ROME (AFP) - Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Rome on Thursday evening (March 21) at the start of a whistlestop European tour amid growing Western unease over the economic giant's new Silk Road project.
Mr Xi descended from his Air China Boeing 747 with first lady Peng Liyuan at Rome's Fiumicino airport before being whisked off to their hotel in the Italian capital, AFPTV reported.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is to sign a memorandum of understanding with Mr Xi on Saturday for Italy to join the US$1 trillion (S$1.35 trillion) Belt and Road Initiative, the first G7 member to do so.
Mr Xi is to meet his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella on Friday (March 22) during a trip that will also take in parliament and the Colosseum.
Around 1,000 extra police have been deployed around Rome for the state visit before Mr Xi heads to Palermo, where his singer wife reportedly wants to see the Teatro Massimo opera house.
Nato member Italy's plan to join China's ambitious maritime, rail and road venture, which critics warn mainly benefits Chinese firms, has raised eyebrows among Western allies and within Italy.
The United States has also warned European allies that China's Huawei could use its next generation 5G technology as a "backdoor" for spying.