MAURIZIO DI FRANCO – I was raised in Phoenix, Arizona, to Italian-born parents. I spent much of my youth working in my family’s restaurant, which first opened my eyes to the traditional foods of Italy and the wines that they pair so perfectly with. At university, I studied Italian language and culture, and it was during a semester abroad in Florence when I fell in love with the Italian way of life and one Italian in particular: my wife, Paola.
In 2009, I moved to Rome to study to become a sommelier and never left. I now hold a certificate from the Associazione Italiana Sommelier and have been offering food tours and leading wine tastings for visitors ever since. When not traveling to visit the country’s many winemaking areas, I’m most often found around the table with friends and family sharing a good meal along with a great natural wine, craft beer, or a well-made cocktail. Follow me on Instagram to follow along!
MARIA VICARI – I was born in Rome and raised in the countryside just out of the city in a very big family of mixed regional origins from all over Italy, spanning north to south. Family gatherings of any sort have always been about quality food and good wine, which my grandmothers both continue to execute masterfully at their over 90 years of age. I am a big fan of heirloom recipes, from Italy and beyond.
After living abroad for a while, mainly in the US and Spain, I moved back to Rome in 2010 and have fallen in love with it all over again many times. I finally bought a house here just a few months ago!
I have a degree in Multimedia Communication and an MA in North American Studies. I have worked as a freelance translator for over 10 years and in the field of tourism during the last five, managing land operations and travel design for group travel in Italy, the Balkans and Southern France, with specific assignments in Rome and Italy’s main cultural centers.
I am an enthusiastic traveller and very passionate about history, travel writing, and documentary photography. When not around exploring, I absolutely adore to focus on the heritage nearby and work on the never-ending process of deeper knowing Rome, this crazy city I am lucky enough to call home.
FRANK VILLANI – I was born and raised in Calgary, Canada to Italian parents. At the age of 13, my family and I moved back to their hometown of Pontecagnano, near Salerno, in southern Italy. During my university education, I met the person who would become my mentor in the world of wine, Alberto Giannatasio. He encouraged me to follow my passion for wine and enroll in his sommelier course at the Federazione Italiana Sommelier Albergatori e Ristoratori (“FISAR”).
During my studies with Alberto, I worked at a local wine shop, where I enjoyed matching people with the perfect wine. Once I completed my sommelier education in 2009, I moved to Rome, where I connected with the Cotarella family of winemakers and got the opportunity to work for them as a wine educator at their Intrecci School of Hospitality near Orvieto, passing on the same knowledge that my former mentor had originally taught me.
In recent times, my focus has been on “natural wines,” which have opened up an entirely new world and continually remind me of why I fell in love with wines in the first place. Check out my Instagram feed to learn more!