Faculty & Staff



Caterina in the dryers 2


Owner and founder

Caterina, the Baroness de Renzis Sonnino, artist, photographer, designer and cultural ambassador, the embodiment of the modern Renaissance woman, is the creator of the CSIEC (Castello Sonnino International Educational Centre). Caterina, a Florentine, studied Political Science at the University of Florence, Painting at the Rosary College of Fine Arts and Photography at The Pratt School in N.Y.C. lives in Montespertoli with her husband Alessandro and their two children, Virginia and Leone. The Castle has been the seat of the Sonnino family for over 200 hundred years.

Caterina and Alessandro through their commitment to the protection of historical and cultural heritage together with the revival of the making of quality wines and olive oil have brought the castle to be one of the most richly fascinating cultural and historical centres of the Tuscan region. Caterina founded the Castello Sonnino International Education Centre in 2012. Caterina and her family share their estate with International students and faculty.



Educational Project and Services Manager

Jessica is English by birth and has been living in Italy for thirty years. Her expertise is in business management.  She is also a qualified and practicing ICF Executive Coach.

Jessica manages and coordinates the Educational activity, liaises with International faculty and  provides student support when on Campus.  Jessica sources and coordinates course activity, field trips and Internships activity.




Manages all aspects of the administration and finance at Castello Sonnino and is a key member on our team.


Elena Monami


PhD in Linguistics and Teaching Methodology and a Masters Degree in Italian Literature

Elena Monami holds a PhD in Linguistics and Teaching Methodology and a Masters Degree in Italian Literature.
She  has more than fifteen years of experience as a teacher of Italian Language and Culture to foreigners in Italy, United States, Japan, Spain and Belgium.

Her research interests and activities cover the fields of teaching methodology for teachers of Italian as a Second and Foreign language; in particular classroom management and new technologies for language teaching purposes.
At the moment she is a research fellow at the Università per Stranieri (University for Foreigners) of Siena, at the Centro DITALS – research center specialized in Certification and Teaching Methodology of Italian to non-native speakers.
Dr Monami published various articles and a monography on Strategies of oral correction in classroom of Italian L2: Monami E., Strategie di correzione orale in classi di italiano L2, Perugia Guerra, 2013.

Filippo Randelli


PhD in Economic Geography, University of Rome,  “La Sapienza”

Filippo Randelli is PhD in Economic Geography (University of Rome (Italy) “La Sapienza”) since 2002 with the subject “Local development models in the economical and territorial plans”.

Starting from 2009 he has a tenure-track position of researcher and lecture in the Department of Economic Science of the University of Florence.

He carried out researches on sustainable tourism, geographical economy and environmental economics, giving lectures and seminars on these themes and participating to conferences and workshops.

He is in the board of the Società di Studi Geografici. He was invited scholar in Utrecht University (2010) and Cambridge University (2011).

Riccardo Simoncini


Teaches the course Economics of Sustainable Food Production in Contemporary Europe

Riccardo Simoncini teaches the course Economics of Sustainable Food Production in Contemporary Europe. He holds a Master of Science from the University of Florence and a Ph.D. from the University of Parma both in agricultural economics. He has carried out research and taught agri-environmental policy at the University of Florence, Economic Sciences Department. He is a member of the Commission on Environmental, Economics and Social Policy of IUCN-The World Conservation.

He acted as Scientific Co-ordinator of the EU project “Definition of a Common European Analytical Framework for the Development of Local Agri-environmental Programmes for Biodiversity and Landscape Conservation” (AEMBAC), EU FP5 (contract Ref: QLRT-1999-31666), and as IUCN researcher in the EU project Governance and Ecosystem management for Biodiversity Conservation (GEMCONBIO) EU FP6. He has collaborated in the EU study on “measuring the social awareness of agricultural landscape: indicator scale and issues” coordinated by the Joint Research Council of the European Commission and as expert advisor in the EU project  “Mapping of Ecosystems and their Services in the EU and its Member States” (MESEU) coordinated by the University of Alterra-Wageningen, Netherlands.

He is a Lead Author for the European and Central Asia (ECA) Regional Assessment, of the Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) promoted by UNEP in collaboration with UNESCO, FAO and UNDP.


Roberto Libralato


Teaches the gardening course and biodynamic aspect of foods production. He devoted his life to gardening and farming in his small farm and acquired experience about biodynamic method of cultivation and vital quality of foods production. He taught in many formative European Programs on biodynamic agriculture.


Supports the Italian language and culture course and leads the students’ conversations on interesting topics mainly outside the class, in significant places of Florence and other parts of Tuscany. Since 1976, he spent his life teaching Italian language and Art history to foreign students in Florence and since 1997 he teaches also a course on “Wines of Italy”.


Paolo degli Antoni


Associated correspondent of the Italian Academy of Forest Sciences

He writes scientific contributions concerning landscape ecology, biodiversity, history, art and anthropology of forest. His favourite focus of research is spontaneous renaturation of old fields in the countryside and in urban areas.
Tuscan landscapes between nature and history.
Abstract: The present aspect of the various Tuscan landscapes is the result of different natural and historical conditions.
Relics of Etruscan, Roman, barbarian, feudal and early modern agriculture still are perceivable, although most of present agriculture was conceived in the 1970s.
The central hilly area has undergone to a typical share agriculture scheme, inspired by the Roman late imperial colonia partiaria, then adapted to medieval feudalism and generalized in the XIX century, lasted until 1964, when natural biodiversity and forest surface were at their minimum.
Forest surface progressively increased in the following 50 years, biodiversity still is under its potential performance.
Landscape is a modern word, coming from visual arts, with different meanings depending on language (Germanic or Latin) and spiritual approach (creationist-anthropocentric versus animistic-biocentric).
Starting from the Romantic era, landscape became a scientific subject as well, also thanks to geographic explorations associated with colonialism.
Landscape ecology focuses habitat diversity. The European methodology Corine Land Cover allows the calculation of algebraic indicators and comparisons among different Countries and years (1990, 2000, 2006 and 2012), but it risks to be meaningless at large scale; investigation at fine scale and use of qualitative indicators (i.e. Naturalness index) allow a deeper research.
The European Convention on Landscape, signed in Florence in the year 2000, stresses the role of meaningful perception by populations.
Landscape planning is a recent acquisition in Tuscany (plan approved in 2015), and keeps its meaning only if associated with permanent observatories and laboratories.

Senza titolo-1


Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Trento

Francesca Forno is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Trento where she teaches sociology and sociology of consumption. Her interests include political consumerism and sustainable community movement organizations. A special focus in these areas is on the consequences of the spread of market-based forms of action for citizens’ participation and mobilization. She has published on civic participation and social movements, conducting research on political consumerism, collaborative consumption, grassroots initiatives on social eco-innovation and alternative food networks (AFNs). Her work has appeared in the following journals, among others: Journal of Consumer Culture, The Annals of the America Academy of Political and Social Science, Southern European Society and Politics, International Journal of Consumer Studies, European Societies.



Assistant professor in applied and environmental botany at the University of Palermo

He holds a BSc in Natural Sciences (University of Pavia – Almo Collegio Borromeo), an MSc in Environmental Management and Auditing (University of Pisa – Scuola Sant’Anna) and took his PhD in Environmental Sciences from the University of Catania.

His research interests focus on the ecology and plant geography of Mediterranean and Alpine territories, with specific focuses on dry habitats, and trans-disciplinary studies on human impact assessment, environmental restoration, with important essays and contributions on the optimal human habitat and nature conservation policies. Dr. Guarino has published several monographs, book chapters and refereed articles on academic scientific journals (complete reference list on Google Scholar and thematic list on Academia.edu).

He is a member of many academic national and international societies and a reputed communicator on vegetation ecology and sustainability.



Biomimicry, artistic research, food and curating performative research

The foundation of Anna Maria Orrù’s work is embedded in artistic research, food and in curating performative research, providing an alternate approach to the field of ecological urbanism, architecture, art and design. She behaves as a connective tissue, working in the interstitial spaces between disciplines by bringing a variety of approaches and talents to the table to creatively tackle issues around climate change. Her projects, and phd from Chalmers University in Sweden, covered the distinct topics of bodily engagement, food resource, architecture, senses and urbanism, explored through the study of organoleptic qualities in choreography of urban foodscapes. Orrù has worked as an ecological architect since 1999 working in London, Los Angeles, and Stockholm. She left practice in 2010 to start her own studio and collaborate with transdisciplinary lab FoAM. In 2012 she began her PhD into ecological artistic practices, combined with her previous experience in Biomimicry, ecological design and urban-making, and future scenario building. Currently, she teaches at a number of Swedish universities and institutes in architecture, urbanism, art, and design.


Mauro Piazzi

Senior soil scientist

Mauro Piazzi, Laureate in Agricultural and Forestry Sciences with 28 years of professional experience in soil survey, land evaluation, conservation agriculture, forestry and mountain areas development policies. Mauro’s professional roles have included 20 years in senior management of soil and environmental conservation and engineering, agriculture, forestry, biodiversity and climate change, including two years as Director General of IPLA, the Institute for Plants, Forests and Environment in Piemonte. Most recently,

Mauro has worked with regional, national and supranational agencies to address issues of environmental sustainability at various administrative levels, from local communities, districts and provinces to regional and national levels as a senior scientist with Timesis, Environmental Science. With Timesis, Mauro has directed the implementation and management of national and international projects, including:

Forest emissions levels in REDD+ projects (Burkina Faso);
Impact of climate change in wine-growing companies (Italy);
Evaluation of organic carbon sequestration in vineyard soils (Italy);
Evaluation of organic carbon sequestration in coffee cultivations (Costarica);
LIFE Helpsoil project “Improving soils quality and strengthening the adaptation to climate change through sustainable techniques of Conservation Agriculture” (Italy);
Development of local mountain communities and improvement of the wood-energy chain in the Alpine areas (Alpine Space).