Gay and lesbian travel resources, guides, and tours in Italy
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Also, all Italians are typically much more affectionate and physical in public than Americans, Canadians, or Brits. You'll see businessmen link arms to walk down the street together, young (straight) men with their arms draped around one another and constantly touching as they talk, even (again, straight) adolescent boys will putter up to one another on their Vespas to hug and cheek-kiss their buddies hello (something most straightlaced straight American pre-teens would rather commit ritual suicide than do).
My point is, holding hands with or putting your arm around your partner while you walk down the street in Italy will not raise any eyebrows. Snogging in public, on the other hand, just might out you.
OK, all that said, in many ways Italy is still a very socially conservative country (see: the pope). While LGBT people have the right to live openly, you will have to put off that dream wedding in Italy until more than 31% of the population supports same-sex marriage (and probably wait until right-winger Silvio Berlusconi is no longer Prime Minister).
While Italy does now have an openly gay member of Parliament, it does not yet even have any form of civil union or civil partnership laws for gays and lesbians (though nearly half the population does support it—remember, this is a country in which 98% of the population self-identifies as Catholic, so expect change to come slowly).
To be on the safe side, do a bit of research on the city or area you're planning to visit. As you might expect, smaller towns tend to be less accepting than cities.
In 2004, Tuscany became the first region to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual identity, and while the Berlusconi government tried to reverse this regional law in court, I am happy to report that they failed. Piemonte has since followed suit. However, a federal law that would raise homophobic aggression or violence to the level of hate crime has been shunted into an eternal holding pattern in the lower chamber. Still: progress.
Resources for gay travel
Arcigay is the biggest gay-rights and LGBT social association in Italy
Arcigay (www.arcigay.it) - The largest LGBT association in Italy—though, in a bizarre twist of fate, it's actually an offshoot of the Italian Communist Youth Auxiliary. Scroll down the homage and look in the left sidebar for the English version.
This page contains links to a list of local Arcigay chapters across Italy (www.arcigay.it/local) as well as a list of Arcigay-associated bars, clubs, and discos (www.arcigay.it/ricreativi)—there are, of course, many more gay hangouts besides those on this list, but it's a start.
International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (www.iglta.org) - The best all-around resource—though not much on Italy itself. Members ($100 to join, plus $150 a year) get a newsletter, magazines, advice on specialist travel agencies (you can search for local ones on the Website), and a membership directory.
Damron (www.damron.com) - Publishers of the noted gay travel guidebooks (see below) maintain an excellent website, full of resources for gay travel, including prodigious lists of tour companies (whether outright gay or lesbian, all-men or all-women, mostly men or mostly women, or gay/straight combined).
Gay.com (www.gay.com) - All sorts of sub-sites that are jam-packed with all sorts of info on everything from gay-friendly hotels and restaurants to action groups and support hotlines to nightclubs and tours. There's no guarantee these sites will have an English-translated version, but the info is usually easy enough to navigate (believe me; I mine these things shamelessly to get the goods on the local gay scene for my guidebooks).
Gay travel blogs - There are probably tons, but among them are www.gaytravel.org, newgaytravelguide.com, www.insiderouttravel.com, www.gaycities.com (a crowdsourced site—meaning the content comes from the users; think TripAdvisor, only gay—but nothing on Italy yet), www.womentravel.info (for all women, but strong lesbian presence as well), and, a bit surprisingly, Orbitz (www.orbitz.com/blog/category/gay-travel).
FunMaps.com (www.funmaps.com) - Interactive city maps showing hotels, restaurants, gay clubs and bars, shops, services, and attractions. (Actually, they work exactly like the Google maps on this site, only gay-themed.)
Gay lodgings in Italy
Purple Roofs (www.purpleroofs.com) - Loads of gay-friendly lodgings around the world—and, amazingly enough, the listings actually link you directly to the hotel's own Website (most travel sites out there, especially accommodations ones, try their darndest never to give you the opportunity to click off their site).
PinkChoice blog (pinkchoice.blogspot.com) - Blog about gay-friendly hotels. About two dozen in Italy.
Gay travel magazine
Out Traveler (www.outtraveler.com) - The publishers of Out and The Advocate put out this excellent quarterly gay travel mag.
Passport (www.passportmagazine.com) - Published 9 times a year.
Spartacus International Gay Guide (2010) - You gotta take the whole world at once with this thick tome (couldn't they do separate Europe, USA, Asia, etc. editions?), but it is the industry standard of gay guidebooks.
Spartacus International Hotel & Restaurant Guide (2010)
Damron Men's Travel Guide (2009)
Damron Women's Traveller (2009)
Damron Accommodations (12th edition)
Frommer's Gay & Lesbian Europe (2003) - Yep, the mainstream guidebook publisher has actually put out a small series of gay guides.
Ferrari International Guides - As a straight man, I can't actually speak to how accurate the various series of gay guides are, but from flipping through them all, this series seems by far to be the best thought-out, laid-out, and all-around useful of the lot. Unfortunately, they seem to have gone out of business after releasing the 2001 editions. You can still find copies for sale, though.
Giovanni's Room (www.giovannisroom.com) - Famous gay bookstore in my hometown (Philly) has a wide selection and does mail order. Support independent booksellers!
A Different Light (www.adlbooks.com) - Famous gay bookstore in my old hometown (New York), also has fabulous selection and will ship. Support independent booksellers!
This material was last updated February 2011. All information was accurate at the time.
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