Although he's published books in the U.S. and has spent a lot of time here, Beppe Severgnini isn't a household name on our shores. He is, however, a journalism superstar in Italy.
So, I was interested to hear that Severgnini wrote an article that ran a few days ago in Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper about a June train trek from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Ore.
It seems Severgnini (and his traveling partner Karl Hoffmann) stepped off the Amtrak in Milwaukee and had a look around.
"I'm seeing Milwaukee after almost 20 years," he writes. "Then, it was a working-class city changing its skin. Today, it is a well-to-do place, cleaned up, with a green and welcoming lakefront. The train station is luminous and modern; the renovations impeccable; there is even a museum by architect (Santiago) Calatrava that closes its wings â€“ literally â€“ at 5 p.m.
"The city â€“ 600,000 inhabitants, (and) that many more in the metropolitan area â€“ is home to Harley-Davidson and Miller beer. I climb onto the seat of the first and drink the second, to the health of the Midwest: an America without adjectives, and I won't add any, either.
"At the Italian Community Center â€“ the most extensive in the USA, they tell us â€“ there is a meeting in progress, discussing Festa Italiana: only one person present speaks Italian: Mario Carini, historian of the club, Sicilian origins, strong emotions. We ask about the coming election and get evasive responses. Only when the discussion turns to Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who survived a recall, does someone become explicit: his wife is Italian and he's a member (of the ICC). Walker doesn't love trains. He refused $810 million destined for Wisconsin for high speed trains. He's content."
Severgnini also shot video here (Rocky Marcoux makes a cameo, and so does the exterior of Groppi's) and you can watch "Amtraked: Where the Blues Brothers Flew" here.
Best of all? For the first time in years, an Italian has talked about Milwaukee without ut…Read more...