Nicole Selvaggio’s light-bulb moment to write a book wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.

She didn’t wake up from a vivid dream or have a moment of deja vu. Instead, Selvaggio, the girls tennis coach at Marist, was looking through pictures on her phone. From there, the idea snowballed.

Selvaggio authored “Poetry in the Piazza,” a book of her poems and photos from her travels through Italy that she self-published this past winter.

“I’ve always enjoyed poetry and writing in general. The book was kind of an accident,” Selvaggio said. “I came back from Italy and had thousands of pictures on my phone. I’m looking through, deleting some, and inspiration struck. It kind of just happened.”

For Selvaggio, her Italian roots have always been important.

Her dad, Tony, was born in Italy, and her mom, Angie, was born in Chicago. Her grandparents on her mom’s side immigrated to the United States from Italy.

Nicole first visited Italy in 2016 and returned again in summer 2018. She also applied for dual citizenship, receiving the approval on Christmas Eve last winter.

When visiting family on Italy’s southern coast and its central regions, Selvaggio avoids the tourist traps whenever possible. She stayed for five weeks during her summer 2018 trip.

“When I go, I don’t do the tourist stuff. I do it as a local thing with my family a lot of the time,” Selvaggio said. “The book, then, is a little bit of everything, food, the sea, the sunsets. It’s unfiltered photos taken on my phone, not professional or staged in any way.”

“Poetry in the Piazza” is just under 50 pages with each page featuring a poem and a photo from Selvaggio’s travels.

The book is available online at

“It was fun to see it all at the very end, the finished product,” Selvaggio said. “Hopefully, readers get inspired. I want them to see Italy through my eyes. It’s me, someone who’s really proud of my Italian heritage and culture. I wanted to show the unfiltered, authentic experience.”

Selvaggio is heading into her third season as the Marist girls tennis coach. A 2011 Marist alumna, she went on to play collegiately at Moraine Valley Community College and also studied at St. Xavier University.

Upon graduation, she also coached at Moraine Valley, where she is now an English professor.

“I’ve known teaching was something I wanted to do, whether in the classroom or on the court,” Selvaggio said. “I knew I wanted to be there for students any way I could and share whatever knowledge I had.”

The RedHawks return a strong team for the 2019 campaign, including seniors Nicole Micklin, Bella Rabianski and Kat Balchunas along with an influx of young talent.

With so much talent back, Marist is eyeing a potentially big season after tough postseasons the last two years. The team has finished second at sectionals the last three campaigns.

Competing in the East Suburban Catholic Conference, the RedHawks finished third in 2018 and second in 2017.

“We’re cautiously optimistic, but I love what we have this year,” Selvaggio said. “We’re taking it one step at a time, but my whole goal has been to get a number on the banner in the gym, whether it be conference or sectional. No more empty banner. I think we can do it.”