Italy's first black Cabinet minister is facing Internet death threats before a visit to a region known for its anti-immigrant political base.

Cecile Kyenge, a Congolese-born doctor who has lived in Italy since 1983, has been the target of racist diatribes ever since she was named integration minister in April. Last week, a local politician from the xenophobic Northern League party was expelled after she posted on her Facebook page: "Why doesn't someone rape her (Kyenge), so she can understand what victims of atrocious crimes feel?" She implied that immigrants were responsible for violent crime in Italy.

Kyenge on Wednesday acknowledged "racist episodes" in Italy but declined to brand the country as a whole racist.

Kyenge is attending a weekend multicultural festival in the northern region of Veneto.