Nicknamed a “Modern-Day Michelangelo” by his devoted clientele, Luca Mancini an artist from Italy—came to Lakewood Ranch in the winter for a stunning commission. Throughout early January, Mancini painted a mural of The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci on the ceiling of Mary Ann Cricchio’s Lake Club home. Cricchio—who guides small groups through the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany, Sicily and Venice with her agency, Da Mimmo Tours of Italy—discovered Mancini while living abroad. “I brought him here from Italy to my newly-constructed home to reproduce a mural of The Annunciation on the ceiling of my great room,” Cricchio says. “I have come to realize that this is a phenomenon for my friends and neighbors. I believe it is because they are just not used to seeing something like this in the United States of America, especially in Lakewood Ranch.” Mancini was the ideal artist to make this happen, Cricchio says. He was born in the province of Asti, Italy, and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Turin. He has worked as a figurative painter and interior designer and, throughout the past two decades, worked on projects throughout Turin, Milan, Liguria, the French Riviera and the Amalfi Coast. 

Cricchio’s neighbors have absolutely marveled at Mancini’s rendering, she says. The Lake Club is one of Lakewood Ranch’s most exclusive villages—with custom estate residences inside the gated community—and Mancini’s art adds another level of luxury to Cricchio’s home. “My neighbors have stopped in to see him. I just think it’s such a rarity for Americans to see this,” Cricchio says. “I know Europeans see a lot of churches and palaces but this is really, really interesting to Americans here.” Cricchio has lived in Lakewood Ranch for less than two years, having relocated from Baltimore, Maryland. She moved to the area with her son, Mimmo, after selling the family’s Italian restaurant, Da Mimmo, in the Little Italy section of Baltimore. Mary Ann Cricchio settled into her new Lake Club home at the end of December 2021. Cricchio and her late husband, Domenico “Mimmo” Cricchio, were well-known in the Little Italy community of Baltimore for decades. Their restaurant featured signature veal chops, and the locale was famed for sending limos to bring diners to their tables. Da Mimmo hosted numerous famous entertainers and sports legends, whose photographs lined the restaurant’s Roman Cocktail Lounge. Mary Ann Cricchio worked in the hospitality industry for 42 years and ran her restaurant for 36 years. She served as the chair of both the Restaurant Association of Maryland and of Hospitality and Tourism for the State of Maryland. She sat on the board of the National Restaurant Association, and even represented the United States in an advisory capacity during the Beijing Olympics Committee prior to the 2008 Olympic Games. Her religion has also been a massive part of her life. “I am a devout Roman Catholic, and I believe that my faith has been the base of our strong family foundation for so many years, even after losing my husband (and Mimmo’s father) in 2003,” Cricchio says. “As such, the project of painting Leonardo da Vinci’s The Annunciation in my home is a way I feel I am honoring God for all the blessings he has bestowed upon us.”

Mancini first painted for Cricchio in her summer home on Italy’s Amalfi Coast; the commission was a depiction of Italian artist Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. The original fresco painting by Michelangelo, which forms some of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, was created between 1508 and 1512. It illustrates the Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis, in which God gives life to the first man, Adam. “I was thoroughly impressed with Luca’s work and dedication to the job at hand,” Cricchio says of the painting. “It was a no brainer to bring him to Lakewood Ranch so he could replicate another famous work for my home here.” The Annunciation project was finished in mid-February, before Mancini returned to Italy to complete a “14 stations of the cross” commission, Cricchio says. “It has been very exciting to experience the development of this mural on a daily basis with an artist of Luca Mancini’s caliber,” Cricchio says. “He has created for me a memory of its development and a work of art in my home that will last for the rest of my life.” 

But the significance of the piece goes even deeper than that for Cricchio, she says. The Annunciation was created by Italian Renaissance artist da Vinci between 1472 and 1476. It depicts what was a popular biblical subject in 15th-century Florence: the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she would conceive miraculously and give birth to a son (to be named Jesus and called “the Son of God”). On his website, Mancini states that he has investigated “intimate painting connected to the human soul,” and that his paintings are characterized “by a rare realistic and poetic intensity.” That poetic intensity is evident in Mancini’s work at Cricchio’s Lakewood Ranch home—in an awe-inspiring piece that she and her family treasure.