NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — An Italian tourist in Nashville to see his favorite band perform at the Grand Ole Opry noticed a problem in the city that would end up contributing to his death.
Matteo Barattieri, 57, was a Blondie “groupie” according to his friends, and they said for decades he would spend his vacations following artist Debbie Harry around when she was on tour. However, when the rockstar performed in Nashville on August 24, it was his last concert when he was killed in a hit-and-run crash on McGavock Pike near Brownwood Drive.
On Facebook, Barattieri was posting before and directly after the concert that walking from his hotel to downtown Nashville and other attractions was difficult.
“[T]here is no pedestrian road that comes directly from the hotel to the city center (downtown, in short). And yes, the structure that houses me is in a residential area. The hotel lady was obviously embarrassed, after all, to show me a walking route. OpenStreetMap took care of us, via application,” he wrote the day of the concert.
Then, after the concert, he posted a photo of a dark empty street with no sidewalks and wrote, “And now on my way back, after the show. Walking. Some kilometers. As usual, after a Blondie gig. Along McGavock Pike. Nashville.”
According to Metro police, Barattieri was found by the Nashville Fire Department around 2:30 p.m. the day after the concert and is presumed to have died shortly before then. Police said a witness saw a white Nissan Altima leaving the scene around the time of the crash, but that roadway evidence suggests the car was a Dodge Ram pickup.
An environmentalist, Barattieri’s childhood friend Franco Gengotti said when he traveled, Barattieri always tried to walk or bike and avoid cars if at all possible.
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“He had two big passions two big loves: nature and the park and the Blondie group,” Gengotti said.
Gengotti remembers how he and Barattieri would work on preservation projects around Italy. In particular, Barattieri was a fierce advocate for preserving Monza Park in their northern Italy town, the largest enclosed park in Europe.
“We [fought] together against the many situations where the integrity of the park [was] involved,” he said.
Naffie Njie with Walk Bike Nashville, a nonprofit that advocates for more walking and biking paths in Nashville, said the loss of another person to a hit-and-run is difficult but she isn’t surprised this happened.
“It sends a message that if you are coming here and you want to walk or bike and you don’t want just drive… you won’t be safe. You can be hit on the road at any time,” Njie said.
Yet despite his comments about the walkability of the city, Gengotti said his friend wanted to come back to Nashville one day with him. Gengotti said one of the last messages he got from the man he has known throughout his life was that he had found a great spot for their next movie.
In a post, Blondie wrote a small tribute to their devoted fan of many years, “Riposa in pace, Matteo. We will never forget you.”
After this story was published, District 15 Metro Council member Jeff Syracuse, whose district includes the site of the hit-and-run tweeted, “Heartbreaking. This stretch of McGavock does have a plan for sidewalks, they just need to be funded. I asked the Traffic & Parking Commission to lower the speed limit from 40 to 35 last year, which they did, but it’s still a speedway through this residential area.”