In a small Italian village called La California, people set up fake polling stations every 4 years for US elections. Atlas Obscura published an article about the settlement and its origins on Tuesday.
With a population of just over 1,000, as a settlement it dates back to the Paleolithic, and reached a peak during the Etruscan civilization in the first millennium BC. But it wasn’t until around 1860, when Tuscany joined the Kingdom of Italy—just a decade after California became America’s 31st state—that Italy’s own California was born. Eventually it would come to feel a kinship with its much larger namesake half a world away.
There’s a debate over where the name came from—the most famous related to Italian conmen promising Sicilians the joy of California, only to take them to Tuscany and keeping their money.
Lost and bamboozled, it is said, the Southern migrants named the town after their hoped-for destination. But Andrenacci has proven this story wrong, with evidence that the village called La California before that time.
There’s also a story starring Buffalo Bill:
Another legend involves the 1890 European tour of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West circus, and a challenge to local cowboys, called butteri. Andrenacci throws cold water on this one as well, and in his book California, Oltre il mito (California, Behind the Myth) offers another solution to the mystery: a man named Leonetto Cipriani.