Vincenzo Sannino, born in Naples, had unlikely beginnings for a great luthier. Violin making played no role in his family background, nor was he officially apprenticed to any Neapolitan workshop. Rather, he entered the violin world early as a student of violin at the Naples Conservatory. In the later 1890s he may have benefited from the advice of the local makers of the previous generation, in particular Giuseppe Desiato and Francesco Verzella (see p. 251). But his early work more closely resembles that of Giovanni Tedesco (1861-1947), a more obscure Neapolitan maker about 18 years his senior.
At some point Sannino made the acquaintance of Fridolin Hamma (father of the better-known Walter Hamma), one of the well-funded foreign dealers who sought out fine old instruments across Italy. Apparently conversant in German, he helped Hamma on his hunts in Italy early in the 20th century. Although Hamma may not have been the first to spark Sannino's interest in violin making (Hamma was about two years younger than Sannino), this connection may well have been pivotal in furthering his education, by offering introductions to great instruments, violin shops and clients in northern Europe.