A tiny string of rocky islands called the Tremiti archipelago and situated in the Adriatic Sea is now a place tourists love to visit but it has a secretive past.
In 2013 the B.B.C. reported
“Seventy-five years ago in Fascist Italy, a group of gay men were labelled "degenerate", expelled from their homes and interned on an island. They were held under a prison regime - but some found life in the country's first openly gay community a liberating experience.”
Benito Mussolini was fascist leader of Italy in the 1930's.
As a supporter of fascism few exceptions from what was classed as "the norm" were tolerated by Mussolini the leader of Italy. His hit list included Jews, people who were physically or mentally disabled and homosexuals.
They were unwanted and the scourge of the country. and one way or another Mussolini was determined to rid Italy of such people.
He decided to purge the country of undesirables as Hitler was doing in Germany, ensuring a pure and manly race of men.
"Fascism is a virile regime. So the Italians are strong, masculine, and it's impossible that homosexuality can exist in a Fascist regime," says professor of history at the University of Bergamo, Lorenzo Benadusi speaking of Italy at this time in history.
As the mood in the country soured one police prefect in the Sicilian city of Catania used it to full advantage.
In 1938 around 45 men in the area were identified as homosexual, rounded up and exiled many miles from home. They were forcibly shipped to the island of San Domino, in the Tremiti archipelago.
Although some men allegedly found the experience of living openly as an identified homosexual liberating these exiles were kept as prisoners and had to obey a curfew.
Italy has continually tried to bury details of the men and their island exile and existence leaving people to only guess what it involved. Some local people however still have memories of the men arriving and living as prisoners in their island community.
For decades tourists have flocked to the area and tiny islands for some tranquil time in the sun during the summer months, totally unaware of the island’s dark past.
More recently however a group of visitors including gay men, lesbian women and transgender rights activists, came to the Tremiti archipelago. For them the purpose of their visit was not a quiet vacation in the sun but a more meaningful visit.
They came to this remote place to remember and reflect and a small ceremony was held to mark what is viewed as a shameful episode in the islands' history, one which unfolded in the islands more than 70 years ago.
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