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!

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:  

January 29th – We saw CARS today!!!

Today we decided to duplicate the very nice walk of last night. We walked across the Rialto Bridge and though the center of the middle peninsula to the train station, Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia (called: “Ferrovia” in all the signs around Venice). But we didn’t quite make it … instead wandering all the way to the Giardino Papadopoli and then suddenly we reached the Garage San Marco Venezia!! And there were CARS!!  We haven’t seen cars, trucks, busses even bicycles since we arrived nearly 10 days ago!  It was almost like … culture shock. We were heading toward the train station and thought we should be close. In addition, we didn’t know there were cars on the islands, so it was a very interesting experience. 

Meanwhile we did pass up paying €€€ to view several churches. It’s amazing that they are charging anywhere from €3 to €12 Euros (each) to view a church!! Especially since they also forbid taking photos. We went into one church, and saw people taking photos and no one saying anything about it. But, unless I am sure I can take photos, I do not want to pay. Compared to France – churches are all FREE and you can take photos. France 1, Italy 0.

Saint Marcos Basilica, which we viewed a few days ago is one of the biggest and grandest basilicas we have seen so far in Venice was FREE to view. But taking photos was forbidden and they were yelling at people who tried! Sad because I want to take my own photos so that I own the copyright and can use them as references in my artwork. <sigh>  🙁 There are a couple more basilicas we have not viewed yet – hopefully we will get to them before we leave on Friday for Florence!  

Here are some photos I took today…..


January 28th a day of festival!!

Today was a day of fun & festival in the Rio di Cannergio area of Venice. We walked over in the morning and wow – the crowds have grown huge in the last couple of days! I took photos just to try to capture the sea of people walking around the city!

We met some “Americans” in a cute local pub (a block away from our apartment) two nights ago and they said they had come just for 2 days and to see Festa Veneziana on the water – First Part One and Two. We had not heard of it so I looked it up on the internet. If you want to see more check out this LINK. The first day was an opening last night… but since I woke up with a sore throat yesterday and felt really bad by the evening we didn’t attend the “Part One” evening show. Here is a bit of new about the show we missed:

Starting to come down with a cold, I was concerned that I wouldn’t feel good enough to go out today for “Part Two”, but it’s amazing how much a few Ibuprofen can help! It actually helped my with my knees as well.

We found the event easily by walking toward the train station. The crowds have certainly grown huge! The canal was lined by groves of people all waiting for the event to start? There was a lot of talking over a loud speaker – I didn’t understand any of it. Then some boats arrived carrying, what we guessed was food! Lots of food! We stood by the bridge for a while, waiting for something to happen, but nothing much happened… on the water. So we walked down the sidewalk and ran into some lines – they were giving out food!

So, we found the end to one very long line and waited out turn! As it turned out, like my mother warned me, in Italy it is ok to “cut in front of the line.” Yes, I saw it in the grocery store once. A lady who just wanted to buy a single chocolate bar asked to jump in front – no one minded. However, on this occasion, waiting in line for free food & drinks? Well, my “USA” patience ran dry. We waited in line behind some very patient Italians … as what I eventually found to be very rude foreigners to be cutting in. When Amar and I finally got to the place to get food (after nearly an hour) a englishing speaking girly-girl tried to cut in front of me. She was maybe around 20 year old and I had spied her with a group of her friends 5 minutes earlier trying to cut in… I told her, ‘Sorry – there is no emergency here and we had been waiting in the line for over an hour. She needs to go in the back of the line.’ I said a few other choice things based on frustration and hunger. LOL! I really detest young women trying to use their “looks” to get things the easy way. Hmmm….

The food and drink was good and the boat parade was excellent! Here are a few photos from the day!


January 27th, Trip to Cimitario

Today we sent to Isola di San Michele, AKA “Cimitario.” It is an island north of the main island we are staying on. Actually, we saw it on our first walk, our first day in Venice and had no idea what it was. A quick search on Google Maps answered the question. So, as soon as I found out what it was, I wanted to visit. One might say that I have a morbid interest in how cultures take care of their dead… not too unusual – I think. And I may have found some distant relatives as well!

To see Cimitatio you have to cross the water. As of yesterday, we had not taken a boat trip. We have been touring Venice for over a week – on foot. We priced tickets and visiting Cimitario would cost around 16 to 18 euros for both of us. That with the 14 for us to go to the train station the day we leave we opted for the 7 day pass each… 120 euros, but we can travel as much as we like city wide and to most of the little surrounding islands. You can see more about the travel cards and downloading the Venice travel Ap here.

OK, now for my “tips & tricks” concerning taking the public water buses in Venice…. get ready to jump on and jump off as soon as the boat pulls up to the dock. They do not wait! We were sitting in the lower part of boat 4.1 on the way to Cimitario; the boat was packed with people!! When we knew we were almost the Cimitario stop – we got up and started toward the upper part of the boat and the driver barely stopped –  and then BOOM – we were headed for the next stop! What?! So, get ready ahead of time and perhaps yell? We ended up on another island called Murano. And waited for another waterbus to get to our goal.

I must admit that it was great getting out on the water for the first time! A whole new view of Venice! Here are the photos of Cimitario as well as my first water photos!

Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Lyon

We visited the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste on January 16th 2018, and it was very interesting. It was easy to walk to from our place between the two rivers. This Cathédrale is in the old city.

  • Architectural styles:  Gothic architecture and Romanesque architecture
  • Opened:1480
  • Region: Rhône-Alpes

The most interesting item in the Cathedral is the Astronomical Clock. Here is some more information about the clock I found through research:

Astronomical clock

The astronomical clock of the Primatiale is one of the oldest in Europe.
After Cluny (1340, now disappeared), Strasbourg (1354), it is in Lyon in 1379 that a clock clockwork with astronomical mechanisms is installed. The first document relating the existence of the clock of the cathedral dates from 1383.

The clock is composed of a square tower of 1.80 meters side surmounted by an octagonal turret in which evolve automatons. Two fixed statuettes represent the first two bishops of Lyon: Saint Pothin and Saint Irénée. The work ends with a dome supporting a rooster that rises 9 meters above the ground (the total height is 9.35 m).

The clock rang every day at 12:00, 14:00, 15:00 and 16:00. The automata then start moving: An angel on the left turns his hourglass, another on the right makes the conductor Rooster sings 3 times, raises neck, opens bill, flaps wings Three of the six angels surrounding “The Heavenly Father” operate the hammers of the bells playing the hymn of St. John the Baptist: “So that we may sing the marvelous facts of your life, wash the sin that defiles our mouth, O Saint John the Baptist

  • UT queant laxis
  • REsonacre fibris
  • MIra gestorum
  • FAmuli tuorum
  • Pollute SOLVE
  • LAbii reatum
  • Sancte Ioannes.

The Swiss turns quickly, starts his round, salutes with his head and hand Mary turns to the Angel Gabriel, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descends from the ceiling that opens “The Heavenly Father” blesses his people by three times The Swiss finish his round while the big bell under the cock sounds the new time

To complete the perpetual calendar, an ecclesiastical almanac specifies in particular the dates of Ash Wednesday (first day of Lent), Easter, Ascension, Pentecost and Advent until 2019.





Here are some more photos from today’s adventure:

Visiting Montmartre Cemetery on my birthday

January 14th, 2018 I turned 54, yes I’m getting old! And I have been looking forward to visiting Montmartre Cemetery since I first saw it when exploring the sights of Paris. So, today is the day! The address is 20 Avenue Rachel, 75018 Paris, France, which is with in walking distance to our AirBnB. Most of it is situated below a bridge we cross to go to downtown Paris. So, more steps, but much less than the Bicillica! And I think it will be worth it.

So, the trip was very good, cold and lots of walking, but very interesting. There are many different graves, old and new in the same place. It would be interesting to know more about the history of the cemetery. This is all I could find when searching online:

History In the mid-18th century, overcrowding in the cemeteries of Paris had created numerous problems, from impossibly high funeral costs to unsanitary living conditions in the surrounding neighborhoods. In the 1780s, the Cimetière des Innocents was officially closed and citizens were banned from burying corpses within the city limits of Paris. During the early 19th century, new cemeteries were constructed outside the precincts of the capital: Montmartre in the north, Père Lachaise Cemetery in the east, Passy Cemetery in the west and Montparnasse Cemetery in the south.

The Montmartre Cemetery was opened on January 1, 1825. It was initially known as la Cimetière des Grandes Carrières (Cemetery of the Large Quarries).[1] The name referenced the cemetery’s unique location, in an abandoned gypsum quarry. The quarry had previously been used during the French Revolution as a mass grave. It was built below street level, in the hollow of an abandoned gypsum quarry located west of the Butte near the beginning of Rue Caulaincourt in Place de Clichy. As is still the case today, its sole entrance was constructed on Avenue Rachel under Rue Caulaincourt.[2] A popular tourist destination, Montmartre Cemetery is the final resting place of many famous artists who lived and worked in the Montmartre area.

See the full list of notable interments here.

More photos that I took are here:






Visiting the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris

Today we visited the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. The featured image above was taken in the summer I believe – but it is quite a nice photo of the Basilica, so I prefered it for the TOP! I’ll be posting my photos later on in this blog post. First, I must say, the steps were killer… besides being on the 4th floor for our AirBnB apartment (with no elevator) I have discovered that climbing stairs is really killing my knees… very painful, and going down stairs is even worse. I’ll be planning around that in all future travel. So, the number of stairs required to visit this Basilica are quite dramatic.

The Basilica is very pretty when looking up at it from a couple blocks from where we are staying. But as you climb up to see it, it quite stunning. According to internet research it is a minor Basilica, and seeing this one before the larger ones like Notre Dame is probably best.

Quick facts about The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica and often simply Sacré-Cœur, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Paris, France.Wikipedia

Here are some photos of the Basilica today:

MIA Animation Figure Drawing Workshop Postmortem

Figure Drawing Workshop
MIA Animation 2017 , Conference and Festival, Wolfson Campus, October 13 and 14, 2017

I had an awesome time at the MIA Animation Conference & Festival on Friday, Oct. 13 and Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, at MDC’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami. 

I gave four Figure Drawing workshops (2 for high school students and 2 for conference goers). I also reviewed student portfolios and judged the Animation Competition. I have been attending the MIA Animation Conference for 6 years, of the 7 years they have been in existence. Each year the conference is bigger and better.

Here are some photos that I took at the conference… met some great students & professionals!