 trip…

Every day there were new destinations and some surprises. We could not have asked for a more fun group of ladies. Even though they did not know each other before, I think some solid bonds were formed. We danced, drank, made pasta, and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather on the terrace.

Of course, there was a pizza party where a few of our attendees tried their hand at making pizza in the pizza oven. We loved sharing information about how and why we choose certain props, discussed searching for antiques and loved shopping at my super-secret locations.

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We only have 8 spots available for this trip, so this shopping experience is very limited. I have so much to show you, and I cannot express how wonderful it is to meet like-minded shoppers, who share the love of beautiful things.

Let’s shop ’til we drop in 2022! 

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN!

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