Greeks have been migrating to Italy for many centuries. The first wave of Greek migrants moved to Venice before the 10th century. They were mostly craftsmen and artists who were sought after for their technical expertise, contributing to the construction and decoration of many buildings across the city.
The Greek migration wave grew even larger after the Turks advanced against the Byzantine Empire and peaked after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. It is estimated that the Greek population of Venice reached 5,000 people at the time.
Since the Greeks first arrived in Venice, they claimed their right to freely exercise their religious duties but the city’s political and religious authorities refused. For several decades they secretly exercised their religious rights in their homes, until the Council of Florence provided a chapel to the Greek community in 1456.
Furthermore, Greeks can also be found in Southern Italy, forming the Griko people, an ethnic Greek community spread out in the regions of Calabria and Apulia. The Griko are believed to be remnants of the once large Ancient and Medieval Greek communities of southern Italy.
In the Middle Ages, Greek regional communities were reduced to isolated enclaves. Although most Greek inhabitants of Southern Italy have become entirely Italianized over the centuries, the Griko community has been able to preserve their original Greek identity, heritage, language and distinct culture.