In 1889, Asmara was occupied by Italy, which made it the capital of the Italian colony of Eritrea in 1900 instead of Massaua. In 1911, the Massaua-Biscia railway line reached the city. It was later supplemented by the Massaua-Asmara road, other road connections to the hinterland, the railway line was continued to Biscia and in 1937 the Massaua-Asmara cable railway to the port of Massaua was put into operation.
Under Italian fascism, Asmara gained greatly in importance from 1932 on and experienced rapid growth, mainly due to immigration from Italy. The population increased fivefold (approx. 100,000 inhabitants), more than half of them Italians. The buildings erected in the 1930s are often characterised by modern and high-quality architecture, which was realised without regard to traditional structures and with the partial introduction of racial segregation. This segregation between the districts of the Italians and the locals is still recognisable today.
Numerous buildings in the style of Razionalismo, the Italian expression of classical modernism or Art Deco in France, are still preserved today. You can also find examples of Futurismo and the later Monumentalismo. Since 2017, Asmara has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the „modernist city of Africa“.