In Tuscany not everything is straight!

Tiare Dunlap
June 16, 2011

The Tuscan Region recently launched a web channel on their tourism portal,, specifically focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) tourism, making it the first region in Italy to do so. The slogan for the new channel, Gay Friendly Tuscany, is ‘In Tuscany, not everything is straight,' next to an image of the leaning tower of Pisa. Sponsored by the Tuscan Region, the site is managed by Fondazione Sistema Toscana.


A promotional video features quick cuts of shots of the curves of Tuscany, taking their contrast to the colloquial English term ‘straight' to incredible proportions. Tuscany's ‘not straight' features include wine glasses, arch rings of bridges, David's noted backside, radial windows, the seashore, an afro wig (ah, who could forget the afro wigs of Tuscany, just like the days of yore?), and of course, Pisa's tower.


The well-designed and user-friendly site insists that this campaign is motivated not by profit but rather by the history of the Tuscan Renaissance, a time of great liberty for Tuscan homosexuals, noting Michelangelo Buonarroti, Leonardo da Vinci, and Machiavelli as ‘the best known among them.' Insisting upon the historic role of Tuscany as the 'San Francisco of the Renaissance,' a few articles note that the word for ‘homosexual' in Germanic countries at that time was ‘Florenzen,' or Florentine.


Although it is difficult to assert the sexual orientation of characters both enigmatically complex and long-deceased, championing Tuscany's, and more specifically Florence's liberal history is certainly merited. The Tuscany of Grand Duke Leopoldo I was the first to decriminalize homosexuality in 1853. And the Florentine character, one of liberalism, invention, and courage, is noted as the underlying source of such triumphs as Dante's vernacular, da Vinci's perfect proportions, Brunelleschi's Duomo and Meucci's invention of the telephone. In any history of Florence (even a gay history) one mustn't forget the Medici (nor their preferred artists and philosophers), and here they are most certainly not lacking. The website notes that three of the Medici, Pope Leo X, Ferdinand II, and Giovanni Gastone, were certainly homosexuals.


The Florence of today is depicted as a place of tremendous diversity, a meeting place for art lovers and culture fiends from all backgrounds. With its fluid population of world travelers, the site's creators are certain the Florentine atmosphere will tempt all visitors to be completely themselves. Indeed, Florence was at the forefront of openness in 1974, opening Italy's first gay bar, Tabasco (, just steps from the city's seat of power, Palazzo Vecchio. Tabasco continues to be one of the most popular locales among artists, inventors, writers and travellers in the city.


In recent years, the website boasts, the Tuscan Region hosted a 2007 exhibit that focused on art and homosexuality (see TF 61 for details), an exhibition that Milan had declined for one of the works that featured the pope wearing women's clothing.


Finally, it cites Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi's call for social housing for all couples. Tuscan cities like Florence, Pisa, and many others promote equal rights by registering gay unions in their municipal records. Recently, the Tuscan region amended its charter to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and to recognize all kinds of family structures, not just those based on marriage.


For more information on gay-friendly tourism and life in Tuscany, consult;; and




With all of this fanfare about the history of Tuscany, and especially Florence, as being particularly welcoming and supportive of homosexuals throughout the ages it is worth noting that Europride, the annual pan-European event dedicated to LGBT pride, took place this year in Rome, culminating with a much-anticipated performance by Italian-American Queen of Pop, Lady Gaga. Thousands attended the event, which climaxed in a parade through the center of Rome to Circo Massimo.


The 12-day event was met with some resistance by city residents. Right-wing group Fiamma Tricolore vowed to show up with tomatoes ready for Gaga, stating that they would not let the queen of anything teach them about justice, and continued to stress the importance of hetero-normative family values, which they believe form the foundation of Italian culture. When promoters of Europride released an online spot featuring kissing gladiators, it was lambasted by Italian right-wing activists as ‘unconstitutional.'


This backlash from the more conservative members of the Roman community may very well be why the city was chosen to host this year's event. Europride organizers warned the thousands flocking to the city to participate in the festivities in Rome, a city they say lacks the open and colorful gay life offered by other European capitals (this is mainly due to the imperious presence of the Vatican, many argue). By holding Europe's biggest annual gay pride event in the historically conservative metropolis, Europride organizers hoped to provide LGBT Romans enough support and enthusiasm to last long after the celebration has ended.




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