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Leonardo da Vinci, Pizza…Crypto? Italy’s Blockchain Scene Is on the Rise

4 mins
Updated by Shilpa Lama
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What comes to mind when one thinks of Italy? Perhaps its cuisine—which has been exported to all corners of the globe—or the espresso, or ancient landmarks like the Colosseum or Tower of Pisa. Maybe luxury brands like Ferrari, Maserati, or Prada enter one’s thoughts. 

Crypto and blockchain are about to join that list. 

Despite not yet having the reputation of Paris or Miami when it comes to the blockchain industry, Italy is home to a budding scene of successful blockchain-based businesses, young and old. Following a 100-percent rise in Italian companies investing in blockchain projects in 2019, Italy was placed in the top 10 countries in the world for the number of blockchain projects developed.

Then Italy was infamously hit by COVID-19—one of the hardest-hit countries in the world—over the last two years. Still, crypto interest hasn’t declined in the country. A 2021 survey revealed a growing number of Italians are interested in investing in crypto. 

Perhaps most telling is the fact that even during Italy’s most famous fashion event in February, which has been around for over 60 years, the Metaverse and NFTs took center stage. German fashion designer Philipp Plein partnered with Portion, an NFT auction house and Metaverse development studio, to unveil the world’s first fashion line created exclusively for the Metaverse at Milan Fashion Week.

To really hit the tech concept home, a humanoid robot introduced the line to the audience.

What NFT and Metaverse enthusiasts took away from this demonstration, however, was a digital buy-as-you-see event that paired a unique NFT with physical sneakers, with the option to convert it into a digital wearable to be used with a Metaverse avatar in Decentraland

Of course, Plein’s NFTs are only the latest Italian Metaverse wonder, and anything launched in collaboration with a celebrity steals a chunk of the notoriety. But companies such as Italian-based OVER, a community-owned Metaverse leveraging NFTs to create a bridge between the physical and virtual worlds, are constantly contributing to the industry’s effort to shape Web3.

Built on Ethereum, OVER’s world-scale, open-source AR platform enables users to delve into a geo-based Metaverse platform through their mobile devices. 

NFT art and Metaverse fashion left an impactful mark on Milan Fashion Week, in May at the third edition of Blockchain Week Rome, crypto and decentralization will be the main focus. Italian and international attendees will gather for the week-long conference centered around crypto and everything blockchain. Included in the conference are intensive courses, panels, exhibits, training, and networking. 

Decentralized finance (DeFi) and crypto will be the main areas of focus during the conference’s “Blockchain Intensive” course. Here, issues of privacy will feature heavily, as the industry tries to find ways to further enhance privacy without compromising on the decentralized principles at the core of blockchain.

Blockchain’s crypto debut years ago is often thought to be a response to the failings of traditional finance, but as the blockchain industry developed, companies and enthusiasts took to fixing the obvious issue of corporate and government surveillance under their banner.

Here, too, Italians are joining the fray. Italian-led fintech company DTSocialize Holding, based out of the UK, empowers users to decide between complete privacy and sharing their data. Users that choose to share their data are rewarded within the DTSocialize ecosystem, and their privacy is protected through cryptography similar to that used in Bitcoin.

Seeing as Italy is the unofficial fashion capital of the world, it shouldn’t be a surprise that leading luxury brand Prada is a founding member of the Aura Consortium, along with Louis Vuitton and Richmont, and supported by Microsoft. The Aura Consortium is the first blockchain solution made by luxury brands for luxury brands. Created in 2021, the consortium aims to develop blockchain-based applications geared towards raising the standards of luxury.

As more and more individuals and industries start recognizing the benefits blockchain offers, the need to raise capital to fund innovative startups and projects becomes more vital. Milan-based Iconium, Italy’s premier crypto investment fund, supports blockchain projects dealing with disintermediation, decentralized finance (DeFi), self-sovereignty, and anything Web3.0 with high disruptive potential.

Iconium has backed more than 80 projects, investing $80 million across different sectors, including DeFi, Web3.0, Layer-1 and Layer-2 scalability solutions, and the Metaverse. 

Italy is positioning itself to be a major player in the blockchain space in the immediate future. The country has a lot of advantages, including a strong entrepreneurial base and a large collection of productive small-and-medium enterprises that stand to benefit from digitizing more of its services. This will further drive innovative solutions that fit well in both the Italian and international markets. 

As the Italian scene continues to mature and develop, expect to see more blockchain products, services, and solutions leading the way towards the Web3.0 revolution.

The future is bright for Italy’s burgeoning blockchain scene—maybe in addition to Italian classics like gelato, pizza, and spaghetti, we’ll start thinking of the Metaverse, crypto, and fintech in the same breath. 

To learn more about crypto’s development, this time in Startup Nation, check out the Israel Crypto Conference.  After the sold-out conference in December 2021, the Israel Crypto Conference will be held on May 23-25.

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Ariel Shapira
Ariel Shapira is a father, entrepreneur, speaker, cyclist and serves as founder and CEO of Social-Wisdom, a consulting agency working with tech companies and helping them to establish connections with international markets.