Pierre Berbizier’s side enjoyed a dream start, scoring three tries in the opening six minutes to take an astonishing 21-0 lead at Murrayfield.
All three tries, from Mauro Bergamasco, Andrea Scanavacca and Kaine Robertson, were as a result of errors in Scotland’s midfield and gave Italy a glimpse of history – their first victory away from home in the Six Nations.
Although Scotland controlled much of the rest of the match, they were only able to cross the tryline twice, through Rob Dewey and Chris Paterson.
The effort from Scotland’s skipper gave the home crowd genuine hope but a couple of penalties from Scanavacca and a late try from Alessandro Troncon sealed the famous 17-37 success for Italy.
Bortolami indicated the desperation in the Italian ranks to chalk up their first triumph outside of Rome when he revealed his concern that Scotland may mount a dramatic comeback.
The Gloucester lock said: “It was a very tough match but not the toughest of my life. I think that we had a very good start but the most important thing was to manage this situation well in the last 60 minutes.
“We managed to keep the ball in the forwards for some time and this helped us to keep our lead. After such a good start we had a little bit of fear over losing the game in the end because everything was perfect in the first few minutes.
“There were 74 minutes still to go and it is a long time so it was very difficult to keep the pressure on Scotland.
“We managed to defend well and play cleverly for the rest of the game which gave us this win.
“We still wanted to play our rugby but still defend well and we showed on Saturday that when we had the ball in their half that we could score points,’’ Bortolami said.
Berbizier paid tribute to the mental strength of his men after the Azzurri enjoyed their first Six Nations success away from Stadio Flaminio.
When Paterson scored there were only seven points between the sides but Italy held their nerve to put another 13 points on the board in the final quarter.
The France legend said: “After Paterson’s try Italy had a good reaction and this shows the character of the team. I knew this was the case because I saw this at Twickenham two weeks ago.
“This shows we are mentally strong. We were able to regroup, go down the field and score some points of our own from Scanavacca and then Troncon.
“It was important to get this victory. To build a team it’s important to have victories along the way. We work a lot and for the fans and the players this (an away win) was a dream. Now it is a reality.
“Now we have to keep working and try to build on this win in the future and more particularly in our next two games in the Six Nations. This win is a consequence of the work we have done and we must continue.
“We will have to wait and see what this does for Italian rugby but today it was an important step and the players played their heart out for their country,” Berbizier said.
Southwell, Lamont, Di Rollo, Dewey, Paterson, Godman, Cusiter, Callam, Brown, Taylor, S. Murray, Hines, E. Murray, Hall, Kerr. Replacements: Henderson for Dewey (76), Walker for Godman (58), Lawson for Cusiter (70), Hogg for Callam (49), Hamilton for S. Murray (73), Jacobsen for E. Murray (38), Ford for Hall (57).
De Marigny, Robertson, Canale, M. Bergamasco, Masi, Scanavacca, Troncon, Parisse, M. Bergamasco, Zanni, Bortolami, Dellape, Castrogiovanni, Festuccia, Lo Cicero. Replacements: Zaffiri for Masi (33), Pez for Scanavacca (79), Bernabo for Dellape (62), Nieto for Castrogiovanni (16), Ongaro for Festuccia (58), Perugini for Lo Cicero (58).
Donal Courtney (Ireland).