He was born in Pisa. From an early age, Ortolani showed a great passion for the world of comic books, and in particular The Fantastic Four by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, which will affect its style of narrative.
After finishing high school, he enrolled at the University of Parma to study Geology. While at university, Ortolani draws his characters first, and the theme of geology became a catchphrase of the first issues of his major work, Rat-Man.
In 1989 joined publishing house Comic Art to work on two stories: the tragic and the other comic. Publisher Rinaldo Traini published the comic story on the second Spot (supplement of Eternauta dedicated to beginners), marking the Birth of Rat-Man.
For the fanzineMade in USA he created two more stories starring Rat-Man ( Topin! The Wonder Mouse! And From the Future) and several parodies of superheroes (including X-Men, Fantastic Four and Superman).
Called to military service in the Air Force, Ortolani drew inspiration from life in the barracks, gathering his experiences in a detailed diary that became the starting point for The last rookie, a strip on military life (the same as the protagonist Ortolani) which were published as an appendix to Storm Trooper.
During this period, Ortolani also collaborated on the Starcomìx humor magazine directed by Luca Boschi and published by Star Comics in Totem Comic and Totem Extra, where he made The impervious, Clan, The wonder of nature and The wonders of technology. In this period he also stripped the series Those of Parma, published in the Gazzetta di Parma, speaking of the city of Parma and its inhabitants, a selection of which was collected in the volume Editions Bands Dessinée.
The short stories of the series of Wonderland were taken years later, collected in three volumes by Panini Comics.