Naples’ old town is cut in two by the famous Naples’ Spaccanapoli, or Splitter — SEE Elena Ferrante’s Naples, Then and Now, NYT
Spaccanapoli is the perfect visual metaphor for the split that exists in many Italian Americans raised in Italian-style households. We are torn between the old country and the new, between a present American life and the past. We are the product of two places, and we live with that friction.
I was at a dinner party once in Tuscany with a group of Romans. I was telling them how my great-grandfather had come from Monterotondo, a small town north of Rome. I proceeded to claim Italy for my own–I even referred to myself as an Italian–when suddenly they burst out laughing. “You’re a Yank!” cried one.
If in Italy we are laughed at when we identify as “Italian,” equally, we risk ethnic jokes and ridicule in America once our ethnicity is revealed. This “split” is a theme in my upcoming novel, Italian Love Cake, to be published by Bordighera Press, April 2021. See Italian Love Cake, a novel for details.