Florence and the region in which it resides, Tuscany, are incredibly progressive in their legislation and acceptance of the LGBT community when compared to many other regions of Italy. While the deep Roman Catholic influence of the church still resonates in the opinions of many, Florence as a city represents a movement towards a more embracing and understanding nation of LGBT individuals.
Tuscany, in 2004, was the first region of Italy to ban discrimination against homosexuals in the areas of employment, education, public service, and accommodations.
Some cities in Tuscany, including Florence, have a registry for domestic partners, including same-sex couples. This entails some privileges afforded to married couples but is not recognized outside the city in which the relationship is registered.
To read more about the tension between Catholic and LGBT activists check out this article: (http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSN1340012320070313)
Despite being a Western European nation, the issues and concerns of the LGBT community are only recently emerging in Italy, offering a different atmosphere from the very open and informed New York populace.
Florence is a much smaller city than New York, and the LGBT community is a more condensed population. Keeping this in mind you may find it easier to get involved and interact with other LGBT Florentines.
Being a Same-Sex Couple in Florence and Beyond
Florence doesn’t really compare to the openness of NYC, but it definitely wasn’t hostile… We felt free to hold hands around the city. We went to a couple of bars listed as gay bars in our guidebook which were friendly but mostly for gay men. Piccolo Bar was the most lesbian- friendly atmosphere. Our best experience traveling was probably in Capri. We stayed in Hotel de Hermes where we had a very nice private hotel room. We were not shy about being together and they treated us with respect. And it was a beautiful place! Other great places we visited were Salzburg, Austria; Paris, France and Venice, Italy which were also very friendly. Visiting Vatican City wasn’t even as unfriendly as one might expect!-Also, we didn’t realize that we should’ve planned out a good way to tell our flat-mates that we were together… we didn’t end up telling them for a couple of weeks because we had no real opportunity to bring it up to them. Plan this ahead of time even if you think you’ll be in a “double room”… you will probably have flat-mates anyway! – Tammy and Heather
On the Italian Generation Gap and Issues of Sexuality
What I thought was most interesting was that Italy is currently in this transitional period. The older generation can be easily classified as conservative and devoutly Catholic. The younger generation, on the other hand, seems to be very open with their sexuality. Traveling around the country, I met many young Italians, all of whom were very liberal and accepting. Because of the conservative atmosphere that is still expressed by the “elders” these liberal feelings are not easily seen, even in the big cities. When found, however, the young Italians were fun, inviting, and accepting. The experience, as a whole, was amazing, and I highly recommend traveling abroad for anyone who is interested in immersing themselves in a completely new and exciting culture! – Alex
Getting Involved and Informed
The Center Services for the Queer Community (IREOS) – http://www.ireos.org
Via de ‘Serragli, 3 (Ponte alla Carraia)
Tel and fax: +39 055216907
IREOS is a popular LGBT group that keeps a current list of events and festivals in the queer community as well as information on political issues.
Florence Queer Festival – http://www.florencequeerfestival.it/cgi-bin/index.cgi
“The FLORENCE QUEER FESTIVAL is the largest Tuscan festival dedicated to QUEER culture (gay, lesbian, transgender… and others), organized by the IREOS association of Florence.” The Florence Queer Festival, hosted by IREOS, is a week-long festival of queer-themed cinema, theatre, book readings, and museum exhibits at different participating locations around the city.
Arcigay – http://www.arcigay.it/eng
60 Via del Leone
Tel: +39 055.0516574 – +39 334.2426483 – Firenze@arcigay.it
Arcigay is a national Italian organization with an office in Florence. Like IREOS, this group sponsors numerous LGBT events and also offers a newsletter to all its Italian offices.
Arcilesbica – http://www.arcilesbicafirenze.it/
In addition to Arcigay, Arcilesbica is a national Italian group for queer-identified women. On Thursday from 8-11 pm, a phone line is open for counseling, as well as an e-mail address that can be accessed at any time, but do not expect that they speak English. This organization has a branch in Firenze: Tel: 3388874205; firstname.lastname@example.org
Movimento Identita Transsuale – http://www.mit-italia.it/home.htm
This organization is a national volunteer group that seeks to educate and give resources to members of the trans community. The website has a daily blog and discussion of current Italian issues with relation to trans individuals.
A general website written for English speakers containing informational links about queer (mostly gay) life in Tuscany – for information about history, laws, world laws, tourism and travel, hotels, action groups, magazines, and others. http://tuscany.angloinfo.com/information/40/gl.asp
In 2006, five LGBT-identified people were elected to the Italian parliament, including Vladimir Luxuria, a politician who identifies as transgender.
On Being Perceived Female in Florence
I was born female and prefer dressing in a more “feminine” style, but I do not identify with any gender. Because of my looks, people assumed I am a girl, just as they do in New York. In Italian, though, gender is literally built into the language. Every noun has a gender. Some past participles change based on whether the subject is male or female. There is no gender-neutral pronoun, no lui/lei/ze option, and if there is, I haven’t heard of it. Since all of my teachers were Italian, I was afraid to admit my gender-non-conformance to them, for fear that they just wouldn’t understand. In retrospect, though, I’m sure they would have at least been respectful, whether or not they understood. It was just hard for me to bridge the awkward gap. – Anah
The Bathroom Situation
Being avidly opposed to gendered bathrooms, I kept my eye out for what The Bathroom Situation was like in Italy. Most small places, like restaurants and bars, would have two single-occupancy bathrooms, labeled “Uomini” or “Donne,” or something of the sort. This made me naturally angry – what was the point of gendering spaces if only one person could enter at a time?? Infuriated, I started using whichever stall I wanted to when I went out, no matter who was standing around in the hallway and could see. To my surprise, nobody seemed shocked to see a “girl” walking out of the “Uomini” bathroom – they seemed to think nothing of it. So in my experience, although I was unhappy with how the bathrooms were gendered, I was pleased at the apathetic response I got from other Italians. – Anah
Piazza Santa Cecilia 3r, Tel: +39 055-213-000
Italy’s first gay disco that attracts crowds from all over. Besides a variety of music (mainly techno, disco, and rock) there are cabaret nights and even art shows.
Via Pandolfini 26r, Tel: +39 055-243-356
A bar that also functions as a club from September-June. While mainly ushering to men, Thursday – Saturday nights are mixed nights where all different types of people show up.
Borgo Santa Croce 23r, Tel: +39 055 24 17 04
A cute café attracts a variety of people from the LGBT community. Open late, so a great place to return to after a night out.
YAG Bar – http://www.yagbar.com/
Via de Macci 8r, Tel: +39 055-246-9022
A quirky café/bar that attracts a lot of locals as well as American expats. For those who missed it, the name is a clever turnaround of the word “gay.”
Rome – While the epicenter of the Catholic history of Italy, this city continues to develop in all aspects, including the influence and cohesion of its LGBT community. Many cafés, bars, and even art shows can be found here that all usher to the LGBT community. (http://www.gayrome.com/index.html)
Milan – Not only a landmark city for fashion, but Milan is also a highly popular LGBT destination. It has a large variety of clubs and bars that attract the fashionistas as well as anyone just looking for a good time. (http://www.arcigaymilano.org/index.asp)
Torre del Lago – A highly LGBT-friendly destination in the Tuscany region that is a beautiful getaway from the city life. Bring a friend, a beach chair, and relax!
Traveling to Tabasco
It took three weeks for my roommate and I to find ourselves here, having built up the courage to creep through the abandoned alleyway just off Piazza della Signoria, largely in the shadow of the Palazzo Vecchio. As we inched closer, the entrance came into view, resembling a small shed with a metal ceiling. Two eyes peered through a small slit at the door, watching us, as if to see if we were patrons or wayward Italians lurking through the streets. One look at us and the door guard guessed the former, ready to welcome us into the subculture of Italy’s largely closeted gay scene. As the shed opened its doors, and with the ten Euro cover fee out of the way (which included a drink), we made our way down a fragile flight of stairs, and relished in the low-ceiling, cave-like environment of Tabasco, Florence’s oldest gay establishment. Once inside, the club included all the token gay cues, with blasting Euro pop music, wandering eyes, and tasty, potent drinks. The intermingling of American and Italian gays was limited, a hushed understanding of situational co- habitation heavy on ambivalence. Yet to say that flirtations with the certain Alessandro’s of the day did not occur would be a lie, how else was one supposed to work on that Italian pronunciation? – Edgar