Vanessa Held

Vanessa is an American "made in Tuscany", born to an american family, raised in the Chianti hills. Entrepreneur, writer, hiker. She holds an honours M.Sc. in Agronomy from the University of Florence and Master in extra-virgin olive oil from the University of Pisa. In 2001 she qualified as a taster for Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Selection for the Florence Chamber of Commerce. She has worked for years as a agronomy consultant in Tuscany, Lombardy and Piedmont and as a dendrocronologyst in Giordan and Italy. After having lived and worked in the USA and abroad, in 2004 she founds Le Baccanti Tours with Filippo Bartolotta and becomes a dedicated entrepreneur in the wine and food travel business. Vanessa combines her career, her international minded approach and her passion about good, healthy food, Italian cuisine and fine wines.
In 2014 Vanessa and Filippo Bartolotta open MaMa Florence, their new cooking school in Florence. Vanessa works hard to create a strong loving and cooperative team of people that work with dedication and passion.

Filippo Bartolotta

Wine journalist, holds an M.A. in Economics from the University of Florence and a Diploma from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust of London. His career in the wine world started at London's Vinopolis. From there he became one of Decanter Magazine tasting judges. Since 1999 he is one of the founders of Le Baccanti, Italy's premier gourmet event and travel agency. As a docent he has worked with the University of Siena, NYU, the Politecnico di Milano, the Università Bocconi of Milano, the Accademia of Palazzo al Piano, the Associazione Partners and Alma Graduate School University of Bologna. He writes for major European and American wine publications including Decanter Magazine. He tastes a few thousand wines per year and he can still walk straight! He is one of the ten members of the L'Espresso Italian Wine Guide, among the Guides, Italy's best seller and for Gazzetta Gastronomica.
As a true grape trotter Filippo has led events at the National Gallery-London, the Assemblée National in Paris, the Tate Modern, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, Alice Waters's Chez Panisse; in great U.S. Country Clubs and some of the most important Restaurants.

Benedetta Marinelli

Benedetta is the enthusiastic, energetic and determined Event Manager at Le Baccanti Tours. She graduated from the Univeristy of Florence with a degree in Economy in 2005 and has spent the last decade working with fine Italian wines and gourmet foods. She has traveled the world, representing Italy's finest from Tokyo to Shanghai to Washington D.C. to California. Benedetta is looking forward to using her new base of MaMa Florence to create fantastic team building and other corporate and private events.

Carrie Curtis

Carrie was born and raised in Southern California, but has been living in Tuscany for over a decade. She graduated in 1998 from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in Literature and a minor in Politics. After working in magazine publishing in Los Angeles she moved to Tuscany where she worked for five years as the Education Director on an organic farm outside of Siena giving her an insiders view to true Tuscan rural living. She loves Italian food and wine and authentic travel experiences and so transitioned easily to working as a Travel Consultant for Le Baccanti Tours, which she has been doing for the last five years.



Philosophy and Mission


From their years of professional and personal experience, Filippo and Vanessa have learned that nutrition and education are the cornerstone of any food culture (and culture's food) and that one of the best ways to spread knowledge and share our food cultures is through eductation: specifically cooking and wine classes. They wanted to create a cooking and wine school that brought together learning, fun and convivality in a meaningful and relaxed environment.

MaMa is a mother, the central figure that from the dawn of time has passed down generation to generation the culinary culture of her country or region. A mother feeds and nourishes her children, teaching them the intrinsic value in the act of nourishment. MaMa is an enogastronomic center in which one can cook, taste and socialize. The meaning of nourishment goes beyond simply food as fuel for our bodies, and becomes a nourishment of relationships, affections, culture and the physical body. This nourishment is grounded in the feminine, simple but full of significance, turning toward the future and what is important not only in the kitchen but in life. A nourishment that stays with us. We eat to live, to grow, to enjoy, to soclialize and to share emotions. MaMa is a school where the idea of the star chef and media exposure give way to the fundamentals of passing down culture and teaching and above all of nuturing the emotional connections we create through food.

MaMa's cooking classes and guided wine tastings are an occasion of convivality, a time and place dedicated to a reflection upon respecting the environment and better ways of creating and consuming, and to a more sustainable future. Food plays the central role in our existence, not only for its important nutrients but also for its symbolic and emotional value. After years of impersonal and detached eating, treating the act of eating as a fuel supply and nothing more and paying little attention to the way our food was grown and raised, the true values of nutrition are resurfacing. Changes in the food and agricultural business are slowly beginning to take shape and MaMa wants to be an important voice and venue in pushing for and advocating for that essential change.

At MaMa one can learn during a class with home cooks and chefs of incredible skill and even international acclaim, but who all have one thing in common: they interweave their professional skill, knowledge and culture with the art of daily practice and desire to nourish with love. The warm, welcoming atmosphere of the school recreates the feeling of an informal and inviting home and hearth. It is a place to discover (or rediscover) the meaning and pleasure of two of the most simple yet important daily activities: cooking and eating. And, just like a private home, MaMa welcomes friends into a living room where it is possible to read a book from the library, navigate the internet, draw, play, sip some tea, watch a film or make a new friend. Uniting people in this communal environment, MaMa is like the home of a large extended family that is open to anyone who loves food and its infinite shades and meanings.


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