Italian artist covers racist graffiti with food murals

(SOUNDBITE) (Italian) ITALIAN STREET ARTIST 'CIBO', PIER PAOLO SPINAZZE, SAYING:

“Hi, my name is Pier Paolo Spinazze’, aka 'Cibo'. I’m 39 years old and I do street art. I take care of my city by replacing symbols of hate with delicious things to eat.”

On the streets near the city of Verona, this artist is on a mission.

For the last 10 years, Spinazze has been replacing racist graffiti, or messages of hate with hundreds of colorful murals of Italian delicacies.

(SOUNDBITE) (Italian) ITALIAN STREET ARTIST 'CIBO', PIER PAOLO SPINAZZE, SAYING:

“I started to cancel the swastikas, the Celtic crosses, the symbols of hate because I was sick of seeing them. I believe that every citizen should do something for their community, so I do it for this reason, and because I am very good at design.”

Spinazze studied art and design at university.

He says he gave himself nickname 'Cibo' – the Italian word for food – because Italy is world famous for its cuisine.

He also says he wants to create street art that would grab people's attention.

We're some six miles east of Verona.

A tiny tunnel here had been covered in racial slurs and swastikas.

One of Spinazze's 363,000 followers on Instagram told him about the graffiti.

(SOUNDBITE) (Italian) ITALIAN STREET ARTIST 'CIBO', PIER PAOLO SPINAZZE, SAYING (CONTINUES OVER MAP SHOWING WHERE HIS MURALS ARE LOCATED): ''Usually my followers warn me that there's a really bad thing to get rid of, and also over the years I've trained my eyes so that when I drive past them, I recognize them immediately. Now, for example, near my house there are a lot of places where I've created murals, many of them have been pointed out to me, but living here you can see them.''

Spinazze says people are mostly very receptive and positive about his art.

But sometimes his murals get covered up with more graffiti and even threats towards him.

In recent years, human rights groups have warned of growing racism in Italy in the face of mass immigration across the Mediterranean from Africa.

Spinazze believes his anti-hate message is more important now than ever before, not just in Italy but all over the world.

SPINAZZE PACKING BAG OF SPRAY PAINT CANS IN HIS STUDIO / (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) ITALIAN STREET ARTIST 'CIBO', PIER PAOLO SPINAZZE, SAYING:

"The message I want to give with my art is that everyone can make a difference and can give something back to the community with their own skills and their own creativity. I consider this a duty because in my opinion everyone has to give something back, especially when you have more than others."

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