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



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:  

Home & Sick…. :-(

Today I slept – pretty much all day. It’s the first day I didn’t step foot out of the house since I started this trip January 10th. And, I am shaking my fist in the air, “Airbourne why did you let me down??!!” Haha, just kidding. I did get very relaxed about taking my travel airbourne… and missed several days. I began taking it again once the symptoms started. Not sure if it would have helped by taking it more religiously? Oh well. It is now evening and the good news is I am feeling a little better. Maybe the worst is over.

Our 14th day in Venice and only one day left!

A Slow Day in Venice … 1-30-2018

Trying to keep going, though definitely sick is an interesting challenge. I’m sure most have experienced getting sick on a trip and you are counting all the money you spent on it and want to get the most out of a special travel opportunity. And for me, a ground hugger, and not much into travel it is really driving me crazy. Oh well… 

Today we went on the boat to the train station, so we can explore that area more… we have only rushed by in the past. It’s nice to just show your phone ap pass and jump on a boat! 

My main observations & musings for today are:

  1. 1. Wow these people eat a lot of sweets!!
  2. 2. Awesome Glass…
  3. 3. Awesome Puppets
  4. 4. …..  and Masks! I’ll go into the details of “made in Italy” in a later blog post.
  5. 5. Did I mention that traveling while sick is a drag?  YES!

Only 2 days left in Venice!

Enjoy today’s Photos…

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!

San Marco … enough said

What can one say about the most famous and one of the oldest Basilica in Venice? Breathtaking? Amazing? Inspiring? All of the above? Want to go straight to their website? Here is a direct link – great info:

The photos of the building online do not do it justice and my photos do not either. It is huge and quite detailed. Amar said, “It is supposed to show the greatness of god and it actually shows the greatness of man.” I couldn’t have said it better. The amount to time, resources and craftsmanship that went into the designing and building is mind boggling. The photos (even professional) fail to show the detail… the golden images are mosaics, made of very tiny tiles. From a distance they look like paintings… almost. Quite amazing.

Want more information? Another great source for information about traveling in Italy is Jen’s Reviews! Follow this link to check out her website:

Some quick Wiki info:

45°26′04″N 12°20′23″ECoordinates45°26′04″N 12°20′23″E
Location Venice
Country Italy
Denomination Roman Catholic
Website Saint Mark’s Basilica
Earlier dedication 1084, 1093, 1102
Consecrated 1117
Status Cathedralminor basilica
Style Italo-Byzantine and Gothic
Groundbreaking 978
Completed 1092
Length 76.5 metres (251 ft)
Width 62.5 metres (205 ft)
Number of domes 5
Dome height (outer) 43 metres (141 ft)
Dome height (inner)

Here are my photos for those interested in seeing more. If you ever get to Venice, San Marco should be first on your list of places to visit!  🙂

Here are some nice photos from the internet…..