La Vita è bella: The Consul General De Riu Job

Iconic art exhibitions, culinary delights and startup initiatives are among the ideas put forward by Antonello De Riu to strengthen Italy’s soft power in the city.


With Italian National Day approaching, the top Italian envoy to Hong Kong and Macau, Antonello De Riu, reaffirms the Consulate’s continued efforts on promoting Italian culture, community and business presence in Hong Kong. 

The Italian community is well represented through the presence of Italian nationals in a diverse range of sectors. This includes banking and finance but particularly in the food and beverage sector; as wine and gourmet food importers, restaurant managers and chefs. Italian wine is currently in the high price range, but is looking to target the middle class of Hong Kong, comparable to Italy itself. The local Italian food market has been striving towards providing both affordable and high quality options for people from all classes. As De Riu mentions, the “logistic facility” of Hong Kong allows for the importation and availability of fresh and genuine Italian food and ingredients.

One of the many tools for the promotion of Italian culture, is the third-year running Bellissima Italia – the Italian version of Le French May – including a wide range of events from all sectors such as visual arts, food and beverage, ballet, music, opera, and so on. “People are now getting to know about Bellissima Italia. Last year we have been able to arrange 92 events spanning across 129 evenings.” states De Riu. “I would like to hereby invite everyone to attended the new sensorial experiences we are arranging for the 2017 edition.”

Among the projects already brought to life, the Consul General makes a special shoutout for “UN Maggio Musicale”, which was made possible under a collaboration with the Florence City Opera and Solo Musica Hong Kong. After the amazing performance in Macau on 24 May, the six leading young artists from Italy, China and Korea continued their Greater China Tour and performed at the Asia Society in Hong Kong on 25 May. More recently on 27 May, at the Lau Ming Wai Academic Building, City University Hong Kong, the team delighted the audience with outstanding performances of arias by some of Italy’s greatest opera composers, namely Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi.

Other initiatives are underway, with the Consul General and Ocean Park Hong Kong looking into the possibility of establishing a collaboration which may see the iconic theme park hosting events under Bellissima Italia. The Consulate is also exploring other projects in the food and beverage sector with important local partners, such as Towngas and Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Funding for the festival tends to be a challenging process, but the Italian Consulate has been proactively searching for supporters and possible promoters of Italian culture.

“Trade and finance remain the main pillars of our bilateral relations,” says De Riu. In fact, the Italian stock exchange, Borsa Italiana, will be in Hong Kong on 22 June to conduct B2B meetings within the Italian UniCredit Bank headquarters in Central and potentially presentations to a wider audience from the banking and finance sector.

“But culture and art are also gradually emerging as an instrument for countries aiming to gain visibility.” He recently set up a new project named ‘Italian Arts Foundation’, an exclusive partnership agreement established between ‘Museo Bellini’ based in Florence, private organisations and museums. Museo Bellini will be lending and selling from a masterpiece collection of art, transforming Hong Kong into an international hub for the dissemination of Italian arts to a wider audience across the Asian region, starting with the mainland. Museo Bellini possesses great artwork collected from five centuries of history, spanning from the Middle Ages, Baroque, Renaissance, Neoclassical until the modern and contemporary eras. The family business held an exhibition in the Museum of Nanjing during 2004, with the title “Bellini Collection Presents the Renaissance of Florence”, showcasing art by great artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raffaello Sanzio, Tiziano, Donatello, and so on. “I invite all the potential partners to join this project which, I am convinced, will have a huge impact on the city’s reputation as the new culture and business-related hub in the Asian continent.” states De Riu. There is an intention to lend or sell the pieces of art to local investors who understand the safe and stable investment of art compared to other long term investment options.

The Consulate has also remained active on the promotion of the world’s famed Italian fashion. On 25 May, De Riu officiated the first Florentia Village outlet at the KC100 complex near the Kwai Hing. The outlet is owned by leading Italian company RDM, with more than 20 years of experience in the development of luxury outlets. The ribbon cutting ceremony was officiated by De Riu alongside RDM Chief Executive Officer, Jacopo Mazzei, as well as Hong Kong-born actress and singer Myolie Wu and famed actor Sunny Wang.

According to De Riu, Italian RDM has been the first important group to believe in the potential of the Chinese luxury market, which is the the world’s fastest-growing, successfully setting up three outlets in mainland China in Tianjin, Shanghai and Guangzhou in a few years time. These outlets provide consumers a great opportunity to explore Italian fashion, culture and traditions at relatively reasonable prices. “We are convinced that newly inaugurated Florentia Village can greatly contribute to promote the awareness of Italian fashion and lifestyle among a growing number of local customers on one of our major assets, fashion.” says De Riu. The new outlet, concluded De Riu, is one of the largest foreign direct investments in Hong Kong this year.

STARTIT.ASIA is an initiative for Italian startups in Hong Kong in which five out of 60+ applied startups have been selected in Italy to travel to Hong Kong at the beginning of June. A one-week immersion programme will be conducted at the Hong Kong Science & Technology Park (HKSTP) to determine the best startup. The selected startup will receive numerous benefits and advantages, such as six months of free rent at HKSTP, support and mentorship for financial and administrative matters, media exposure, access to potential partners and investors, and possible incubation or partnership with the HKSTP. As De Riu states, “Italy is the first foreign country to establish a cooperation like this with the HKSAR government.” The initiative was organised by the Consulate General of Italy in Hong Kong, the Italian Chamber of Commerce, the financial services firm P&P, I3P (the main university-based incubator in Italy), and HKSTP, with the function of promoting Italian business involvement in Asia.

The Italian National Day reception will be held on 1 June, preceding the national day on 2 June. The formal reception will delight the palates of the guests with an exclusive catering service of food and wines (from 10 different regions) provided by 18 top Italian restaurants and Italian wine importers in the city.

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James Johnston

James is a Harbour Times intern. He studies at the University of British Columbia majoring in Economics.

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