Journalist discovers stories behind US cities and towns with Italian names

Alberto Giuffre's adventures documented in his new book 'Un'Altra America'


Did you ever wonder, why NAPLES, Florida? Or MILAN, Ohio? 

One Italian journalist turned this puzzle into an enlightening voyage across the United States, from Venice, Calif., to Verona, N.J., and six other towns or cities in-between.

Alberto Giuffre, who works for Fox’s sister network Sky Italia in Milan, talks about how his recent odyssey came about.

“I have always been fascinated by the United States -- of course -- I knew about Venice, California, but once I spotted on the map other towns with these names that sounded familiar to me, I decided I would like to learn much more about it.”

Venice became the starting point for Giuffre. Before being incorporated into Los Angeles, it was a seaside town, built up by a tobacco baron to channel the Italian Venice as a gimmick to draw tourists. Now it’s better known as Silicon Beach.

From there, it was on to Genoa, Nevada; Palermo, North Dakota; Milan, Ohio; Florence, Alabama; Rome, Georgia; Naples, Florida and finally, Verona, New Jersey. In 20 days, he took planes, rented cars, got lost, made friends, and took lots of pictures.

Giuffre hails from Palermo, Sicily. The Palermo in North Dakota, with just about 80 inhabitants, he tells me, was named after the Italian workers who built its railway. The man who surveyed Florence, Alabama, was a native of Tuscany, where the original Florence sits. Rome, in Georgia, was pulled out of a hat of possible European names.  

What Giuffre loved more than the stories behind the names of these American towns was the simple act of discovering them. As he points out, not many American tourists seek out these places. Much less foreigners.

“That’s the best part, I think, because you can discover a lot of beautiful people, a lot of secrets in these towns, little stories.”

For each stop he sought out an angle -- the oil boom around Palermo, North Dakota; a visit to Thomas Edison’s grandson in Milan, Ohio; friendship with Italian-American actor Alex Corrado in Verona, New Jersey; and a visit to the Muscle Shoals recording studios in Florence, Alabama.

“I love music, so it was very wonderful to have the chance to visit Muscle Shoals studios which is a studio where many artists -- just to name a few: the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin -- recorded their music down in Florence, Alabama.”

His friends thought he was crazy to set off on such an ambitious trip all by himself, but now, they can’t get enough of his stories, laid out in his book, Un’Altra America (Another America).

Amy Kellogg currently serves as a Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent based in Milan, Italy. She joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999 as a Moscow-based correspondent. Follow her on Twitter: @amykelloggfox