Romans take pride in first ‘Gay Street’
By Paul Bompard in Rome
Published: August 3 2007 21:05 | Last updated: August 3 2007 21:05
A cobbled street in central Rome has become, by decree of the municipal council, the Eternal City’s “Gay Street”. It is the first of its kind in Catholic Italy.
Two blocks of bars and restaurants leading up to the Colosseum will now be closed to traffic from 9pm to 2am, Thursday to Sunday, and officially designated as a recreation ground for Rome’s homosexuals.
The city’s decision was made days after two men were arrested for kissing by the Colosseum. It caused an avalanche of protest and the centre-left city council, sensitive to the pink vote, responded with Gay Street.
Rome’s alderman for equal opportunities, Cecilia D’Elia, said: “We hope this street becomes a meeting place during the Roman summer, a place to promote culture, light-heartedness, solidarity.”
The Colosseum end of Via San Giovanni in the Laterano district has been a de facto gay area for years, thronged every evening by hundreds of homosexuals.
At the street’s inauguration three ministers from Italy’s centre-left coalition, all from non-Catholic parties, rubbed shoulders with city dignitaries and leaders of the gay movement. But within the gay community there has been criticism that the street might become a homosexual ghetto or zoo.
“We are glad the city has officially recognised us,” said Tiziana, the lesbian cook-cum-barmaid of Coming Out, a gay bar and restaurant. “Perhaps in a way it is a ghetto, but everywhere else we get strange looks. We are treated like freaks. At least this is recognition that we exist and deserve respect.”
Three doors down, Ettore Cuocolo, the manager of Pizza Forum, was less happy.
“This is not a gay pizzeria, it is a Neapolitan pizzeria. I have nothing against gays,” he said. “But most of them come to drink in the gay bars, not to eat pizza, and I’ve had some customers, families, that don’t come any more because of the crowds of gays all over the street.”
Rome’s Catholic hierarchy has remained unusually silent on the subject, but the right-wing opposition on the city council has not.
“This is a situation bordering on indecency,” declared Fabrizio Mollicone, city councillor for the post-Fascist National Alliance, whose leader is Gianfranco Fini. “At night sexual acts are consummated on the tables of closed restaurants and even in the hallways of apartment buildings.”
National Alliance activists are collecting signatures from residents, many irritated by the nightly crowds and noise, for a petition against the official status of Gay Street and to make its bars close earlier.