Elaine Bertolotti is an Italian-American author and artist. She grew up in Brooklyn, lives in Italy and writes about her travel and relocation experiences with humor and passion.
In her book “Florence and Me”, she weaves together personal stories with history, traditions and observations. She shares her stumbling blocks to learning a new language and the different phases you go through once you can actually get yourself to speak it. She tells of the kindness of strangers, the blackout and how to mail letters when there’s a postal strike. This is a moment in time when things do not require an immediate solution, the internet doesn’t exist and everyday life is an adventure!
I could strongly relate to her appreciation of the hiccups inherent to cultural transitions, her enthusiasm for the chaos of everyday life and her curiosity about life in another culture.
During her five years in Florence, Elaine opened an art studio – amongst her many endeavors. She worked mostly with oil colors and now focuses on water colors. View some of her painted greeting cards here.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Elaine recently to talk about her writing, inspiration, comfort reads, pet peeves and more. Read our interview and view some of her artwork below:
Where did you grow up? What countries have you lived in?
I was born in Brooklyn, New York of Italian-American descent. My grandparents were born in Italy while my parents were born in NY. After I graduated from St. John’s University and began my teaching career, I went on my first trip to Italy. I fell in love with the city of Florence and all things Italian. I ended up spending five years in Florence where I taught English and opened my own little art studio. Fate had it that I was to get married to an Italian, have two wonderful children and live in the province of Turin.
When did you start writing?
I started writing at around 1o years old, when I became an ardent fan of the Polly Pigtails magazine. I read all the stories and began writing little stories myself. In high school and college I wrote for the school newspapers and loved seeing my name in print! Only recently I began to write my travel memoirs, and place them on Amazon.
What motivates you to write?
I’ve always been an avid reader since I was a child who practically lived in the public library! In later years I wrote humor, poetry, short articles and even children stories. I am motivated by the desire to have my books read, and hopefully, enjoyed by others.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Actually before writing my travel experiences, I check out my travel notes and then look up the photos of my trips. They all bring back fond memories and get me into the mood to write them all down. My next “…and Me” book will be about European capitals.
Do you keep any inspirational items on your desk?
Over my desk I have three framed collages of my trips to the USA. However, my most prized possession is my small alabaster sculpture of an angel by A. Santini, a noted Tuscan sculptor, that I just happened to find in an outdoor market in Rome on my first trip there. It seems my little angel is there to encourage me while I’m writing!
Favorite comfort reads?
I read a lot especially now that I am an e-reader addict. It’s rare that I read a book more than once. My one exception, however, is The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown that I read both in the Italian and English versions. Loved them both!!
Do you have any reading/writing pet peeves?
I just hate to come to the end of a really good book. I always feel like I’m leaving my new found friends.
Often I have to rewrite something dozens of times until I can get it exactly like I want it. This is true especially when I want to get my sense of humor across to my readers!
What are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m writing travel suggestions for those who wish to visit New York City. The idea began when I gave conferences called Hello USA in my own town, and found that so many Italian people were interested in knowing more about the States, and they were particularly fascinated with NYC. My little book, “Come with me….to New York City” contains useful suggestions as what to see (including a lot of free things), where to eat and side trips to take. I even included a great recipe for NY cheesecake!!!
I give my personal advice and I’m sure there are places I suggest that most tourists have never heard of before. My aim is to introduce New York in all her many facets, from the stupendous skyscrapers, historic buildings and beautiful parks, to ideal places to people watch.
I feel a bit like an official NY welcoming committee but it’s a satisfaction that I’m thoroughly enjoying. I’m a native Brooklynite and my attachment to the city still remains. Now I’m an expat, happily living in Turin, Italy but there is still a place in my heart for NYC.
Photos and artwork ©Elaine Bertolotti. Stay in touch with Elaine through her Facebook page.
Hi, I'm H.E, a TCK and the author of Culture Shock - A Practical Guide. Love the outdoors. Motto: onwards and forwards! In search of perspective. If you'd like to get to know me a little better, head on over to the menu and click "For readers".