Enjoy a piece of Italy in Kenya! A review of Italian culture in Malindi Image courtesy of Jacaranda Beach Resort
20 January 2015 Written by 

Enjoy a piece of Italy in Kenya! A review of Italian culture in Malindi

On the red dirt roads of southern Kenya, a few hours from Malindi, children chase and hail streams of four-wheel drives hauling tourists to and from Arabuko Sokoke National Park. Most of the children gather along the road shouting, surprisingly, in Italian, "ciao, ciao". Approaching Malindi's city centre, Italian espousal become even more conspicuous. Signs on a supermarket storefront and a few restaurants are in Italian, and Sambuca sits on every local barman's meagre top shelf. It is not exactly Florence, but there is a distinctly Italianate imprint on Malindi – the language, the food, the hotels and the casinos, and even the occasional fugitive from justice.

Italians arrived in the historic coastal city more than 30 years ago, attracted by its climate and wide beaches. Since then, the Italian population has risen rapidly. Today around 4,000 Italians are permanent residents in Malindi town and its environs, while 30,000 tourists visit each year from the motherland. The Italian community has invested so heavily in Malindi's economy, both financially and socially, that it is one of the few small urban centres in the world with an Italian consulate. Malindi, it turns out, is Kenya's "Little Italy" in every way.

Tourism in Malindi is highly Italian-oriented with more than 2,500 Italian-owned properties in the city, including hotels, resorts, restaurants, supermarkets, small businesses, private villas and cottages patronised by Italians; these altogether employ close to 25,000 Kenyans.

The Italian influences in Malindi are best experienced in Diamonds Dream of Africa Hotel (a Small Luxury Hotels of the World hotel). This delightful Indo-Arab styled villa retreat, promises refinement and privacy in a lovely seafront location near the centre of Malindi. It has 35 spacious suites with customised Italian designed furniture made of Indonesian teak and muslin curtain over the beds, a dreamy free-form swimming pool, a Thalassotherapy spa and excellent Italian cuisine. All have private terraces overlooking the resort's pretty gardens with comfortable sun loungers. The friendly and accommodating service at the hotel makes a stay here unforgettable. The restaurant's traditional Italian cuisine is fantastic. Guests are spoilt for choice – spending their days exploring the exotic coral gardens of the nearby marine park, scuba diving or venturing out in a glass-bottomed boat.

Idyllically set in the heart of the enchanting Marine Reserve of Watamu, Jacaranda Beach Resort is surrounded by a compelling beach of fine white sand. When there are low tides, it is surrounded by spectacular landscapes and fascinating coral atolls that are easily accessible on foot. Tourists staying at the resort can explore the enchanting footpaths and trails that develop across the lush tropical vegetation of the surrounding area. Its privileged position and informal atmosphere make the resort the ideal accommodation facility for those interested in spending relaxing holidays here whilst admiring unspoiled natural settings. This enchanting resort is Italian themed, managed by skilled Italian employees, set in the heart of swanky gardens and colourful bougainvilleas, a dream come true to Italian lovers.

The Lion in the Sun and Billionaire Resort, both belonging to Italian billionaire Mr Briatore, are a delight to the discerning tourist's senses. The latter is on a stretch of paradise on the most beautiful beach in Malindi. The exclusive beach resort is a club residence during the day, and magically turns into an elegant venue at dusk, a place to come and enjoy fresh tropical cocktails followed by an exotic candle-lit dinner.

One of the most exclusive resorts in Kenya, The Lion in the Sun Resort is poised between the great Indian Ocean and the timeless spaces of Africa. Arab and Indian influences blend seamlessly whilst accentuating the cultural heritage of the area – it has enchantingly achieved perfect balance between architectural imagination and respect for the environment. The retreat has five living units fitted out in local style enclosed within a garden cultivated with local plants and shrubs and four swimming pools filled with salt-water brought directly from the sea.

Time becomes endless as you pass from sunbathing from the pool, to an exquisite dinner lit by stars or by the candles of an intimate summerhouse, to a vigorous workout in the gym and them to a moment of pure self-discovery at the spa. It has seven suites, seven superior rooms and two singles in the main building. Each interior is different, with each artefact and decoration with its own history and meaning. Details and designs from different times and places fuse together to form meeting areas, hidden retreats or simply spaces where you can bask in the joy of doing nothing.
Guests in Malindi luxuriate in open spaces, total freedom in a unique environment, the sweet sounds of complete relaxation, the delight of discovering... self-discovery.



Esther Gacheru

Esther Gacheru is an aspiring Business Analyst in Nairobi who is currently nurturing an agribusiness project. Her most indulged passions include listening to music, giving back to the society, travelling and writing about her travels.
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Twitter Handle: @mw_esther
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