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Black Travelers’ Experiences with Racism in Italy

  • March 16, 2023
  • 8 min read
Black Travelers’ Experiences with Racism in Italy

It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that Italy has issues with racism, even if it is generally considered to be a liberal country. For instance, the overwhelming majority of the population is in fact White, i.e. native Italians. Italy is found in Western Europe, a part of the world that deals with a considerable number of foreigners who want to migrate and settle there. But the mainland Italian population is lot less diverse than some of the neighboring countries.

Furthermore, Western Europe was at the forefront of the phenomenon we have come to know as racism.  According to some scholars, racism was not the cause of the global colonialism Western Europeans idealized and practiced but rather served as a justification to rationalize that inhumane yet extremely-profitable institution. 

In any event it became part and parcel of the European psyche, including that of Italians, who may not have been major colonizers but were involved nonetheless. So all things considered, no one should presume that Italy is racism-free. To the contrary, due to the vast number of Whites, the natives may even be emboldened to mistreat foreigners more than the likes of the French or Spanish would. And unfortunately, some Italians have been called out in that regard.

The Racist Experiences in Italy

We start this list with the experiences of TikToker Artemis (@faeiryne), who has over 100,000 followers to her name. She is noticeably of African descent, though not extremely so and according to her own account has traveled throughout Europe.

During one recent excursion to Italy, alongside a couple of her Caucasian friends, Artemis was, surprisingly and to her chagrin, met with numerous instances of what we will refer to as unwarranted racism. In other words, certain individuals, such as this random lady on a train and a pair of unscrupulous transportation workers, went out of their way to offend her.

There was also at least one incident where her White friends had to deal with being disrespected just for being alongside her. But for the most part, they were given noticeably preferential treatment as compared to Artemis, along the lines of being spoken to by Italian citizens who concurrently ignored their Black companion. 

And no, all of this did not transpire in some remote Italian village but rather within Rome, the world-famous capital city, itself.

We were refused service at a Restaurant in Venice

Then there’s another TikToker who operates under the handle @insidevoices.io and is very visibly a Black male. He recounted a situation where he and “his partner” were basically refused service at a restaurant in Venice, while others, i.e. the White patrons, did not encounter such treatment whatsoever. 

In the process of telling his story online, he also responded to naysayers who simply cannot believe that Italians are racist. Or put otherwise, there are obviously people who dismiss such tales as fabrications.

An interesting Case

In response to Artemis, @meg-lpz talked about how she experienced racism in Italy across the board. The interesting thing in her case is that, by the looks of things, she could pass for Italian, since many of Italy’s natives have a darker tone, which is often described as them possessing olive skin, as compared to other Europeans. 

So @meg_lpz’s problems actually developed upon different Italians she had to deal with discovering that she’s from Iran. And she had to contend with some serious issues as a result, such as being hated on by professors and real estate agents, as well as going unemployed for three solid years. 

Indeed, the situation was so dire that the person who did eventually hire her, who is an Italian, the TikToker credits with ‘saving her life’, as otherwise she would have ended up homeless. And as a side note, she was also privy to the racism some Africans dealt with, including a student from Nigeria who was astounded at how some Italians mistreated him based solely on his skin color.

No Evidence of Racism

You may notice that none of the incidences mentioned above are actually provable acts of racism, if you will. This is something that @insidevoices.io also pointed out. Ultimately he and his friend were turned away from said restaurant based on a flimsy excuse that one of the employees gave them, which according to him, only applied to them and no one else. 

So he knows that they were victims of racism even though he cannot actually prove it, unless maybe he went through some lengthy and costly court battle.

And that appears to be the modus operandi of racist Italians. Occasionally you may come across an extreme case, such when a street vendor from Nigeria was murdered in the city of Civitanova Marche. But there are more common, less-overt ways the racist Italians can express their dislike of outsiders.

Racism is Shameful and Evil

Some people may be reading this and thinking to themselves ‘what’s the big deal?’  You know how the old saying goes, ‘sticks and stones’, etc. But as someone who has been the victim of this type of racism myself (though not in Italy), I can tell you that it is indeed painful.

In the grand scheme of things, some random A-hole acting like you’re less than human because you’re of a different race isn’t going to change the course of your life. But as human beings, we are emotionally affected when others, even strangers, mistreat us. 

And having someone diss you in a certain way and then later realizing ‘oh, it’s because of the color of my skin is really bothersome because, as Martin Luther King Jr. implied, that is not a valid basis upon which to judge someone. But this is the world we live in.

Sicily, on the Other Hand…

Sicily is the large island found just southwest of the Italian mainland. And their closest points, these two land masses are only separated by 2 miles (i.e. 3 kilometers) of water. 

In fact, you may not even know that Sicily is separated from the rest of Italy unless you look really closely at a map. But it is and, due to its even more strategic positioning in the Mediterranean, has a distinct culture and history as compared to the rest of the country.

Or more simply put, the primary difference between Sicilians and mainland Italians, from a historical perspective, is that Sicily has dealt more with outsiders from the Mediterranean region, including intermixing with these people of darker complexion. 

So not only can it be said that they have more experience with the likes of Middle Easterners and North Africans, but that experience is literally in their blood.

As such, Sicily has been identified as the one part of Italy where racism is a lot less extant. This is a reality that has been verified by TikToker @q2travel, who has lived in Sicily for a good three years. She also has experience traveling throughout the rest of the nation. 

Based on her account, Sicilians are actually known as “the Black people of Italy” and experience prejudice from their countrymen accordingly. And this is in part due to Sicilians being noticeably darker (or more Africanized, as she put it) than average Italians.

Sicily, a friendly destination for the colored traveler?

So when you combine the above factors, i.e. their diverse DNA, multicultural history and own experiences with being racism, Sicilians aren’t prone to act racist towards outsiders

And this is a reality that has been buttressed by the commenters on q2travel’s video, many of whom, like the TikToker herself, are Black and have experience in Sicily or with Sicilians. They are depicted as not only being cool with non-Whites but furthermore friendly towards them. So the lesson here is that if as a non-European you are compelled to go to Italy, than Sicily would be more ideal location than the mainland.

In Conclusion

Italy is an extremely popular country, and in the grand scheme of things petty, racist Italians probably aren’t going to change that perception. But if you are a non-White and decide to venture there, then you should be mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with random acts of racism.

That said, it is imperative to note that many Black and Asian travelers have reported having positive travel experiences in Italy. Not everybody in Italy is racist towards non-White visitors. For example, we’ve highlighted Sicilians as having a deeply-embedded tolerance and even liking towards outsiders. But racism exists everywhere and is ultimately unavoidable. This ignorant way of thinking does not exist solely in Italy. It is sadly alive and kicking in every region of the world.

About Author

GreetingsFromAbroad

GreetingsfromAbroad.com is a travel blog founded by keen traveler, writer and experienced digital nomad, Kojo Enoch. Currently Kojo lives on the beautiful, sunny island of Malta. This website is run by a solid team of expert digital nomads,  avid travelers, photographers and writers from all over the world.

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