An artist performs Tai Chi to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year in downtown Rome, Italy, Jan. 28, 2017. (Xinhua/Jin Yu)
by Alessandra Cardone
ROME, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- A cheerful parade through the city center kicked off the celebrations for the Chinese New Year in the Italian capital on Saturday, which has lately become a traditional and long-awaited event here.
Dancers, martial artists and acrobats from China's Henan province performed before a large crowd, which then gathered in Piazza del Popolo in the city's historic heart.
Organized by the Chinese Embassy in Italy with the patronage of the Italian ministry of culture, the feast represented one of the key events marking the beginning of the Year of the Rooster across the country.
"This is the fourth or the fifth time I have come, I am not sure... and it is always great fun," Marinella, a pensioner from Rome, told Xinhua.
This year, she said she wanted to bring her two-year-old nephew Sami as well, to allow him to get a "first touch" of a different culture.
Though looking a little scared by the acrobats performing amazing contortions on the stage, the child visibly enjoyed the music, colorful masks and the presence of so many other children around him.
One of the largest celebrations of the Spring Festival in Europe has been held in Rome in the latest years. The 2017 indeed marked the seventh edition of this festivity in the Italian capital, as Chinese Ambassador to Italy Li Ruiyu recalled in a brief welcome message to the spectators.
"This is a day of joy and happiness also for the city of Rome," Li told the audience."The 2017 is the Year of the Rooster, which, in Chinese traditional culture, symbolizes patience, strength, courage, compassion and reliability," he added.
On her side on the stage, Rome mayor Virginia Raggi also stressed the symbolic and cultural value of the event.
"We know the rooster symbolizes, among other things, industriousness and business attitude," the mayor said.
"These traits are best represented by the Chinese people, and by the Chinese community that is one of the largest and most integrated in our city."
Welcoming the arrival of the 2017 Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, meant something slightly different, according to the people in the square.
For many children around, it was a way to play together and experience a show unusual for them.
For Ivan Illomei, 38, it was a chance to get in touch again with the Chinese culture, which he appreciated.
"I have worked twice as a communication expert in China -- for some six months and four months, respectively -- and I have learned to love it."
"Today, I wanted to bring also my two daughters to enjoy all of this," Illomei told Xinhua.
Diana and Sofia, his little girls, said they were especially captured by a graceful female dancer performing acrobatics, and by the Kung Fu athletes.
To Mr. Hu and his two sons, on the other hand, the celebrations in Piazza del Popolo were an occasion to rejoin their own roots. The entrepreneur has been living and working in Rome for the last three years.
"This is a good opportunity to reconnect with our own traditions and home culture, and especially for my two children," Hu said.