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The Italian Name Thing

July 8, 2022

If you’re reading this, you know that I have an Italian last name. That’s obvious or is it?

I am actually Tirolean, not Italian. It is a thin difference but one that has always meant the world to me. My family hails from Cloz, a village of 750 inhabitants located in the Val di Non of what was Austria. After the First World War, the ownership of the land passed from Austria to Italy but the people, culture and even the language have always been Tirolean. The Tirol basically stretches from Innsbruck, Austria south to Northern Italy and includes the Val di Non.

When I was child, I used to ask myself, “Why didn’t my parents name me something Italian sounding like Giuseppe Rizzi instead of a cross-bred name like Allen Rizzi.” I looked into this question in earnest as an adult and found that my baptism name was actually Picolo Alessandro di Eugenio Valentino Von Rizzi Regin. Apparently that was too much a mouthful so my name was altered and shortened to simply Allen Eugene Rizzi.

But through the years there was always that Italian name thing. I remember that in the book (and movie) The Godfather, the Rizzi character was not to be trusted because he was “from the north and not a Sicilian.” I have been asked thousands of times, seriously and jokingly, if I am connected to the Mafia. Oh hell no! The trouble is that when people hear my last name, that is often the first thing that pops into their head.

I recall an evening in the mid 1970’s. I was out on the first date with a young lady when she suddenly said, “Oh, you must eat a lot of pasta.” I replied, “Not really and most of my black friends don’t eat watermelon.” That type of stereotyping has followed me most of my life. (See: Once Upon A Time In Northridge)

To this day my friends in the U.S. insist on making mafia references and calling me their paesano. I am often referred to as that Italian guy.  When I quietly protest and remind them that I am Tirolean, an unwanted history lesson most always ensues. You can get the funny version here: The Tirolean American Experience

The Italian name thing: I suppose it is destined to linger to the end of my days. Che voi da me?

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4 Comments
  1. Vsii permalink

    Allen,Can you re-email me your recent write up on the Franch family? Some how I made it disappear even though I still have all you other write ups, which I thoroughly enjoy. I will be visiting my cousin tomorrow and want to show it to her as her maiden name wasFranch.Nello

    Sent from the all new AOL app for iOS

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How interesting Allen. Your longer name is simply lovely. Being a Caggiano I understand some of that. I gladly gave up my maiden name. We are all immigrants except for perhaps the native Americans. I like your title of the post too. Hope you two have an amazing weekend. 🦋❤️🤗

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve learned some about the Tirol from you, and that got me doing some more searching. Your history, and the history of the Tirol, is fascinating to me. Good job, Allen. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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