Hello! My name is Michelle Bottalico and I’m an American living in Torino, Italy. Simply Italiana is a place where I write about Italian daily life, the ever-fascinating Italian language, and how living in Italy helps make my quest for a simple life a reality. I’m a photographer and enjoy documenting the world around me, and I share photo projects and shots of my life and travels. I blog about other topics that are important to me, throwing in posts about hearing loss, dual citizenship, the search for my Italian roots, minimalism and veganism, and things that make me smile. In short, this blog is a little hard to categorize- just like me. Please read on for more of my story.
My Story: How I Got Here and What’s Next?
Technically, my Italian journey started in 1981 when my mother visited Italy while pregnant with me! The next big opportunity came after my first year of college, the same year I started studying the Italian language. I visited Italy for two weeks with my fledgling Italian skills and was scared to order a sandwich in a caffè. After three years of Italian electives in college, I started focusing on other things and Italian fell by the wayside.
Fast forward a few years and the Italian bug returned with a vengeance. I won’t deny that meeting an Italian boyfriend had a lot to do with that! I signed up for a couple of courses in Philadelphia and studied like it was going out of style.
That relationship eventually ended but the spark was lit. For a long time I felt a subtle, yet overwhelming desire to go to Italy. I went on with my life and my work as a newspaper photojournalist and wedding photographer in New Jersey, but the idea of being in Italy crept into my consciousness and set up shop for good.
I didn’t have any practical reasons for wanting to go; I just wanted to be there. Like Elizabeth Gilbert writes in Eat Pray Love, I liked the way speaking Italian made me feel. The idea lived in the back of my mind for awhile as I struggled with feeling that packing up and leaving everything was unrealistic. I had no idea how I could make it happen, how I would afford it, and what I would do once there. But somehow, things started falling into place.
Driving one night during an ice storm, I lost control of my car and wrecked it beyond repair. To say I was distraught is an understatement. I didn’t know how I would be able to afford another car, which was essential for my job driving to photo assignments. Eventually, what at first seemed like a negative turned out to be a positive. The $800 I made from selling the totaled car on eBay became the beginning of my travel fund. I had to find more work to cover the car payment, and from the new income I was able to start saving everything I could for Italy. Then my older sister sent me an article about helping out on farms as a cheap way to travel the world, and I knew it was possible.
Bedecked in a backpack and a ridiculously heavy suitcase, I embarked on a solo, life-changing trip around Italy (and Europe.) I wandered all over the map, seeing beautiful places, meeting beautiful people, increasing my Italian skills exponentially, and experiencing untold generosity and hospitality. My surroundings inspired me as a photographer, and I had fun documenting my new environment. I learned more than a few things about myself and about other people, and in the end, I didn’t want to leave.
I eventually came to stay in Torino and became a dual American-Italian citizen after an at-times frustrating, at-times exhilarating search for my Italian ancestry on both sides of the Atlantic.
Now that the initial giddiness of being in Italy has somewhat faded, I have a more grounded position from which to view my surroundings, which continue to offer me joy and discovery. I’m living a more natural daily life here, meeting people, becoming more comfortable with the language, and working on slowing down, minimizing, and shaping a simple life for myself.
I’m excited for the future and hope you enjoy reading about my Italian journey. Please feel free to comment or contact me as I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by!