And after posing for photos, Mattarella and Xi set the table for the expected signing of a Memorandum of Understanding that will make Italy the first EU member and G7 nation to sign on to Beijing's controversial One Belt, One Road initiative (BRI), the AP reports.
Of course, the populist Italian government, already on thin ice with the globalist powers after defying Brussels and its fiscal rules by blowing out its budget deficit, didn't exactly smooth over European anxieties by insisting that the partnership with platitudes like insisting that the economic partnership be a "two way street".
But Rome has little incentive to cater to Brussels on this. And Beijing, too, has everything to gain. By the end of his two-day diplomatic visit to Italy, Xi will have achieved a major geopolitical victory - a key vote of confidence in one of his signature initiatives - at a time when his government is struggling with slowing economic growth and a destabilizing trade war.
While Xi and Italy's leaders are expected to sign the memorandum on Friday, the deal is happening against a backdrop of an increasingly adversarial EU, which just last week declared China an economic rival not to be trusted, as Beijing continues to make inroads in Central and Eastern Europe.