Surely Bellevue College’s most famous faculty member is Nicoletta Machiavelli, who starred in nearly 40 movies between 1965 and 1983. With so many films, and made long ago, “Sometimes I forget what I did!” She is most proud of “The Ravine,” by Paolo Cavara, a WW II drama, with a German soldier, played by David McCallum, assigned to find and kill a Balkan sniper who turns out to be a beautiful woman (Nicoletta), but falls in love with her instead.
Does the name Marcello Mastroianni bring back movie memories? “I was co-lead with Mastroianni and Oliver Reed in the comedy “Mordi e fuggi,” said Machiavelli, “and, I worked with Alain Delon in a series called “Tony Arzenta.” While she starred in Jean Gabin’s last movie, a comedy called “The Holy Year,” it’s another genre that helped make her famous. “My celebrity status in the U.S. crept up on me recently because I took part in various Westerns, all done in Spain with Italian directors… often with American actors,” said Machiavelli, “They were the famous spaghetti Westerns that Quentin Terentino raves about.”
Born in Italy, she is the daughter of a Florentine father and an American mother who had Scotch-Irish parents. “They met in Germany during a visit there, a gift from her stepfather who was of German ancestry after she attended Columbia University,” said Machiavelli. She is a descendant of famous philosopher and author Niccolò Machiavelli, the “founder of politics the way we know it today. He was a Renaissance man, admirable in those dark and cruel times.” But, she confesses, “I kind of hated the guy. I had to study all of his works in school starting at age 14. I attended a public school in Florence that was named after him (imagine the sneers of my schoolmates during roll call), and heard about him all the time in the family.”
After years of traveling around the world, she moved to the U.S. when her son was 8, later living in Los Angeles, and briefly in Denver. Visiting friends with kids in Seattle when her son was 13, “I decided this was the best place for my son to grow up.” In the 1980s she became a tour guide when many French and Italians started visiting the Far West on bus tours. Since the job was seasonal, during the winter months she started teaching Italian. “When I moved to Seattle it also expanded to cooking. Probably, as every immigrant, I had an urge to replicate what I remembered of the foods I grew up with, the very tasty and also simple foods of Tuscany.”
Now, in addition to teaching Italian at Bellevue College Continuing Education’s World Language Institute, she works as an interpreter and guides tours of Italy. “I try to go at least twice a year.” She brings small groups and focuses on one Italian region at a time, “with emphasis on cuisine, wine, art, all the good things in life!,” said Machiavelli. “My goal and pleasure is to be the hostess of places that have authenticity and are less known, to show beautiful historic locations and monuments, and also simple and passionate ways of cooking and living close to the earth, which is also my passion. And have fun with the locals! I am terrific at engaging people on the street and making a liaison between my ‘travelers’ and them. Everyone loves it! And travel is all about experience!”
Machiavelli sums up her career choices in this way: “Acting, tour-guiding and teaching seem to me all very connected and creative in the same way. It’s all about telling stories, sharing experiences and passions in the effort to enrich people’s lives.”