Ciao! I’m Melissa – the author of four novels set in Italy: Dreaming Sophia, Waking Isabella, Eternally Artemisia, and The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola. The second novel I translated into Italian. All four books tell the stories of women and their journeys of self-discovery to find love, uncover hidden truths, and follow their destinies to shape a better future for themselves.
I am also an artist, art historian, videographer, podcaster, and Italian language blogger — who fell in love with Italy while studying painting and art history in Florence as a university student. For years, I worked professionally as a graphic designer, and only recently did I develop a passion for the Italian language and novel writing.
How did I turn into a linguist? Several years after obtaining a Master’s Degree in Art History, I began to miss things uniquely Italian. Things like rattling espresso cups, the bells in the church towers, Vespas buzzing down the street, and the smell of my Italian mother’s cooking. But unable to travel there due to family and work restrictions, I began writing the Studentessa Matta Italian website to improve my language skills and connect with other language learners and Italophiles. Over the past few years, the “Matta” concept has grown to include the Matta YouTube channel and Podcast Tutti Matti per l’Italiano. I also coordinate Matta Italian Language Immersion Tours, which I guide twice a year with Italian partners in Italy.
Initially, I chose the name “Matta” for my Italian blog name because, in Italian, it means “crazy” or impassioned.” If you “let yourself go” or lasciare andare as the Italians say — whether it be learning a language or picking up a pen to write a novel — you are uninhibited and will try and accomplish things you never thought possible. On my Italian blog, “like a box of chocolates,” you never know what you will read or what I will tap out next on my keyboard. It could be a blog article about a language-learning tip, a quirky cultural anecdote…or perhaps the story of how I met Sophia Loren after publishing my first novel “Dreaming Sophia — because dreaming is an art.”
Writing the Matta Italian blog taught me many things, and in curating it, along the way, I became the author of four novels. I discovered the joy of weaving together fictional plots, creating new worlds, and inventing people to populate them based on what I know best — Italian culture, language, art, and history. Just as I paint with colors to create works of art, I also paint with words to pen powerful stories of historical Italian women whose stories need to be told.
Who would have thought taking my first step onto Italian soil to study art in Florence would lead me down the path to a writing career? But because I am a bit “Matta,” I embraced this new direction and let my love for Italy and art sweep me away to take me places I never thought I’d go!
I hope you will read my books and begin an armchair trip to Italy. If you do, you will get a glimpse of all the innumerable things – sights, sounds, tastes, art, legends, anecdotes… and the fearless Italian women who faced incredible odds but succeeded through sheer determination and humility. The stories of Sophia Loren, Isabella de Medici, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Sofonisba Anguissola continue to be inspirational to a new generation and need to be remembered and recounted.
Buona lettura! Happy reading!
Melissa is the managing director of Matta Press,
an Independent Publishing Company
2303 Ranch Road 620 S.
Lakeway, Texas 78734