Being one half of a lesbian couple, I have come to learn that it helps to do your research when it comes to picking holiday destinations. There are some places in the world that are pretty obvious no no’s. I can’t imagine any gay or lesbian couple holidaying it up in Texas, for example.
When my girlfriend surprised me with a trip to Italy for my birthday, I was excited, but also slightly nervous. We would be staying in the small (read: tiny) southern town of Cittanova. A friend of mine from University had been living there for just under a year, teaching English as a foreign language, and had advised us before our arrival that the local residents might not consider the idea of two girls making out particularly kosher.
We soon understood what he meant.
On the first day of the holiday, he showed us round the town, which was full of beautiful decaying buildings, old dust-beaten streets, and glorious villas lined with palm trees and other exotic plants.
We had coffee and croissants for breakfast in the local café (there were approximately two cafes in the entire town), and it wasn’t long before a friend of his came along to say hello. His name was Antonio, and he was about forty years old. He spoke no English, but suggested he join us on our tour of the town. Our first impression was: wow, this guy is friendly. Just a day further into our trip, and we understood that more or less all of the men in Cittanova were as ‘friendly’ as Antonio.
Now, I’m not one to stereotype, but these men really lived up to their ‘Italian sleaze bag’ reputation. For example, my girlfriend and I were having a stroll around what the locals had dubbed, ‘Lover’s Park’, when a man walked up to us and started chatting away in Italian. We gestured wildly to indicate that we didn’t speak the language, but he was not put off. Instead, he took a seat next to us on the bench, and started pointing at our phones, as if he wanted our numbers. It took a good ten minutes of shaking our heads and gazing awkwardly off into the distance before we realised we were going to have to be rude if we wanted to shake this guy off, and so we said our goodbyes (well come on, we are British after all) and walked away.
But instead of giving up, he actually started following us, ambling just a step behind. It was one of the most uncomfortable situations I’ve ever been in, and it was very frustrating that we were unable to communicate with him effectively. You’d think, being what some would consider a universal language, that our body language would have told him we wanted to be left alone, that there was no room for him at this lesbian party. But he just didn’t get the hint.
The town seemed to be stuck in the 1800s. For example, in Cittanova, when a man is walking with a woman, the other men will make sure to wait until they have walked past before they stare at the woman’s bottom. This is apparently out of respect for the man (brilliant, cheers for that guys, great). It’s an incredibly sexist society – some of these people probably find it hard enough to accept that women wear trousers, so God knows what they would have done if my girlfriend and I started holding hands or kissing.
As much as I harp on about everything that was wrong with the place, I would be misrepresenting it if I didn’t mention its many wonderful attributes, and some of the wonderful people, too.
Through my friend and his flatmate, we were introduced to some incredible artists, one of which lived in a huge crumbling old house, where every patch of white on the walls had been covered in some piece of art or another. We were not so much invited as expected in for tea, which was served black with green lemon. We sat around the kitchen table, eating figs freshly picked from the garden, whilst my girlfriend and I listened on in mild bemusement at these crazy Italians gabbing enthusiastically to one another, whilst toking away on an incredibly large joint. That’s one thing you can’t fault the Italians on – they are very hospitable.
On the last day of our trip, which turned out to be the hottest day, we jumped on a bus which took us three or four villages out of Cittanova, to go to the beach. We ended up choosing an isolated spot on the rocks where there was a beautiful crystal blue lagoon. There was nobody else there, so we had our pick of places to sprawl out and sunbathe, and we were finally able to be openly affectionate with one another (not like that, you dirty buggers). The only downside was that we had to walk for a couple of miles up a rather large hill in order to catch the bus back to Cittanova. As it was so hot, both my girlfriend and I were struggling, and so my friend suggested we stop off to get a drink and a rest at his friend’s house, which was conveniently halfway up the hill. It turned out, being about 3 pm, we had woken him up a little early from his midday siesta – but he invited us in regardless, and set about bringing us limoncello and bowls of fruit. I don’t know if I’d have been quite so hospitable if I’d been woken up from a nap. That’s something we Brits can definitely learn from the Italians.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our holiday. The town itself was beautiful, the scenery breath-taking, and the sunsets Facebook Cover Photo worthy.
It was difficult readjusting our behaviour when in public, almost as if we were walking backwards into the dreaded closet. But for five days of glorious sun, excellent food, and great company (as long as we avoided Lover’s Park), it was well worth it.
My advice for any gay or lesbian couple looking for a place to go on holiday would be, yes, research is good, but sometimes it can be refreshing to go into a culture that’s very different from your own, and embrace it for what it is.
So if any fellow gays think they fancy a cheeky trip to Southern Italy, Cittanova isn’t such a bad shout.