The Embassy of Italy in Hanoi
The history of the Italian missions to Vietnam is linked to the complex history of the Indochinese country. An Italian Consulate in Saigon already existed since 1869, when the territory was a French colony. In the same city, in 1950, with the recognition of the Republic of Vietnam, that Italy considered the only legal government of the whole country, a new Legation – later Embassy – was inaugurated. In Ho Chi Minh City, which many still call Saigon, there are nowadays a Consulate General and an Office of the Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE).
The embassy in Saigon was closed with the defeat of South Vietnam in 1975. Diplomatic relations between Italy and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, then Socialist Republic of Vietnam, was established March 23, 1973, after the peace agreements concluded in Paris by Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho. The first charge d’affaires was appointed May 2, 1975, just 2 days after the fall of Saigon. But previous contacts are also worth mentioning: Prime Minister Fanfani had sent in 1965 the mayor of Florence, Giorgio La Pira, on a peace mission that the President and independence leader, Ho Chi Minh, had greatly appreciated.
Like the other diplomatic missions opened after the Paris agreements, even ours had to settle down in what had been the most luxurious hotel of French Indochina, significantly renamed “Thong Nhat”, i.e. unification (now Sofitel Metropole). It preserved part of the past splendor, perhaps, a bit of what the Michelin Guide defined “désuet charm”. In one crowded room there were the Ambassador, the Embassy Secretary, the Chancellor, the radio operator, the Vietnamese interpreter at the respective tables.
Since 1988, the Chancery offices are housed in a nice building at 9 Le Phung Hieu Street, owned by the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry. Restored, modernized and expanded in early 2003, it is an interesting example of French architecture of the colonial era.
Casa Italia, former Residence of the Italian Ambassador
Until the second half of the 80s the Residence of the Ambassador of Italy was located in Khu Van Phuc complex (poetic name that means “the thousand blessings”, i.e. an infinite number of the same), reminiscent of the 30’s Italian social housing. There were two apartments and two bedrooms, whose realization by the competent State authority required an effort of patience and a bit of the abovementioned blessings. The complex was located on the first floor of one of those buildings, important advantage in a city without a lift, and that, in spite of everything, was able to fulfill representative duties.
In 1989 the headquarters of the Ambassador’s residence was moved in 18 Le Phung Hieu (the same street of the current Embassy), where it remained until 2012. That year it was moved in the elegant Dang Thai Mai compound, Tay Ho.
In 2013, the former residence of Le Phung Hieu was transformed into “Casa Italia”, a center for the promotion of the Italian culture and of the Italian way of life both through cultural events and brands of the “Made in Italy”.
Adapted and updated from the book: “The Italian Embassy in the world”, volume 5, Mariapia Fanfani, 1984.