Under fascism Italy experienced one of the darkest moments in its LGBT+ history. Hundreds of homosexuals (almost exclusively men) were arrested, put on a register by the Ministry of the Interior, and sent to internment camps.
This is the story of the ‘arrusi’. Forty-five gay men from Catania, arrested in 1939 and sentenced to 5 years confinement on Puglia’s beautiful Tremiti islands, unwittingly creating Italy’s first openly gay community.
Under confinement the arrusi were free to be their authentic selves. They found their own community where they could live openly. They even found love.
Here lies love – an imagined love story
Many gay men were detained on the Tremiti Islands in Puglia under Italy’s fascist regime. Isolated on the remote archipelago, away from their families, friends, and society. Among them was M. the youngest of the arrusi, at first withdraws and traumatised and afraid to be surrounded by strangers. But then, during his confinement, imprisoned but free to live openly he met another detainee, a man who changed his life.
He was kind and understanding, listening attentively to his stories and fears. The young M. felt comfortable with him, taking pleasure in his company. Together, they spent their days walking around the island, observing the beauty of the sea, sharing their experiences and sharing their dreams.
But when the prisoners were finally returned, the young arrusi faced a difficult choice. His family was in a distant city where there was no acceptance for his sexuality. The man he had shared isolation with could never go with him, they would not be able to live together..
The young arrusi realized that he needed to follow his heart, and decided to stay on the island with the man he had loved. Together, they faced the difficulties and restrictions imposed by society, but their love endured, becoming stronger with time.
Now, many years later, the Tremiti Islands have become a popular tourist destination. But for the young arrusi and the man he had loved, that island remained the place where they found love during imprisonment and loneliness, a place where their love was free and unconditional.
9th station | Freedom in confinement
Stazione 11 |