Surely, Bellevue College’s most famous faculty member is Nicoletta Machiavelli, who teaches Italian at BC’s Continuing Education divisions World Language Institute.
Machiavelli starred in nearly 40 movies between 1965 and 1983. She is a beautiful woman, and at 17 was so stunning that a talent agent from Rome discovered her. It took little to convince her to try acting. 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 Tarantino raves about.” Her Spaghetti Westerns including some with American actors, among them “Navajo Joe” with Burt Reynolds and “The Hills Run Red” with Henry Silva and Dan Duryea.
Born in Italy, she is the daughter of a Florentine father and an American mother of Scotch-Irish descent. “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 grew up bilingual in Modena. After the breakup of her parent’s marriage, she and her mother moved to Florence.
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.”
She used the money she made to roam the world, including India, South America, and Greece. After years of traveling around the world, she moved to the U.S. when her son was eight, 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.” She lives in West Seattle and has made Seattle her home for 26 years.
In the 1980s she became a tour guide when many French and Italians started visiting the Western U.S. 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.” In a Dec. 6, 2009 article by Ann Bauer in the online magazine Crosscut.com, Machiavelli said, “I’m just a one-man band. No secretary. Nothing fancy. I’m not Rick Steves. I just like bringing people to see things that are worthwhile in Italy, like the series of little fishing villages connected by bridges. Or the old man who collects porcini mushrooms the size of plates.”
She tries to go at least twice a year. She brings small groups from the Northwest and focuses on one Italian region at a time, “With emphasis on cuisine, wine, and art – all the good things in life! 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.”
-by Sharon Berg
Editor’s Note: Nicoletta Machiavelli passed away Nov. 15, 2015 at the age of 71.
Want to learn a new language?
The World Languages Institute at CE offers the most comprehensive program of its kind in the state. The courses are professional, affordable and taught by skilled instructors. Languages offered include: American Sign Language – Chinese (Mandarin) – Dutch – Farsi – French – German – Hawaiian – Italian – Japanese -Korean – Norwegian – Portuguese – Russian -Scottish Gaelic – Spanish. Visit: www.bellevuecollege.edu/ce/language-classes/
Whether for personal enrichment or professional development, Bellevue College Continuing Education offers great options that meet your lifelong learning interests. www.bellevuecollege.edu/ce/
Last Updated October 3, 2016