Why Italians Fell in Love with Malindi

  • A resort in Malindi, commonly known as Little Italy
    A resort in Malindi, commonly known as Little Italy
  • Malindi has over the years grown to be known as Little Italy. This is because of the growing population of Italians in the region.

    Italians in Malindi have opened restaurants, hotels, and build beach villas. This has made the region grow economically due to the increasing number of local and international tourists visiting the area.

    The first Italians to arrive in Malindi were space engineers who arrived in the area in 1964 to establish the San Macro Space Research Centre which is based in Ngomeni near Malindi.

    A supermarket in Malindi that sells products imported from Italy
    A supermarket in Malindi that sells products imported from Italy

    They loved the weather, pristine beaches, warm and welcoming locals and the abundance of seafood. By the 1970s the Italian community had begun to take shape with many of them settling in the area and pursuing opportunities in the tourism industry.

    By the 1980s and 1990s an estimated 4,000 Italians were residents in Malindi 30,000 others visiting annually.  

    Italians in the area say that they love the area because of the opportunities available in the space.

    “Malindi’s good weather and its friendly people make the place just addictive. Italian holiday makers who come to Malindi for the first time are so overwhelmed by its beauty they often come back, some come back to stay forever.

    “I found this small fishing village where the weather was so good, the beaches wide and empty and the people extremely friendly, always smiling and co-operative and it just felt like home. I decided to stay and even started my life here with my family,” an Italian who arrived in the region in 1978 told the Standard in 2013.

    Malindi has many Italian restaurants, pizzerias, delis and gelato shops. Billboards in the area advertise in Italian and English, and due to the strong Italian presence, some Kenyans in the area also speak in Italian when communicating to the Italians and this has made the language the town’s lingua franca.

    Millionaire investors like Marco Vancini own high-end hotels in the region including the Coral Key, Lawfords Beach Club and the Blue Key. The Italian-owned hotels employ more than 30,000 Kenyans and are a source of livelihood for many Kenyans in the area.

    The Billionaires Resort, also in Malindi and owned by former Formula One star Flavio Briatoire, prides itself as being one of the most exclusive resorts on the Kenyan coast offering a high-end luxurious experience.

    The Indian Ocean in Malindi, Kilifi County