The Italian Concession is unique in history, because it is probably the only Italian colonial territory in all of the Far East. It was established in 1901 and was governed by the then-Kingdom of Italy till 1947.
In my view, it is certainly the most beautiful of all of the concessions in Tientsin, with a very distinctive style. It has also been the best preserved and restored concession by far, although – having been positioned like Tientsin’s version of Shanghai’s Xintiandi – it does smack of the Epcot Centre in Walt Disney World.
The heart of the Italian Concession was the Piazza Regina Elena, at the centre of which stood a statue of Winged Victory (which has been meticulously restored today), and around which stood some of the most charming villas this side of Florence. Just off the Piazza is the Cathedral – which, being also immaculately restored and housing a museum of the Concession – is impossible to miss and the Italian Concessions major landmark.
Behind the piazza stand row upon row of elegant villas, many of which housed important politicians and cadres of the Nationalist and then the Communist party; and so managed to survive destruction. Some of these are extremely spectacular – veritable palazzos from Venice, transplanted here.
Unfortunately, documentation for these buildings is patchy. ALL restored buildings have a heritage plaque on them, but the Chinese text on the plaque don’t provide much detail beyond a number – “Heritage Building #57”. UNLESS, this used to be the former residence of a famous Chinese politician or personality, in which case, it is also largely useless for me since I wouldn’t (and did not) know who they were.
All in all, however – the concession made for a very pleasant afternoon stroll, and I ended my day in one of the many lovely cafes in the area.