Across China: Artists, tourists savor charm of century-old Italian neighborhood

Updated: August 16, 2023 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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TIANJIN, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- With a delightful array of Italian paintings, sculptures and photographs and a culinary experience featuring bruschetta and ravioli, a 100-year-old Italian neighborhood in north China's Tianjin Municipality is captivating flocks of artists and tourists this summer.

Abstract artist Luigi Giacobbe shared that he incorporated the hue of brick red into his paintings, drawing inspiration from the encompassing walls of ancient Chinese architecture. "It's an effort to integrate Chinese elements into my works," he explained to visitors during his art exhibition at the Italian Art House.

The art house, which opened in April this year, is one of the 118 such properties in downtown Tianjin's Italian-Style Area, a 400,000-square-meter neighborhood established in 1902.

With exhibitions, lectures and concerts, the place serves as a platform for local residents to relish Italian music, art and culture, said Johnny Wang, curator of the Italian Art House.

Giacobbe, one of the five artists-in-residence at the art house, said he loves observing ancient Chinese architecture and finds them highly inspirational in his artistic creation.

The artist came to China in 2015, after traveling and living in different countries around the world. He chose to stay in Tianjin and pursue his artistic endeavors in this century-old Italian-style neighborhood because it feels like "a time travel."

The houses in the neighborhood, featuring Gothic, Roman and Baroque architectures, were all designed by Italian architects and renovated in recent decades to retain their original styles, said Liu Zongjin, director of the Italian-Style Area's management committee.

Today, this area is the best-preserved Italian architectural complex in Asia and home to commercial and cultural centers that draw Chinese and Italian investors, artists and tourists, Liu added.

Pop musician Alberto Casartelli recently held a small outdoor concert in this neighborhood, enthralling the audiences with Italian ballads and popular Chinese songs. He said he is committed to promoting Italian art in China and fostering a connection between Italian music and Chinese culture.

An Italian language teacher by profession, Casartelli has also composed many songs with the help of his Chinese wife. Among his compositions is an Italian ballad based on "The Butterfly Lovers," a poignant love story popularly known as the Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet.

Renato Pegoraro, 74, said he is thrilled to see his Italian restaurant bustling with customers, as the neighborhood is experiencing a surge in visitors this summer.

The restaurant imports most of its ingredients from Italy to preserve the authentic flavors of the dishes.

Pegoraro said he was encouraged by his friends to open this restaurant in Tianjin almost 20 years ago, and he feels very much at home here as the Italian neighborhood evokes fond memories of his hometown.

Editor: Gao Jingyan