Having spent the last few days in Tennessee, I cannot for the life of me think of why all of the Italians didn’t settle right here. Talk about Little Italy – Tennessee, with its mountains on one side, its plains on the other, feels a lot like home (if you leave out the multitude of fast food joints, easy driving – down to 15mph in school zones and fried green tomatoes).
According to the constitution, Tennessee is “…three states within the great State of Tennessee.” That’s stuff that should bring Bossi & his Lega Party over on a ‘fact-finding mission’ faster than you can say “ethnophobic”. Western Tennessee, with Memphis, a hip urban place, not unlike Milan; more laid back Nashville, the music capital, where working hours are fairly short. And then, Eastern Tennessee, they say is sort of ‘backwards’ like the Mezzogiorno; they even have their own brand of Viking Sicilians there: people with olive skin and bright blue eyes. Who knew?
I’m pretty sure there are more churches here than in Rome, with people of all ages attending them on a regular basis; many even daily. Lest that be a deterrent to our Catholic brethren, judging by the number of scandals, affairs and divorces ‘sulla bocca di tutti’ over here, I think people would fit right in.
And then, there are the names. I’ve heard of someone here actually named Robert E. Lee (no relation to the actual one), Henry Clay, and today’s obituaries included a guy called ‘Hog’ (need I say, he died young?). Two guys whose first name is Bimbo were running for office. And while I’ve never met a Cristoforo Colombo in Italy, there are plenty of people who can’t change their names – and so we find the delightful Bevilacqua, Mangiapane, Napoleone (first name) and Buongiorno.
I was greeted today by little children who sang out, “Hello, Miss Francesca!” in chorus. Music to my ears, since it’s been a long while since I got the ‘Signorina’ greeting. The cordiality of the people (they may not say Buon Giorno when they pass, but everyone seems to smile and wave), the Bella Figura lifestyle, the villas, the nature -- I’m not sure if Tennessee could use a few good Italian restaurants, but I do know that Italians, if they caught onto this place, would truly find themselves ‘a casa’.