Chitlay: The Chinatization of Italy

Spending a month in Italy (between Venice, Florence and Rome) in February of 2018 was almost like visiting China. I had a similar experience back in 1986, spending 2 months in London, England… I felt like I had entered India. That was a bit more shocking since I was young and had not traveled internationally at all. I expected to be surrounded by “stereotypical” British people as I walked down the streets of London, but that was far from my experience. I am sure many have had this type of experience in traveling (or even in their own city).

Back to Italy… as my husband and I walked down the streets of Venice, Florence and Rome it was unusual to be in a crowd of Italians, especially in the main city streets and touristic areas, and not to mention the Museums! Most of these areas were crowded with Chinese people. In wondering about and discussing this phenomena, we assumed that the Chinese, as they have a growing economy and a growing middle class with expendable resources for travel, are tourists and have taken over the previous majority of USA/European travelers. The later have declining economies as well as a struggling middle classes.

However, I think the most interesting observation concerns souvenirs. Venice had some very interesting and actually decent quality souvenirs including decorative masks of all sizes and shapes and small glass objects that appeared to be hand made. They also have a lot of leather goods, shoes, hand bags and much more …. everything says “Made in Italy.”  As we were in Venice for 2 weeks, and walked nearly all of the islands we began to notice that all of the souvenirs, glass, leather, masks and other objects were exactly alike. Though the stores appeared to be owned by different people and some being permanent stores and some temporary street stores they were all selling the same items for nearly the same price. We would ask, are you sure this was made in Italy, the answer was always, “oh yes, everything is made here.”


At one point I was looking at some little animal shaped leather bags, and saw that it had a “made in China” tag on it. When I pointed it out to the Chinese store clerk, they said, oh that one made in China – the others made in Italy.” As she pointed to the “made in Italy” tags on the other bags. 

Oh, now we are really suspicious. After going to Florence and talking with some Italians, we found out that there is a city in Italy that is practically all Chinese called Prato. Nearly every Italian we talked to mentioned Prato. The Chinese started migrating there in the 70s. Now it is a place that does a lot of manufacturing. 

The Chinese takeover of Italy is a multifaceted situation. First, and foremost, yes, there is a major rise in Chinese tourism from China. Second, there is a growing Chinese population in Italy, that appears to be responsible for the mass production of “Made in Italy” products (perhaps attaching “made in Italy tags” to chinese made products? If they are actually making the products in Italy, is a Chinese mass production line in Italy still technically “Made in Italy?” Technically, yes, but it ruins the idea that you are supporting local artisans who are carrying on a long cultural tradition.  So, maybe a new label is needed? “Made in Chitlay.”

 A concern brought up by several Italians that we interviewed; the Chinese are migrating to Italy in mass, but that they are not integrating into Italian culture and with the Italian people. They keep to themselves and are secluded, that point is understandably troubling. But finally, a bit of good news from the opinion of every Italian interviewed, Chinese people do not appear to engage in criminal activities. They are perceived as good productive citizens… at this point.  Well done! 

More Information from the web:

Wikipedia: The city of Prato has the second largest Chinese immigrant population in Italy (after Milan with Italy’s largest Chinatown). Legal Chinese residents in Prato on 31 December 2008 were 9,927. Local authorities estimate the number of Chinese citizens living in Prato to be around 45,000, illegal immigrants included.

Read more:
Chinese Remake the ‘Made in Italy’ Fashion Label
Chinese migration brings social change to Italy’s Alps
Italy has a worse quality of life than China: survey



Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome

February 13, 2018:  Just got back from visiting St. Peter’s tomb – he is in the catacombs under St. Peter’s Basilica. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos in the catacombs where the Popes and Saint Peter are intomed. But taking photos in the basilica is allowed (without flash) and I’m very happy about that!

Getting into Saint Peter’s Basilica (which is free) was quite an amazing experience. We had gone there yesterday around noon and the line, literally, went all around the the very large circle in the front of the basilica. It was at least a 2 hour wait, but from the looks of the line the place would close before we got inside! So we decided that we would go early today.​ We left before 7am and we waited in a very short line to get through airport like security. It only took around 20 minutes to get in… great!

I was most looking forward to seeing Michelangelo’s Pieta, my favorite of his works. Unfortunately, the Piata is not only behind thick glass it is also in a roped off section, so It was about the size of an ant (it was so far away). The lighting on the sculpture was very harsh as well so it was washed out. No way to see any details. I am just trusting that we saw the real thing. Very very disappointing.  

Besides the disappointment of the Pieta, the Basilica is quite amazing. It’s 10 times larger than life and quite an awesome statement of architecture and art! It’s supposed to glorify god – but to me, it glorifies the arts, period. 

More information: The basilica was built in the Renaissance style. Its central dome, designed by Michelangelo,and dominates the skyline of Rome. It is a cruciform in shape, with an elongated nave in the Latin cross form but the early designs were for a centrally planned structure and this is still in evidence in the architecture. The central space is dominated both externally and internally by one of the largest domes in the world. The entrance is through an entrance hall, which stretches across the building. One of the decorated bronze doors leading from the narthex is the Holy Door, only opened during jubilees.

Here are some more photos I took on this visit, enjoy!

Rome, Italy: The Castel Sant’Angelo

February 12.2018:  National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo

We didn’t actually go inside the National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo because of the need to climb lots of stairs. It currently costs 14 euros each to visit. However, we had the fun of viewing it from all sides and from many areas of Rome.  Here is a bit of history of the Castel:  English: Castle of the Holy Angel), is a towering cylindrical building in Parco AdrianoRome, Italy. It was built between 134 and 139 AD. initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. The building was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum. The Castle was once the tallest building in Rome. Read more….

Here is the current website of the castel:

And here are some photos I took of this very interesting building on Feb. 12th:   


Trevi Fountain, Day 4 in Rome

February 12, 2018: Today we visited the Trevi Fountain (Italian: Fontana di Trevi)! It is said to be the largest standing 85 feet high and 65 feet wide and most ambitious of the Baroque fountains of Rome. It is located in the rione of Trevi.

The fountain at the juncture of three roads (tre vie) marks the terminal point of the “modern” Acqua Vergine, the revivified Aqua Virgo, one of the ancient aqueducts that supplied water to ancient Rome. In 19 BC, supposedly with the help of a virgin, Roman technicians located a source of pure water some 13 km (8 miles) from the city. (This scene is presented on the present fountain’s facade). However, the eventual indirect route of the aqueduct made its length some 22 km (14 miles). This Aqua Virgo led the water into the Baths of Agrippa. It served Rome for more than four hundred years. The “coup de grace” for the urban life of late classical Rome came when the Goth besiegers in 537/38 broke the aqueducts. Medieval Romans were reduced to drawing water from polluted wells and the Tiber River, which was also used as a sewer.

Day One in Rome, Italy

Today was our first day in Rome and we walked from our tiny studio AirBnB to the Colosseum or Coliseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. It was a 7 mile round trip walk (just going straight there and back). With all the extra tours and a total of 7 hour trip, I estimate close to 10 miles for the day! 

The Colosseum is an oval amphitheatre in the center of of Rome, Italy. Built of travertine marble, tuff (a light, porous rock formed by consolidation of volcanic ash), and brick-faced concrete. It is said to be the largest amphitheatre ever built.  

Address: Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma RM
Construction started: 70 AD
Opened: 80 AD
Height: 48 m

Piazzale Michelangelo

This is a bronze copy of Michelangelo’s David! It is at a Piazzale Michelangelo – which is very high on a hill! It overlooks Florence – Awesome!!!  We walked from our Apartment across the river then up a very steep hill to see the Piazzale Michelangelo. It was worth it, but I was afraid I wouldn’t make it due to my very bad knees.

It rained the whole way and by the time we got to the top we were freezing and stopped in a very nice restaurant to have drinks. We got warmed up and dry then walked back to our apartment. 



Day Two in Florence: Accademia

Accademia in Florence is also called the Museum of Michelangelo. Created by the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo in 1784 as a place of study for students of the nearby Academy of Fine Arts (Accademia di Belle Arti) which  was the first academy of drawing in Europe. The Academy Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence contains one of the most important sculptures by Michelangelo – “David.”

Accademia, though not easy to find, was absolutely amazing! I highly recommend going, if you go to Florence, Italy! It was well worth the entrance fee of 9 euros. The way they display Michelangelo’s David was extremely well designed. When you enter the corridor that houses David at the end. On each side of the corridor are unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo.  The wall color and scale of the hall and dome are perfect to display the color of the marble. 

There was also another display of plaster copies of sculptures in another large corridor off to the left of David that was very interesting. Here are some photos from that area of the museum.

Accademia Address: 

Galleria dell'Accademia - Via Ricasoli 58-60 - 50122 Firenze, Italy

Day One in Florence – The Basilica di Santa Croce

February 3, 2018:  The trip from Venice to Florence yesterday was very easy. We left our excellent 5-star AirBnB (a review will be in another post) around 10:30 am and we arrived here in Florence (AKA “Firenze”). We took a taxi from the train to our new Florence 5-star AirBnB arriving at 4:40pm. We did a quick walk to the grocery story and found that food is a bit cheaper than in Venice. Makes perfect sense since Venice has to have everything transported in and carried to the stores on boats/by foot carts.

It was very difficult to decide what to do today; the list is way too long. Academia was first on my list, but with a bit of research I found that it is free on the first Sunday of the month, which is tomorrow!! So, we decided to visit Michelangelo and Galileo’s tombs, which are housed in The Basilica di Santa Croce (see my photo above). It was an excellent choice!  Though it cost 9 euros each to get in we spent several hours looking through the main Santa Croce Basilica as well as touring through the Pazzi Chapel and even saw a leather making school(?). 

To make a long day short… I took over 400 photos and to break it down for my future failing memory, I’m listing photos in sections below:

Photos from The Basilica di Santa Croce

The Tomb of Michelangelo’  Michelangelo It is currently being worked on, so it has a scaffolding in front of it. But I was still able to capture some photos.

The Tomb of Galileo  Galileo Galilei

Other Tombs and Icons from Santa Crosa

Pazzi Chapel 




Salute – Last Day in Venice! Saint Mary of Health… :-)

Still not feeling very well, but we planned one last visit to a Basilica, specifically the Santa Maria della Salute!  Good news – this Basilica is Free and you can take photos as long as you do not use a flash!  Wonderful, Im giving them a 10 out of 10!  I would like to know more about who decides the charges as well as whether photos can be taken in Italy. Hmmmm….

More about Santa Maria della Salute… in English “Saint Mary of Health, commonly known simply as the Salute, I think I needed to visit to hopefully gain some good health!

Here is the “backstory” from Wikipedia …. Beginning in the summer of 1630, a wave of the plague assaulted Venice, and until 1631 killed nearly a third of the population. In the city, 46,000 people died whilst in the lagoons the number was far higher, some 94,000.[1] Repeated displays of the sacrament, as well as prayers and processions to churches dedicated to San Rocco and San Lorenzo Giustiniani had failed to stem the epidemic. Echoing the architectural response to a prior assault of the plague (1575–76), when Palladio was asked to design the Redentore church, the Venetian Senate on October 22, 1630, decreed that a new church would be built.[1] It was not to be dedicated to a mere “plague” or patron saint, but to the Virgin Mary, who for many reasons was thought to be a protector of the Republic.[2]

Santa Maria della Salute on the Grand Canal

It was also decided that the Senate would visit the church each year. On November 21 the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin, known as the Festa della Madonna della Salute, the city’s officials parade from San Marco to the Salute for a service in gratitude for deliverance from the plague is celebrated. This involved crossing the Grand Canal on a specially constructed pontoon bridge and is still a major event in Venice.

As usual here are a few of my photos from this, last trip in Venice!!

A few more excellent photos from the internet: