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  • Writer's pictureMark Tedesco

Our Italian Adventure: Diversity in Puglia

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

How we moved to Italy. Diversity in Puglia: Does it matter if I am gay or straight?

PART 31: It might be interesting to share how we pulled off living in Italy for part of the year. I will post some steps we took.

We are in Puglia for the summer and winter months.

Step 1: Diversity is a broad topic; I will limit myself to our experience. We are a gay couple, and before moving to Puglia, we had to consider the implications. What is the mentality in our area? Is it open-minded, or would we be shunned because of who we are?

Step 2: Reading. I remember that many mainstream guidebooks to Italy used to warn travelers that the further one goes south, the less tolerance one would find. One book, which I will not name, even stated that in Sicily, it was typical for hotels and pensions to insist that two men take two rooms or at least sleep in two beds.

I don't know where these mainstream books got their information, but we have found the opposite true.

Step 3: North and South. According to our Italian friends, parts of northern Italy tend to be more conservative than the south. I remember conversing with a local friend about this point, which I found perplexing. "But the north is closer to other countries, so they should be more open-minded because of being in contact with other cultures!" I insisted. My Italian friend responded, "No, it is not like that. It would be best to remember how many cultures, including Greek, dominated the south. They each left their mark, leading to a broader outlook you can see today."

Step 4: Local culture. To reassure us that we would not have any problems in Puglia, our local friends told us that both their police chief and their mayor were openly gay, and it was not a big deal to anyone. They also introduced us to their many local gay friends living in Puglia.

Step 5: Our experience. "Where are all these gay people coming from?" I asked one day in the supermarket in Galatone. My partner laughed.

It was true; our town is not a tourist destination; in fact, it is more working class. But we have a great supermarket, and the gays are everywhere!

Our experience in Puglia as a gay couple has been twofold:

  • First, being gay or straight here is a complete non-issue. Nobody seems to care either way. It's like having brown or green eyes or walking down the street with a green rather than a blue shirt. Nobody notices or cares.

  • The second aspect of our experience is that we have met many other gay couples (and singles, too) who have strong bonds of friendship, support one another, are interested in each other's lives, and understand what we all go through.

About a dozen of us men went to a town festival this past summer; we were enjoying each other's company, looking at the festival street lights, eating local foods, and laughing together. At a certain point, a man approached us and asked, "who are you?" He asked in a kind and curious way, as if he thought we were some community that did things together. "We are friends," one of our Italian friends answered. "Beautiful companionship (bella compagnia)" he said, then left.

Total acceptance and even embrace have been our experiences.

Insights: Relationships are transformational, and in Puglia, we get to live the fruit of many people sharing their lives, points of view, and different ways of living with one another.

Not only is being gay a non-issue, but it is also certainly just one more aspect that has enabled us to feel at home with family.

For this, we are grateful.

Watch for my book coming around the 1st of the year: "Stories from Puglia: Two Californians in Southern Italy."

More next time.

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