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Our Mission
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Our Mission

To help you acquire a new sense of discovery and appreciation of the arts – to ignite old passions and to unveil new talents.

Insegnanti (Teachers)

Barb Petrarca Hardesty

Barbara Petrarca Hardesty, Creator of Da Vinci Capers
Barbara comes from a long line of Italian artisans – Grandfather Umberto, who came to Ellis Island from the "Old Country", was a piano restorer; Aunt Pina, now retired from the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, created costumes for Pavarotti and others; and her father, Alfredo was a successful furniture maker.

Barbara holds a B.A. in Humanities with an Italian minor from the University of Colorado. She continues the family legacy as a sculptress of Italianate architectural elements in terra cotta. With a business background, and having managed a Tuscan cooking school, Barbara has just the right ingredients for the recipe of Da Vinci Capers!

Mike Hardesty, Ph.D., Scientist

Mike Hardesty with Barb

An expert in applying optical methods to probe the atmosphere, Mike has authored more than 100 scientific articles and has lectured in Europe, Asia, and Australia. For Da Vinci Capers, he serves as the scientist en residence for exploring Leonardo’s scientific accomplishments and ideas. Mike is legendary among American travelers for having driven Barbara’s Uncle Pino’s taxicab around Rome for a full afternoon and survived. An Anglo turned Italiophile, he enthusiastically schedules time off from his research to co-host Da Vinci Capers.

Antonio Papuzza

Antonio Papuzza

Antonio Papuzza, was born in Italy in a small town between Verona and Venezia. He spent most of his childhood in Sicily. His father and mother were both Italian teachers and instilled in him a sense of deep love and knowledge of Italian culture. That is why he has always taught Italian language and culture, as a parallel career, in Italy and abroad. In particular, he has taught with International House World Organization in Europe and the French-Italian department at CU Boulder in USA. Among several names, he has consulted for Rosetta Stone and 321speak.com.

He is a business consultant in the field of international business, business anthropology, and cross cultural management. He has worked as a manager, consultant, and cultural mediator, for world organizations, political institutions, and multinational companies.

Antonio has a PhD in Anthropological Sciences from the University of Florence and a DILIT certification - to non native speakers – from International House World Organization in Rome and recognized by the Italian government. He currently lives in Boulder Colorado where, besides consulting, he teaches with the Leeds School of Business at CU.

Joan Reifsnyder, Leonardo da Vinci Aficionado

Joan Reifsnyder

An American living in Florence for the past 20 years, Joan knows how to communicate with people living on both sides of the Atlantic. She has a broad range of experiences from international banking and business, to lecturing on artists and their methods and materials. Joan has written several published articles and translated many books primarily in art history, on the Tuscan gardens, Perugino, Botticelli, culinary arts, and her love – art conservation and preservation.

A wealth of information, Joan spins Leonardo’s tale in true Italian flamboyance in a way we will never forget!

Stefania Brandinelli

Stefania Brandinelli

Stefania Brandinelli has studied art for twenty years in Italy and the United States. In Bologna she studied painting and sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts, where she also received a B.A. in Art History from the University of Bologna.

Stefania’s practical experience in both painting and sculpture includes studying with many masters including Richard Pousette-Dart for abstract, Henry Hensche for Impressionistic, Cedric and Joanette Egeli for portrait painting, and sculpture with Nathaniel Kaz.

Stefania has held over 40 exhibitions in Germany, Belgium, United States and throughout Italy, and has won several commissions from a sculpted portrait of Catherine of Braganza (Queen of England, XVII c), eight painted panels for the San Giuseppe church in Genova, to a relief and mosaic “Mariner” for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in the U.S. 

Living in Pietrasanta, Stefania is an artist and a teacher. 

I have studied Sculpture with Stefania Brandinelli over a number of years. Stefania is an inspired and inspiring teacher. She not only knows the craft of sculpture and is able to teach it but she encourages her students to be creative and instills in them a deep understanding of art. Her sensitivity to the needs of the individual student enables her to bring out the best of what that student has to offer and to then move them to the next level. Stefania is a most unique and wonderful teacher and anyone coming in contact with her is enhanced by the experience.

— Roma Kaplan, Sculptor

Julio Monteiro Martins

Julio Monteiro Martins, Creative Writer Catalyst

Julio was born in Rio de Janeiro in the mid 1950’s. A lawyer by degree and fluent in five languages, Julio is a defender of human rights and one of the co-founders of the Brazilian Green Party and the ecologist movement "Os Verdes." In 1979, Julio received an "Honorary Fellow in Writing" award from the University of Iowa. In the following two years, he taught Creative Writing and Third World Politics at Goddard College in Vermont.

Julio is a novelist, and a fiction writer who uses the sources of the unconscious and personal history and History as the material for his creations. He is the founder of the creative writing school "Scuola Sagarana" in Lucca, Italy.

Julio has written and published 16 books, numerous articles, short stories, poems, essays, and critical essays in four countries, several short plays and two films. In addition to his writing, for the last six years, he has been teaching Literary Translations, and Brazilian Literature at the University of Pisa – one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in all of Europe. He believes that writing from your personal history can change your life. And, he gives us "un gusto" – a taste – of what that means.

Chef Luca Treu

Chef Luca Treu, Professional Chef at Villa Michaela and Instructor

Chef Luca Treu was born in Italy and in 1982, studied in Florence at a school for cooking and the hospitality industry. Inspired by his passion for cooking, Chef Luca was compelled to learn and understand in more depth the nature of food – down to the elements of every ingredient, the vital energy and its curative and preventive values, and how it can profoundly change our lives.

So, to fully comprehend this and to learn other cuisines, Luca lived and studied in India for ten years. We are the fortunate ones since he knows the tastes and value of each ingredient for each dish he prepares. He passes some of this knowledge onto us during our cooking lesson, and during the "side-stirs" in his beautiful country kitchen! Bravo!

We are also fortunate to have Giuseppe Massimini to assist during our cooking lesson.


Michela Panigada

Michela Panigada,
Manageress of Villa Michaela

Michela is a native Lucchese. Everyone knows Michela! And, Michela knows everyone! For over two decades, Michela has organized a variety of cultural, fashion, and art programs (or "Spettacoli" as the Italians call them) throughout the region. Now, we are fortunate to have her managing Villa Michaela. Michela brings the true Italian spirit into our everyday life, combined with an efficiency to help make our week perfetto! Brava!!

Keara McMartin, A Founding Member of Fondazione Sem

The Foundation was established in March 2003, and derives its name and founding principles from the cultural legacy of Sem Ghelardini; who in his time founded and directed Studio SEM, one of the most renowned studios for stone sculpture in the world. The studio attained a name of great international notoriety particularly for monumental works by such celebrated artists as Henry Moore, Alicia Penalba, Juan Miro` and many others.

Keara McMartin

Keara’s passion for sculpture brought her into close association with Sem’s studio in 1983 and led her to become his right hand over the course of a decade and since 1995, Director of Studio Sem. "The establishment of the Foundation is a much needed initiative as support for both young artists and the unique artisans of Pietrasanta to insure the continuation, growth and protection of a centuries old artistic collaboration. What Sem began will now continue to grow and evolve in support of the creative mind."



Bartolo Giusto, Private Guide to Pompeii

Bartolo Giusto

After completing Nautical College and years abroad traveling and studying languages, Bartolo returned to his home in Sorrento, where he was born and raised. Naples and the Campania region is where he finds his passion in work and life. He has worked as a professional tour guide for the last 16 years, and enjoys learning more about the history of this amazing part of the world each day, and sharing his passion and knowledge with travelers.


Massimo Bassano

Massimo Basano

Milan-based Massimo Bassano has worked as a freelance photojournalist since 1990. His photographs grace the pages of many international magazines including National Geographic Traveler, Runner's World and GEO. Massimo works along side with the greats in photography – Bob Sacha, Bob Krist and Albert Allard to name just a few.

His distinctive style – a personal approach to become part of the scene rather than looking through the lens – has enabled him to capture incredible photos. In Calabria, Italy, Massimo was the first photographer to be granted permission to live for three months amongst the Chartusians monks. His immersion to document the 900 year old brotherhood resulted in the award-winning book, The Color of Silence. 

In Africa, through his social consciousness, Massimo photographed war and famine and recorded the everyday lives of the people in the Congo. These pictures were chosen by Human Rights Watch for a celebrated show in Toronto, Canada.

Massimo's curiosity, love for people and for the sea has taken him around the world. He reached Australia by sailing in the Olympics in 1988 (Corea) and winning five world championships!

For Da Vinci Capers in Ravello, we travel by boat (not quite so far or fast!) on the Amalfi coast to Positano for our photographic adventure.  We learn Leonardo da Vinci's Sapre Vedere – knowing how to see – a new way of thinking, feeling, looking and interacting to capture that exceptional photograph we all desire.


Centro Koinè

Centro Koinè instructor Daniela helps Da Vinci Capers student to purchase produce
Located in an ancient palace in the historic center of Lucca, Centro Koinè specializes in teaching adults how to speak conversational Italian. Our enthusiastic intructors, Christina and Daniela, teach a small group (in a fun and lively, yet practical manner) expressions to use for the rest of our visit in Italy. There is high energy, lots of fun and laughter!


Sorrento Lingue

Located in a 16th century palazzo in the dramatic seaside town of Sorrento, Centro Linguistico Internazionale Lingue (known as Sorrento Lingue) aims to be the premier center for excellence in international education and language studies.



Dream of Italy

Study photography on the Amalfi Coast at the Scuola di Fotografia

DaVinci Institute

Michael W. Domoretsky, founder of The Da Vinci Project

Michael J. Gelb, Creator of "Creativity and Innovation Certification Program." In Beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico on April 24-28, 2008

Villa Boccella was built in 1729 as a beautiful country home for rest and repose. Fully renovated, it is surrounded by its own olives groves and vineyards. Located near Lucca in Tuscany. For more information: www.villaboccella.com

Valter Roman, The Tuscan Chef: www.thetuscanchef.com


Many thanks to our wonderful photographers, who so generously contributed their images to this website: Tina Bukala, Sam Burton, Carolyn Keyes Carstens, Maura Dowling, Laurie Fisher, Debra McClenahan, Brooke McCrory, Charron McFadden, Debs Szymkowiak, Jody Talbot, and Pam Ward.

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