ROME - Members of Italy's presidential guard on horseback and a guard-of-honour from the Army, Navy and Air Force cut a regal stance in the courtyard of the Palazzo del Quirinale in Rome as President Tony Tan Keng Yam received an official welcome.
A military band played Singapore's national anthem, Majulah Singapura, as the Singapore flag was raised above the 16th century palace, which sits atop one of Rome's seven hills. The military band continued with the Italian national anthem.
The ceremony on Monday (May 23) morning took place at the official residence of Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who also met Dr Tan.
Dr Tan is on an eight-day state visit to Italy and the Holy See, the first ever for a Singapore president.
Both two heads of state reaffirmed the strong bilateral relations between their two countries, including excellent ties in the political, economic and cultural spheres, they told the media after their meeting. The countries also cooperate in education, research and defence.
Singapore is a "priority partner of Italy in the area of South-east Asia" due to its stability, well-being and financial leadership, said Mr Mattarella in Italian.
"Singapore is a gateway to all of South-east Asia. And Italy, much like the entire European Union is very interested indeed in fostering economic and political relations with that part of the world."
Speaking in the palace's Hall of Mirrors - a gold and porcelain decorated ballroom with ornately framed mirrors on all four walls - Mr Mattarella said they also discussed the need for the international community to deal with the issues of counterterrorism and migration "with awareness and in a competent and systematic way", and noted that Italy and Singapore have the same goals and understanding on the matter.
Dr Tan thanked Mr Mattarella for his warm hospitality and welcomed him and other Italian leaders, officials and businessmen to make visits to Singapore. The Republic can be a regional hub for Italian companies to expand their business in the region, he said.
"We agreed that there was much scope for us to explore cooperation in new areas including trade and investment for the mutual benefit of both Italy and Singapore," Dr Tan said, adding that several agreements will be signed during the state visit to formalise cooperation.
The two heads of state also discussed the Asean Economic Community and developments in Europe and Asia.
"Singapore watches developments in Europe closely and Italy is a valuable partner to help us understand developments in the region better," said Dr Tan. "Likewise, Singapore stands ready to share our views with Italy on developments in our part of the world."
Later on Monday, Dr Tan will meet Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at his official residence, the Palazzo Chigi. They will also witness the signing of one of 14 agreements scheduled to be signed this week to further collaboration between the two countries and their institutes in areas from scientific research and business collaboration to educational and writing exchanges.
At night, Mr Matarella will host a state banquet in Dr Tan's honour at the Palazzo Del Quirinale.