Interview with Laura Morelli, Author of “Venice”

February 16, 2015 at 9:32 am | Posted in Books | Leave a comment

An interview with Laura Morelli, author of “veniceVenice”


1. How did you decide to be an art historian?

I started out as a studio art major (my poor parents!) but luckily I recognized my lack of talent early enough and changed to Romance Languages & Literature. It was when I had the opportunity to travel abroad as a teenager that the artistic traditions of the world began to lure me. One of my art professors in college once gave a talk about her research on a French painter, and I was totally riveted. I thought, “you mean you can really do that as a career?!” By my senior year in college I had decided that I would go on to pursue advanced degrees in art history, and would teach at the university level. I always had the idea that I would write books, and I had dreamt of writing a novel for as long as I can remember.

2. How did you first start writing books? 

I have never experienced writer’s block. If anything, there is too much to write about and too little time! In my work, I try to capture the excitement I felt when I first discovered the history of art. Those of us in academia are trained to write about art in a specialized style. I have the utmost respect for the craft of academic writing as well as those who spend their careers doing it. The down side is that academic writing comes across as dry and dull, full of terminology that is inaccessible to all but those of us who spend many years studying the field. But art history is the most fascinating subject in the world! I try to bring to non-art historians some of the specialized knowledge but also some of that passion that is so inherent to the arts.

3. What other books have you written?

I’ve written a series of specialty travel guidebooks, including Made in France, Made in Italy, and Made in the Southwest. With these guidebooks, my mission is to lead travelers beyond the tourist traps to discover authentic local traditions and artists, and come home with great treasures in their suitcases. My focus in on cultural immersion through a greater appreciation of art objects and the people who make them.

4. You’ve also written a historical novel set in Venice. Tell us about it.

The story of The Gondola Maker, my first work of fiction, developed while I was working on Made in Italy. The living artisans I interviewed, whether makers of gondolas, carnival masks, or Murano glass, told me how important it was to them to pass on the torch of tradition to the next generation. I began to wonder what would happen if the successor were not able… or willing. The characters of the gondola maker and his son began to take shape, and I felt compelled to bring that story to life.

5. What is your favorite genre of book?

I read a variety of non-fiction and fiction, but I have always appreciated historical fiction. I love it when an author can bring the past to life through sights, smells, sounds, and sensations. 

Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She authored a column for National Geographic Traveler called “The Genuine Article” and contributes pieces about authentic travel to national magazines and newspapers. Laura has been featured on CNN Radio, Travel Today with Peter Greenberg, The Frommers Travel Show, and in USA TODAY, Departures, House & Garden Magazine, Traditional Home, the Denver Post, Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, and other media. She has also written and produced art history lessons for TED-Ed. Laura has taught college-level art history at Trinity College in Rome, as well as at several American universities. Laura is the author of the Authentic Arts guidebook series, and is well-known for her travel series that includes Made in Italy and Made in France. The Gondola Maker, a coming-of-age story about the heir to a gondola boatyard in 16th-century Venice, is her award-winning historical novel. Sign up for Laura’s newsletter at

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