If you're not that familiar with Italy but have heard of Taranto, you probably haven't heard very nice things being said about it. A google search will even reveal one particularly nasty blog someone wrote a couple of years back, listing ten (mostly childish) reasons not to visit the place.
I'm not even going to bother linking to it. But, it is hard to find anyone that has something nice to say about the place.
The thing is Taranto should be one of Italy's absolute jewels. On paper it has all the ingredients to capture the imagination: its Magna Grecia past, its natural and stunning beauty, its bustling new town (one of the biggest in southern Italy) and its cittá vecchia located right on the port are all things that make it special.
The problem is that the city based its modern fortunes on industry, and over time, a perfect storm of poor regulation, the Italian government's neglect and regional economic challenges all contributed to its significant deterioration. The result is some of the worst air/water pollution and unemployment in the Mediterranean basin and a challenge that the Italian and EU governments have yet to properly face.
June as you might know was Pride month. And although it's now July, we're heading into the busy peak season for southern Italian tourism. Italy is hosting an increasing number of pride events each year. It's part of a new approach that has shelved the idea of a concentrated, national event in favour of what's called onda pride which translates to pride wave- a rolling series of marches taking place across the country.
This year a number of cities hosted their first Pride events and over the weekend, Taranto joined this group. It hosted the first of two scheduled Puglia Pride events - the next will take place at the end of August in another town in Puglia - Gallipoli - which is Italy's unofficial summer gay capital.
Had a great time on the realllllllly long march - and it was great running into friends who were in town for the event too. There was a feeling of elation and surprise for the thousands of us marching. Nobody could have predicted that a city that has been overlooked on so many levels - and that is slagged off as being a conservative, southern town - could've played host to a march that calls for change and that so many people would join what is effectively a regional march (numbers were estimated to be around 2000).
To top it off, the march culminated on the esplanade, and after a series of speeches and talks, a public screening of the Italy-Germany match ensued, with much of the same revelry and atmosphere that marked the parade itself. Only in Italy. :)