Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni receives an interview with Chinese media at Palazzo Chigi in Rome, Italy, on May 10, 2017. Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has said that Italy and China had a lot to give each another in terms of tourism and cultural cooperation because they are both ancient civilizations "that strike the popular imagination." (Xinhua/Jin Yu)
by Stefania Fumo
ROME, May 11 (Xinhua) -- Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has said that Italy and China had a lot to give each another in terms of tourism and cultural cooperation because they are both ancient civilizations "that strike the popular imagination."
The Italian prime minister made the remarks Wednesday in an interview with several Rome-based Chinese media outlets before attending the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on May 14 and 15.
"I think cultural cooperation between our two countries has been extraordinarily positive overall, and I believe more steps forward can be made," Gentiloni said.
He said the culture ministries of both countries were working together on a number of projects, for example "the fact that Italy and China are the two countries in the world with the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites."
"Ours are two civilizations that strike the popular imagination," he said, citing ancient Rome, the Renaissance, and the appeal of contemporary Italian culture, food, fashion, and design.
Gentiloni said there had been a significant growth in the number of Chinese tourists to Italy in the past ten years, something he hoped would continue to grow.
"All the premises are there to beat the already excellent records we have set," Gentiloni said.
"We are an open country, a safe country," Gentiloni added, citing recent joint Italian and Chinese police patrols in various Italian cities to guarantee the safety of Chinese tourists in the country.
The year 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Italy and China, a milestone target that could be a good objective to multiply cultural cooperation as well as tourism.
On a more personal note, the Italian prime minister remembered his first ever visit to China in 1988, a honeymoon journey with his wife of almost 30 years, Italian architect Emanuela Mauro.
"We took Air China from Rome to Beijing in 1988," recalled Gentiloni vividly.
"As always, visits to countries so rich in history make a lasting impression -- it's one thing to see the Great Wall or the Terracotta Army of Xi'an in pictures, it's quite another to see them up close," he said, "it was a marvelous experience."