Bobby Tanzilo's Blog - OnMilwaukee.com - August 3, 2010
The UW-Milwaukee Panthers announced a slate of four games in northern Italy this month. I held out hope they'd be going to Casale Monferrato, but it's not happening.
I often check the back pages of Il Monferrato, the Italian newspaper that's delivered to my house and for which I've written on a few occasions. That's where they keep the basketball coverage. Although Casale always has at least a couple American players, I've yet to see any with a Milwaukee connection.
When I heard the Panthers were headed to northwest Italy, I thought maybe these worlds would collide.
(There are a few other connections between Casale and Milwaukee, like the DeGiovanni family from Casale, which runs the Golosi gelateria in Oconomowoc; the Zerand company in New Berlin is owned by Casale-based Cerutti; Casale's Buzzi Unicem cement company has a small depot in the Valley across 6th Street from the Harley Museum; and Waukesha's Rose Glen School students have long had a pen pal relationship with a school in Casale, too.
The Panthers, instead, will play Lombardia of the B2 league on Aug. 18. Next they head to Livorno, on the Tuscan coast, to play that city's B2 team on Aug. 20.
Then they head back north to the region of Lombardy to face the Serie A2 team from Treviglio, a town I've only seen from the train on the way to visit my cousins in Bergamo, on Aug. 21. UWM wraps up its tour on Aug. 23 against another B2 squad, Brianza Select, from Brianza (another city in Lombardy).
Milwaukee isn't a city with a lot of Italian-Americans with Lombardian roots. For that you've got to head to St. Louis, where two of the greatest Lombardian-American sports figures -- Yogi Berra (with roots in Cuggiono) and Joe Garagiola (Inveruno) -- were neighbors as boys.
I hope the Panthers play some great basketball in Italy, but I also hope they get time to look around, taste the food, meet the people and have a great time getting to know one of the loveliest parts of the world.
And when they get back, I hope they kick some butt when their season starts.
My advice for them in Italy: while in the neighborhood, stop in and check out the Milwaukee 50's Diner in Varedo. And tell 'em we said howdy.
You can follow the Panthers' escapes in Italy via the team blog.