The Catholic Church is a powerful force within Italian society. Consequently, progress has been slow in the extension of legal rights to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender)community. There have been a number of attempts to introduce anti-discrimination laws and to acknowledge same-sex relationships nationally, but all have failed.

Regionally, Tuscany and Piedmont have taken a more progressive stance and introduced legislation to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Officially, same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1887, but gay men and lesbians have long since faced discrimination and hostility because of their sexuality. Unfortunately, Italy lags behind many of its European neighbours in creating a climate where people of all different sexualities are treated fairly.

However, the reluctance of the Italian state to grant equal rights to members of the LGBT community has simply made gay activists more determined in their pursuit of justice. There is no getting away from the fact that there is a significant gay presence in Italy, and this isn't just going to disappear. It is therefore unsurprising that there are numerous events held throughout the country that not only raise awareness of LGBT issues, but also give people the opportunity to let their hair down and have a good time. In the capital, Rome Pride gives you a chance to listen to lectures and intellectual debates, as well as to watch theatrical shows and listen to music. There are also gay-friendly establishments based in Rome, including ‘Gay Village’ which hosts events throughout the year.

There are a number of other cities where Gay Pride is celebrated, including Milan, Catania and Turin. Again, there is an emphasis on educating and raising awareness of LGBT issues, promoting the need for a more inclusive, gay-friendly Italy, as well as giving people the chance to have a good time and celebrate gay culture.

Milan Pride is a particularly popular event; since the city is home to the largest LGBT community in Italy and embodies a sense of openness and liberalism that doesn’t seem exist in certain other areas of Italy. In Milan you will find plenty of clubs, bars, events and festivals that are welcoming to people of all different sexual orientations. There are a number of neighbourhoods that are particularly gay-friendly, including i Navigli, Colonne di San Lorenzo and Porta Venzia. The latter is perceived to be the real gay neighbourhood of Milan, as there are so many gay clubs, bookstores and other establishments which are open to everyone, regardless of sexuality.

Not only is there a Gay Pride event in Turin; this is also the city where the International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is held in April, giving you an opportunity to watch the latest cutting-edge films which revolve around LGBT themes and issues.

Torre del Lago in Tuscany is also known as being a gay-friendly area and you will find that there are plenty of activities to keep you entertained. From May until September there are lots of organised events that you can participate in that are specifically tailored towards members of the LGBT community. There is Rainbow Week, held in June, for instance, and the Miss Drag Queen Italy competition, Mardi Gras parade, and beer race all held in August. There are gay-friendly hotels and bars in the area and so it should be possible for you to feel at home and take part in the festivities.

Italy may not be the most progressive nation when it comes to LGBT rights, but this has not managed to impede the gay culture that continues to thrive, as demonstrated by the numerous events that take place in Italy. The political establishment’s reluctance to embrace change only serves to make the LGBT community in Italy more determined to succeed.

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