Will they learn to live and let live on the Lido?

No one in Lido di Classe can remember why transsexuals first chose to migrate to their town 20 years ago, but their nocturnal activities are starting to worry the village's increasingly elderly residents. Michael Day reports

In the Stephen King chiller Salem's Lot, the town of the same name sees its population undergo a radical change, as one by one its citizens become vampires. Today in the Italian village of Lido di Classe, another demographic shift, almost as alarming for its elderly and dwindling population, is under way.

The exotic newcomers here also appear at nightfall, though they're not armed with fangs, but high heels and improbable cleavages. In this little town on the Adriatic coast, among the tiny, tree-lined streets and bars and bucket-and-spade shops, the locals could soon be outnumbered by transsexual prostitutes.

There are now thought to be more than 200 "trans", as they're known in Lido di Classe, with many coming from South America and beyond. Most are thought to earn their living the oldest way of all.

According to locals, the first few entered Italy from north of the border 15 to 20 years ago, although no one can remember precisely how or why the first of the newcomers chose this pleasant, but nondescript little town on the Adriatic as their base.

Transsexual friends of theirs were drawn here as result, and gradually the place became a magnet for them – a process that has sped up in the past five years. In contrast, the little village's fixed and ageing winter population is 250 – and falling.

Although not all the transsexuals are prostitutes, Angelo Gorini, the vice-president of the Association of the Friends of Lido di Classe, estimates that at least 48 apartments are rented out to transsexuals who sell sex. He notes that "usually there are at least two per lodging – sometimes up to five; so you can soon work out how many there are".

Even with the streets nearly empty in the scorching mid-summer heat, it doesn't take long to spot a trans. Posing flirtatiously in a nearby doorway, is a striking figure with a low-cut top and peroxide blond hair. Marcella comes straight out for a chat.

When she's aware that she's talking to a reporter she regards me closely for a couple of seconds before offering a demure handshake and declaring that she usually works in big shows. Other trans, though, do "fanno casino" – they cause a bit of a scene, she admits.

She says she's from Switzerland. Quizzed about her Brazilian-sounding accent, and mahogany tan, she says one of her parents is Brazilian.

When asked whether the locals object to having so many trans in the village, she's ready with the answer: "As long as people don't shout about it, Italians don't mind what you do."

Indeed, in Lido di Classe, she says "it's all calm and peaceful and everyone gets on well". It is a view given credence by the arrival of her neighbour, 62-year-old Geno, who gives Marcella a handshake and offers to pose for a photograph with her. She politely but firmly declines the offer, however. "No photos, dear." Onwards, past the store selling beach-balls and sun cream and the "Cactus Sexy Shop", you arrive at the centre of the action on the corner of Via Marco Polo and pine tree-lined Viale Verrazzano. Next to the traditional corner bar with a few, white-haired locals snoozing in the heat, is the trans's favourite hangout Dystak, playing thumping house music at 5.30 in the afternoon.

Parked outside, Mario the taxi driver tells me that the money the bar's patrons bring to the town tends to alleviate the locals' squeamishness, as an epicene youth in tight white jeans and Gucci shades sashays by.

"To be honest, it doesn't bother me at all," he says. "You see them all the time, but mostly in the evening. Often in the balconies with the big breasts. Some of them are really pretty; some of them aren't."

When asked to venture an opinion on who uses their services, Mario proves to be a mine of information, "A lot of married guys, and younger blokes as well," he says. "And some gays, I think. A lot of people go with them because they're very good. They're passionate and they do some things with more ... enthusiasm than wives or girlfriends," he adds before launching into more detail. "I personally wouldn't, because although their breasts look nice, I don't like the surprise that usually comes with it."

Generally, though, there seems to be little discussion about the demand for transsexual prostitutes in Lido di Classe and elsewhere in staunchly Catholic Italy. Marzio Barbagli, a sociologist at Bologna University, who has studied prostitution in Italy, offered the view that, for many of his countrymen who regarded themselves as straight, having sex with a transsexual prostitute didn't in any way change how they viewed their own sexuality.

A stone's throw away, is the little church, Il Cuore Immacolato della Madonna; small but modern – a cone with concrete spider's legs radiating out. Inside a picture of Padre Pio stares placidly at two elderly ladies quietly praying. Its priest, Don Franco Polomba, is not keen to comment on the transsexuals. "I'm not here a lot of the time because I'm also the priest for [nearby] Savio, he says. I'm also very busy. I can't talk now."

Polemic is not in short supply, however. Silvia Lameri, a Republican Party councillor in the governing council of Ravenna, the nearest big town, believes that something has to be done. "At this point it's necessary and urgent to ban the renting out of apartments to male prostitutes," she told La Stampa newspaper.

Opposing her, Antonio Luordo, from the Communist Party, said such an attitude was "discriminatory" and "scandalous". "It seems like we're returning to the past when in northern Italy they hung out signs saying: 'We don't let to southerners'".

Ms Lameri retorted that she only wanted to point out that it wasn't fair to blame the situation on the council. "I want to throw the question back to the local people," she said. "If you don't like it then you shouldn't rent your rooms to them."

Mario and other locals say Councillor Lameri may have hit the nail on the head. The sex trade is so lucrative that some locals are able to charge the newcomers up to €2,000 (£1,761) a month for houses or apartments – a sum unheard of in similar Adriatic seaside towns.

In the past month, an increase in night police patrols has seen the town's action die down a little. But the Lido de Classe community has another strategy for cleaning up their town: a well-intentioned group is launching a training course that will allow the transsexuals to become home-helps or social workers. But Marcella is not convinced. "Dear, that's not going to pay the rent," she says smiling before strolling off to greet another neighbour.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Sport
sport
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there