It has been said that we are a motley crew of various nationalities that have come together to form a big family... Nothing could be more true! Our team is a wonderful mix of Italians, Americans, and a dash of English... all with an incredible passion for what we do. As you read through our bios, you will quickly see how we all came together first through family and friendship, and then began to work together. Switch between the tabs below to learn about our team in our various locations

Traveling Hosts

Rocky
Rocky
Rocky
Spartaco
Spartaco
Spartaco
Sophie
Sophie
Sophie
Alyssa and Sam
Alyssa and Sam
Alyssa and Sam
Luigi (left)
Luigi (left)
Luigi (left)

Traveling Hosts

Some of our team travel between our locations throughout the season, so you will be with some of them when you are with us. These are our hosts, the people that run the show for your vacation.

Rocky

You will quickly pick up on the fact that we are all connected outside of "business". Rocky is a great person to start with to convey this! Like Michael, Rocky grew up in Los Angeles... in fact, just a few blocks from Michael. They never knew one another, but they had a very close mutual friend most of their lives. That friend visited Michael and Paola in Soriano in early 2011, and brought Rocky with. He joined in on one of our week-long cooking vacations in Soriano, and felt an instant connection.

Three months later, tragedy struck when their mutual friend passed away. Michael and Paola flew out to California for the funeral, and saw Rocky again. The following day, Rocky and Michael had lunch and talked about the fact that he just couldn't shake the connection he felt with Italy. He was looking for a change in life, and Michael offered for him to come help out during the autumn season. He did, and nobody has looked back since.

Rocky instantly fit in. He began to study Italian with a passion, fully integrate into this new lifestyle, and immediately became a key member of our family. If we had an "official" structure of company titles, Rocky would be the CEO, but he also host trips from time to time, and often shows up at locations just to get to know our guests.

Spartaco

Yes, Spartaco really is his name, so when you meet him, remember to utter these words: MY NAME IS SPARTACUS! A Soriano native and long time family friend, Spartaco has been our primary guide for our excursions since 2007, and now he hosts many of our vacations outside of Soriano. Ladies, be prepared. You will be charmed and fall in love. His accent will grab you, those little mistakes in English will make you smile... and whatever you do, make sure he does his Tony Soprano impersonation!

He has a difficult time remembering all of those foreign names, so when he meets you, be prepared to be given a new Italian name. We have to admit that it drives us a little crazy, because the rest of us get to know you by your given names, and suddenly we find ourselves having to learn your new names every week.

Sophie

Sophie is one of those rare Italians that you meet and simply cannot believe speaks English as a second language. Her perfect British accent, however, is a dead giveaway for the fact that she was raised by an English father, albeit in Italy.

She lives just over the hill from Soriano in Viterbo, and travels regularly with our groups to all of our locations... and our guests invariably LOVE her!!!

Alyssa & Sam

Alyssa is Michael and Paola's daughter, and Sam is her other half. Like Michael, they are both from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angels (Like, Totally!), but they now split their time between Orlando, Florida and Italy. Alyssa grew up actually speaking Italian before English, but was mostly raised in the States, spending her summers in Italy. Sam, on the other hand, came to Italy for the first time in 2013, but picked up the language in a heartbeat and is sometimes even mistaken for an Italian.

Full of energy, and two of the nicest people in the world (OK, Michael is writing this, so there is a little bias), we proimise you will absolutely fall in love with them.. Really!

Besides hosting weeks, Sam runs the company accounting, and Alyssa is in charge of our marketing and social media.

Finally, if you meet them, be absolutely sure to ask Sam to sing whatever he is thinking at any given moment. You won't regret it.

Luigi

During our Norcia weeks, we always have a pizza class at a pizzeria near Assisi, and Luigi has always been our instructor. Guests invariably fell in love with him, and a friendship developed over time.

As it turned out, Luigi had been a tour guide for years in the past, and really missed that part of his life. So one day, in a pinch, Luigi hosted one of our vacations, and it was phenominal!!! Next thing we knew, we got to talking and here we were. Luigi has become so much more than the Pizza Chef! He is now a host on many of our trips!

 

 

 

 

 

Soriano Team

Katia with Carla
Katia with Carla
Katia with Carla
Sergio
Sergio
Sergio
Linda
Linda
Linda

The Soriano Team

Carla

Carla is Paola's sister. Like Paola, she grew up tugging at Mamma Eddarerlla's sleeves in the kitchen while soaking up all the family knowledge. Carla is in charge of teaching our Soriano cooking classes, and handles all of the food-related logistics. She is a fantastic cook. In fact, she rivals Paola in the kitchen. If she is teaching one of your classes, you will never stop laughing as you fall in love with her charm. More importantly, she has a way of teaching that you will adore... even if it includes her chasing you around the kitchen with a rolling pin!

Katia

Katia is perhaps the sweetest person you will ever meet. She assists in our kitchen with such grace. Everyone falls madly in love with her, despite her limited English. One day she told us she loved being with our guests so much, that she wanted a chance to cook for them. So we brought a group to her private family cellar (converted into a kitchen) and she made a wonderful dinner for us. We have been having dinner with her there with our guests ever week since!

Sergio

Sergio is Paola's brother, and has lived all his life in Soriano. Before we were doing what we do, he was driving large tour buses all over Europe for a major tour company. He loved what we were doing, so when we had need for a full-time driver, Sergio stepped up and filled the role. He is our primary driver for our Soriano weeks, as well as our location manager throughout Italy who deals with the logistics that assure all our excursions go flawlessly.

Linda

Or should we say "Leeeeeeenda"? A local "Viterbese" from just over the hill, guides many of our Soriano excursions. It all started when Spartaco introduced us to her to fill an opening we had. She showed up prepared for a traditional interview and handed a resume to Michael. Without a glance at it, Michael set it aside and told her there could be nothing on the resume that could apply to who we are and what we do. As she learned what we are about, the relaxed expression spoke volumes, and what started as a stiff interview ended in hugs. She was instantly a member of the family.

From the moment Linda began working with us, it was clear that she was indispensable. He charm is addictive to the point that within minutes of meeting her, absolutely everyone falls in love with her.

Linda's English is much better than she believes it to be, and as such she is always a bit self-conscious about it. So she carries a book with her everywhere she goes, jotting down new words and colloquialisms that she learns along the way. As many of our guests pick up on this, she often learns some more "interesting" phrases. Considering that we have guests from The USA, Canada, The UK, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, etc., don't be surprised by some of the more unique phrases Linda knows!

Norcia Team

Luigi and Daniele
Luigi and Daniele
Luigi and Daniele
Emanuele
Emanuele
Chef Emanuele
Paolo, Paola and Luigi
Paolo, Paola and Luigi
Paolo, Paola and Luigi
Mauro
Mauro
Mauro

The Norcia Team

Daniele

It all started in 2010 when Michael was in Norcia for a day excursion from Soriano with one of our Alumni groups. He wasn't pleased with the restaurant they had chosen for lunch that day, and was looking for a new one. He walked into the Granaro del Monte restaurant, met the owners, and ended up checking out Palazzo Seneca. Soon after, he met Daniele,who invited him to come spend a few days in Norcia.

A friendship quickly developed, and they started planning our Norcia weeks, which were inaugurated in the summer of 2011. Since then, Daniele and Michael have remained friends outside of business, and have even gone on scouting trips together in other parts of the country. He has been to Soriano as Michael and Paola's guest, and has even been on some of our tours on our Soriano weeks.

In Norcia, Daniele is the guy that makes it all happen. Every little detail that is so perfectly executed during our Norcia weeks has Daniele orchestrating it behind all the scenes.

Emanuele

When most people think of a chefs that work in the world of Michelin stars, a cockiness usually comes to mind. Not with Emanuele. He is one of the nicest and most congenial people you will ever meet, and learning with him is an absolute pleasure! Still, his resume' looks like an Iron Chef introduction, having FIVE Michelin starred restaurants uder his wing, three of which boasting two stars!

  • ** Ristorante Sant Hubertus
  • ** Ristorante Arnolfo
  • ** Ristorante il Mosaico
  • * Ristorante Hotel Alpen Royal
  • * Ristorante La Siriola

Emanuele teaches three of our cooking classes in Norcia, plus he is the executive chef at the Vespasia restaurant, where we will have two of our dinners.

The elegance of his cooking (and that which he teaches) never disappoints!

Luigi

Daniele's best friend from university, Luigi and his father Paolo own the Boccione pizzeria in the outskirts of Assisi. But he doesn't just make pizza. He is a master pizzaiolo that teaches the art of pizza mastery to students all over Italy looking to open up their own pizzerias... and to us.

All of our guests initially come to Luigi's for the pizza, but many [women] want to stay for the Luigi. Suffice it to say that we always need to allow for enough time at the end of the day for people (women) to pose for photos with him. Enough said?

A friendship has also developed with Luigi to the extent that he has become a part of the family. In fact many of our guests on our Soriano weeks have met him at our villa as well.

Massimiliano

Perugina is a large multi-national chocolate conglomerate, and they have a teaching classroom in their factory for professional chocolatiers from all over the world. Massimiliano is their master chocolatier that teaches "the pros" there on a regular basis, but when he sees that CDV is coming, there is an extra little spring in the step. In other words, things simply are not as they normally are when we are there, ans Massimiliano knows that if we are on our way, we'll all be wearing as much chocolate as we make.

The Palazzo Seneca, Vespasia, & Granaro del Monte Staff

It has been said more than once that when a string of our Norcia weeks ends, the staff at the Palazzo Seneca, Vespasia and Granaro del Monte fall into a sort of collective depression. That is, when we are there, we bring a level of energy with us that is far beyond the norm. They are more accustomed to the traditional client-vendor relationship with their guests, and we bring a "we are here to learn about you" attitude with us. They open their hearts in a completely different way that everyone feels. From Mauro in the Vespasia restaurant, to Michela at the front desk, to Alberto in the kitchen, the smiles and hospitality are something absolutely genuine.

Sicily Team

Ivan and Scippio
Ivan and Scippio
Ivan and Scippio
Betta
Betta
Betta
Pina
Pina
Pina
Gibarossa & Spartaco
Gibarossa & Spartaco
Gibarossa & Spartaco
Rosario
Rosario
Rosario
Francesco
Francesco
Francesco

The Sicily Team

Ivan & Betta

If you have read the bios for our other locations, it should be clear by now that while the locations are distant from one another, all of the people are connected in some way... Friends and Family.

Betta is originally from Soriano, and grew up with Paola. In fact, her father owned a store downstairs from the house Paola grew up in. Though she and her family later moved to Milan, the Soriano connection was always there, and they never lost contact.

Betta married Ivan (his name is actually Ivano, but he likes to be called Ivan) who has spent his life in the travel sector. Through the years he has traveled the world with various Italian tour operators, and even ran the first scuba diving operation in The Maldives!

The tiny little island of Favignana was always their home away from home, and they finally made the decision to buy some old barracks that were on one of the island's peninsulas, and restore it into a beautiful collection of vacation apartments. The Nido del Pellegrino was born.

In 2011, Michael and Paola were visiting them in Sicily and the idea of creating a new cooking vacation itinerary there was born. They traveled back and forth over the following year as they developed "the Sicilian version of what they do in Soriano", and it was a huge hit when they launched it with an Alumni group in 2012.

Scippio

Pronounced "Sheep-ee-oh", he is Ivan's uncle who introduced him to the travel sector ages ago. It is hard to think of a place Scippio has not been, and he will leave you riveted to every word as he tells his story.

Scippio will remind you of a salty old warm-hearted pirate when you meet him!

Pina

Pina teaches two of our classes on Favignana. She is an old friend of Ivan and Scippio, and runs the Antichi Mulini restaurant in town (where we will have the two classes).

This delightful Sicilian lady is wonderful, sweet and gracious... but she'll chase you with a rolling pin if need be! Pina is an AMAZING cook that will share some of the recipes she is most famous for.

Pinuccio Gibarossa

When Michael first went to Sicily scouting out our vacation itinerary, he told Ivan that he was most interested in getting to know people that were absolutely the salt of the earth. Ivan responded, telling Michael about his friend, Gibarossa, a man that has spent his entire life up in the hills of the island as a shepherd.

One day they went up to his place, a tiny little house up the hill, surrounded by a modest little farm. Gibarossa had just milked his sheep, and was starting to make fresh "Salt Water Ricotta" cheese in a little hut next to his house. They spent hours talking, eating cheese and drinking wine.

When they left, Michael looked at Ivan and said "THAT is what I am talking about!"

Each week we are there, we spend a few hours with Gibarossa, making cheese. But while you will initially go for the cheese, this experience is all about the man. It cannot quite be descried in words, but suffice it to say, he will be one of the fondest memories you will ever have.

Rosario

Our favorite fisherman. After all, he lets us go out on his boat with him, no matter how much we slow down his night of fishing. Like Gibarossa, when we met him, we knew he was the guy! He is another close friend of Ivan's, and initially wondered why on earth we would want to go out fishing with him when he could simply fish for us and bring it to us. Nonetheless, we do, and it is always an amazing experience.

Francesco

Another good friend of Ivan's is Francesco, a much celebrated butcher just outside of Trapani. Francesco is the guy behind our Sausage class. He will close down his shop for the afternoon when we come by, and teach us all about sausage making.

The Nido Crew

While we are on Favignana, you will come to love the staff at the Nido del Pellegrino. They are there for every need, but always become family. As you get to know Salvatore (everyone calls him Salvo) and Rita, you will quickly see that this is not just a job for them.

Amalfi Coast Team

Lisa
Lisa
Lisa
Claudia with Rocky
Claudia with Rocky
Claudia with Rocky
Peppe
Peppe
Peppe
filomena
Filomena
Filomena

The Amalfi Coast Team

Lisa and Claudia

Lisa and Claudia were born in England to Italian parents originally from the Amalfi Coast, but longing for home (and certainly sunshine),  they returned to their home town of Minori in 1976, bringing Claudia and Lisa with.   As such, Lisa and Claudia were raised on the Amalfi Coast, but had learned English as children in England.  Upon their return to Italy, their parents took over a hotel in Maiori, involving the entire family in catering to visitors in some form or another.   Adding to that, Lisa’s father had been the headwaiter at Wheelers restaurants, and Claudia’s father was the head chef of the Bistingo group of restaurants.   As children growing up, they lived, ate and slept with hotel kitchen staff, and helped run things in general.

Later, the family went on to open something new in the village of Minori:  A “Paninoteca” called Tony’s, which became famous throughout the Amalfi Coast, and still operates to this day.

As they grew up, Claudia and Lisa attended a tourism academy in the area, finally going on to work for various agencies and major tour operators as overseas representatives, and at local hotels in various capacities.  Both worked with absolute passion, enjoying every aspect of the business.

With decades of experience behind them, they decided to team up and open “Costa Diva Tour”, an agency with a difference in the area.

While at a conference in Milan during the winter of 2012, Lisa and Michael met, and after chatting for quite a while, they realized they had quite a bit in common.  That is, they both wanted to show the real Italy to people, rather than the worn out tourist traps.  They both understood that what makes Italy so special goes far beyond the sightseeing, but rather in the warmth of the culture, and the smiles behind the faces.

At the time, CDV had just opened a new location in Norcia, and was preparing for a launch in Sicily.  However, the demand for a location in the Amalfi Coast was significant.  Michael and Rocky ended up taking several scouting trips to the area, working with Lisa and Claudia to put together a trip to the Amalfi Coast with CDV style and flair.  As it always does with CDV, it took more than 2 years to put it all together, but we did thanks to the fantastic partnership we have built with Lisa and Claudia.

Peppe

Peppe is Claudia’s husband, and had his first work experience in the kitchen at the Tony’s Pub, were he practically become part of the family more than 20 years ago before he and Claudia actually met and wound up husband and wife!

Throughout his career as a chef, he has worked in many famous hotels along the Amalfi coast, including Hotel Santa Caterina.  Today he works at the “Alberghiero” (Hospitality) school in Nocera, and naturally teaches our cooking classes on the Amalfi Coast.

Filomena

Last but not least, we have Filomena, is Lisa’s sister and Claudia’s mother.  She lived good part of her life in London but came back to Minori together with all the family. She is the perfect host, and mostly she eats once a day: she begins her one meal in the morning and finishes just before she goes to bed!  Don’t try to keep up with her because we guarantee you will lose!