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.




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.

Letizia Pagliai


Research Fellow in History of Economic Thought at the Department of Social Sciences, Università of Pisa

She holds a PhD in History and Sociology of Modernity from the Università of Pisa, Italy. Her general research interest lies in economic and historical argumentation in European and Italian 18th and 20th century. She serves as a member of the Editorial Board of three academic journals and series. Books: Il dilemma di Vilna.

Sismondi e la cultura economica europea, Firenze: Edizioni Edifir, 2012; La Firenze di Giovanni Battista Giorgini. Artigianato e moda fra Italia e Stati Uniti. / Florence at the time of Giovanni Battista Giorgini. Arts, Crafts and Fashion in Italy and the United States, Firenze: Edifir, 2011.


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.


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.

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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.



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).