Nicola Bertellotti – Phenomenology of The End

L'Horizon Chimérique by Nicola Bertellotti. Light pours through decaying curtains onto a dusty but intricate gold mirror and bust of an eagle.
L’Horizon Chimérique. Photo by Nicola Bertellotti.

Nicola Bertellotti photographs abandoned places. The first time I saw his photography I was astonished by what people leave behind to decay. Even today, many of his images still linger with me. Once I saw The L’Horizon Chimérique above, I instantly wondered – what is the story? There is always a story, in every image.

How do you even leave a curtain, a beautiful mirror, and a statue behind?

My Empire of Dirt by Nicola Bertellotti. An abandoned grey and powder blue building with beautiful lighting, high ceilings, and debris scattered around.
My Empire of Dirt. Photo by Nicola Bertellotti.

Surprising Dinner Party

Bertellotti’s work reminded me about one unusual dinner party a few years ago. Back then, my dear friends have just moved to a new house. I recall being a bit surprised that they had an exquisite concert piano; however, I knew that neither of them played it. Also, there were other decorations that seemed out of character, too.

I was very curious so I inquired about the interior design. They simply said – it came with the house. I didn’t understand. I asked again – “Oh, the piano came with the house?” They answered – no, everything came with the house. Everything, absolutely everything, came with the house including the forks and knives we used for dinner.

Arcana Imperii by Nicola Bertellotti. Light floods an abandoned room with sand colored walls.
Arcana Imperii. Photo by Nicola Bertellotti.

Two Stories

I am astonished by the two parallel stories. Firstly, that someone left everything behind. Secondly, I’m astounded that someone just moved into the place as is. These thoughts remained with me for a long time.

The most fascinating aspect was that they had bought the Atlanta house as-is, sight unseen from New York, solely from pictures. Equally, the seller sold it as is. Think about it – they needed to find each other. What are the odds for such a perfectly timed transaction?

Il Demone della Frivolezza by Nicola Bertellotti. An abandoned sitting area with a gorgeous detailed ceiling of angels.
Il Demone della Frivolezza. Photo by Nicola Bertellotti.

Nicola Bertellotti Finds Beauty in Decay

Looking at Nicola’s photos of abandoned places, what captivates me the most is their immense beauty. Undoubtedly, you can see their past glory. These are places created by people who appreciate great aesthetics and create beauty.

Similarly to my friends’ beautiful home, a house that someone left with everything in it, even earrings and kitchen utensils, most of these abandoned places are left as is.

Nicola’s abandoned palaces had seen some glorious times. Oh, I wish to hear all those stories that those walls could tell. For some reason or another, they didn’t find another owner who would keep them alive.

Also, the knowledge of the original owners of these glorious places is mostly unknown. So, I asked Nicola what drove him to seek and photograph these magnificent and startling places.

Hard to be a God by Nicola. An abandoned church with trees in the distance.
Hard to be a God (Cit. Aleksej German). Photo by Nicola Bertellotti.

Il posto delle fragole by Nicola Bertellotti. A decaying window frame is slowly taken back by nature.

Il posto delle fragole. Photo by Nicola Bertellotti.

Abandoned Places by Nicola Bertellotti

Pretty in Pink by Nicola Bertellotti. An abandoned room with soft pink walls with cream elegant accents and details.
Pretty in Pink. Photo by Nicola Bertellotti.

Bertellotti captures the end of a period of splendor – a rich and opulent era. His work shows the grandeur of places that are now shrouded in oblivion. The observation and the focus of these themes become the leitmotiv for him.

What emerges in his aesthetics is the nostalgia of the lost paradise. He expresses his love for the ruins and the photographic revival of the decadent beauty of abandoned places.

The beauty of its subjects consists of their transience. He has a fascination with cracks, natural and architectural decay, that brings things back to their primordial state.

The Great Beauty – Start of Passion

La Sala dei Pavoni by N. Bertellotti. An exquisite abandoned room with rainbow colored walls filled with ornate accents and details.
La Sala dei Pavoni. Photo by Nicola Bertellotti.

When I was a kid, I used to wander around the abandoned amusement park near my home. I loved spending whole afternoons trying to discover the lost magic of these carousels and how the place was like back in time. Imagining these stories is what I really like about these incredible places. Also, being a witness of the power of nature that always takes back what’s “hers”. There is also a unique post-apocalyptic style with decay. Trying to capture what is beautiful in what remains is important to me and showing how the disappearance of men can create eerie atmospheres that make us think about why they have been abandoned in the first place.

– Nicola Bertellotti

Art of Finding Abandoned Places by Nicola Bertellotti

À rebours by Nicola Bertellotti. Nature overrunning a room filled made of windows.
À Rebours. Photo by Nicola Bertellotti.

I search using satellite maps, news, archives. I rarely find them on the road, while I’m headed to other places already on my map.

– Nicola Bertellotti

Hard to Choose

Resilient Sky by Nicola Bertellotti. A large crack comes from the window of a decaying room covered in forgotten murals of angels and religious figures.
Resilient Sky. Photo by Nicola Bertellotti.

All the places witness of a past glory and grandeur. What emerges in my aesthetic is the nostalgia of the lost paradise, expressed in love for the ruins, and the photographic re-proposal of decadent poetry. The beauty of its subjects consists in their transience: it is the charm of vegetable and architectural negligence, which brings things back to their primordial state. My lens captures images of a past through the memory of one’s own experience, with a reference to the “Recherche du temps perdu”. The obsolete objects and the places portrayed by me have, in fact, the same function of the “madeleine” in Marcel Proust, that of evoking the memory of a happy age.  

– Nicola Bertellotti

Nicola Bertellotti – Interest in Photography

Grandeur by Nicola Bertellotti. An empty hallway with intricate high ceilings
Grandeur. Photo by Nicola Bertellotti.

It all started as a journey, the passion for photography was born with curiosity and the desire to capture what I met on my way; I wanted a story in images that would come as close as possible to the authentic experience.  

– Nicola Bertellotti
Mitteleuropa II by Nicola Bertellotti. A romantic abandoned staircase.
Mitteleuropa II. Photo by Nicola Bertellotti.

Impact on Life

Le Grand Bleu by Nicola Bertellotti. Looking up through the swirl of a peeling blue staircase into the light of the ceiling.
Le Grand Bleu. Photo by Nicola Bertellotti.

These projects had become my job. I feel very lucky, I do the thing I like most and that brings together my greatest passions: photography, history and travel.

– Nicola Bertellotti

Remembrance of Things Past

Inspired by Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, Bertellotti’s lens captures images of a near past with a reference to Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. The obsolete objects and the places portrayed by the photographer are evoking the memory of a happy age.

La Sala Bianca. An immaculate white room with incredible details.
La Sala Bianca. Photo by Nicola Bertellotti.

The long goodbye by Bertellotti. A piano left behind to decay.
The long goodbye. Photo by Nicola Bertellotti.

About Nicola Bertellotti

Nicola Bartellotti.

Nicola Bertellotti elaborates on a personal vision towards an aesthetic of decadence through his photography, in which the sense of the transience of everything has deep roots. To illustrate, his photographic research took shape in the first dedicated exhibition “Fenomenologia della Fine” in 2013 in the province of Lucca.

The exhibition repeated the following year, in Pisa. Petrartedizioni makes a publication with texts by Pier Luigi Pinelli with Nicola’s work. In 2014, he took part in the European Photographic Festival (Busto Arsizio) where he exhibited “Damnatio Memoriae.” Nicola also presents his work in native Tuscany with the exhibition “Focus on” at Sensi Arte Galleria.

The Sense of Ending by N. Bertellotti
Nicola Bertellotti at an abandoned place. The sense of Ending.

Other Exhibitions

2015 – “Il lungo addio” (The long goodbye) at LAB (Palermo), SetUp Art Fair and Art Riga Fair.

2016 – “Hic sunt dracones” – Castel dell’Ovo (Naples) and CODICE MIA at My Photo Fair (Milan).

2017 – “Heimat” at Galleria Ponzetta di Pietrasanta and “Aftermath” at the Isculpture Gallery in San Gimignano. The Museum of Contemporary Art LIMEN (Vibo Valentia) enriches its permanent collection with one of his works, “Blue Eye”.

He is a finalist for two consecutive years at the Arteam Cup award. In fact, in 2018 he won gold and bronze medal in the architecture section at the Moscow international photo awards.

In 2020, Nicola had a solo exhibition, “The Great Beauty” at the Pärnu Museum in Estonia. The exhibition is the photographer’s homage to the great abandoned Italian beauty.

Nicola Bertellotti – Stories From Abandoned Places

Futuristic abandoned building in the snow.
Abandoned monument of Buzludzha in Bulgaria by Nicola
Abandoned monument of Buzludzha, in Bulgaria. Photos by Nicola Bertellotti.

Every picture and every location has its own story. There’s just more to a picture than just the shot itself. The travel, the difficulties, the hardship that went into it. The fails, the encounters with copper thieves, the early bird attempts, the scouts at night, the climbs, the close calls, the busts.

But also the joy of finding unspoiled stuff, treasures, meeting great people and all things resulting in the great adventure. It’s those experiences that I what to share with my stories. In 2014, I tried to explore the famous abandoned monument of Buzludzha, in Bulgaria. It was autumn, so I was not really worried about the weather.

I was driving when snow and wind turned that place into a white hell. Suddenly the car stopped and I was isolated in the middle of nowhere and the temperature was – 5 °C (23°F). The phone did not work and I was stuck in those conditions for hours, for the first time I feared for my life. Fortunately, I was saved by the Bulgarian firemen when the car had become a pile of ice and snow.           

It’s crazy if I think about all the risks I take for a simple photo. The great risk that I had tried made me forget the disappointment of what I lost. Nevertheless, last year I came back to finish what I had started. And it went very well. In the end, it was a dramatic experience, I can not deny that even the unconsciousness is a part of what I do. There is a kind of suspension of consciousness when I enter an abandoned place. All fear dissolves.

A Word from the Founder, Zest & Curiosity

Nicola and I have known each other for a long while. It started first with my admiration and awe of his fabulous photography and went into the amazing and interesting conversations about the films and literature that we both love. I am forever grateful for the introduction to Eric Rohmer’s philosophical and beautiful films. I watched every single one of them. And, what a treat that was!

I also enjoyed learning about Nicola’s fascinating process and passion for his art through our interview. Each time I see his incredible image from an abandoned place I’m in awe of the transience of time. Without a doubt, they are always a reminder for me to live very fully in the present. Each image has intertwined Nicola’s story and the story of the place. How they find each other is pure beauty. Thus, without Nicola, those amazing places would completely perish, obliterated even from our memory. Imagine that?

Nicola, thank you for your passion and for this very particular curiosity. So often, your images surprise me. They make my days more inspiring and full of interesting thoughts. Based on the first image, I even wrote the imaginary story about what happened in that place.

Nicola Bertellotti is a Petrasnata, Tuscany based photographer. For more of his photography, check his amazing Instagram, Facebook, and website as well.

Enjoy in exploring the Great Beauty, dear reader.

Zest & Curiosity - Tijana

– Tijana

Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director

Zest & Curiosity


  • svetislav

    Looking at Mr. Barttelloti’s photos, we can relate them to an imaginary event. it is their lure.

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      That is so beautifully contemplated Svetislav. Whenever I look at his images, I imagine what could have happened – our minds finish photography’s story. I still cannot graso that all those building and more are left to decay. Makes you wonder about the life. Wonderful to hear from you.

  • Ivana

    Each of Nicola’s photographs combines a marvel that takes your breath away and a magic that inspires (and terrifies, alternately). – in equal measure.

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      What an original outlook, I love it! Yes, there is that fabulous tension – that is what makes it so captivating. so wonderful to hear from you and I am so glad that you have enjoyed it.

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    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      Thank you for your kind words.

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    I just added this blog to my feed reader, great stuff. Cannot get enough!

    • G. Clare

      Thank you for finding and sharing the beauty of things, people, experiences that most of us wouldn’t if you didn’t share. Namaste

      • zestandcuriosity (author)

        Tank you for your gracious comment dear Claire, it means a world to me. There is so much to experience and see and in this strange times we live now due to pandemic, I am so happy if I can bring joy to people.

  • Stella

    I am so intrigued and captivated by Nicola Bertellotti’s photography, The history and personal stories are no doubt fascinating and somewhat tragic. I read novels of ancient times in foreign countries and the people living then, and his photos bring to my inner vision, the magnificence described in detail, of the castles and mansions created centuries ago. I am definitely curious about these incredible places, sadly left in such disarray….I can only wonder at the unfortunate circumstances…..

    • zestandcuriosity (author)

      Thank you for this thoughtful comment Stella. Yes, if those walls could talk, I think each would have a compelling story to tell. Even there is so much beauty in decay, it is puzzling and heartbreaking that they are abandinded. It makes me think about the transience of time…and much more.

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      Thank you for your kind words – I appreciate it. There is a newsletter subscribe option as well, you can find it on the footer of the website. Welcome!

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