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



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