Drunkenness and vulgarity of holidaymakers sees Italy's Gallipoli resort labelled 'the capital of trashy tourism'

Italians – yes, Italians – are shocked by events at the idyllic fishing port - the latest example of bad behaviour by tourists visiting the country this summer

Rome

As the summer holidays draw to a close, Italy is working itself into a lather over a season of tourists behaving badly.

An episode of open-air sex in the idyllic fishing port and resort of Gallipoli in Puglia is the latest scandal to outrage the country’s media, as it hunts for examples of seaside loutishness after complaining about drunken, shirtless visitors in Venice and rowdy hordes in Rome.

The newspaper La Repubblica declared Gallipoli to be “the capital of sex, drugs, alcohol, trash – and trashy tourism” – a sort of Sodom-and-Gomorrah-by-Sea. The charge is based largely on the emergence of a grainy video showing a young couple having oral sex on an empty beach at dawn last week.

The man and woman have not been identified and their nationalities are not known. The town is very popular with Italian tourists as well as foreign holidaymakers.

The scene of the transgression, the inappropriately named Beach of Purity, forms part of the historic walled centre of the city. But no one would have been any the wiser had a strangely fascinated local campaign group – the Citizen’s Committee for the Liberation of Gallipoli – not put the video on Facebook. 

After a surge in traffic and many complaints, the committee removed the video. But outraged newspapers seized on the scandal and declared it to be the latest and most shocking example of “il degrado” – the degradation – afflicting Italy’s holiday resorts. La Repubblica posted 50 or so photos on its website showing tourists sleeping rough on Gallipoli’s rubbish-strewn streets.

It’s not clear to what extent the outrage in the Italian press reflects the opinion of ordinary citizens. Some readers commented on its website, “lucky them” and “wish that were me”.

But Salvatore de Ventura, an accident and emergency spokesman for the Snami health union, warned that young tourists’ appetite for excess in southern Puglia was such that ambulance services were “often paralysed by the number of call-outs for drunkenness”.

Last Thursday in Gallipoli, after the sex video emerged, 300 local citizens protested in front of the town hall at what they saw as too much leniency in the face of mounting drunkenness and vulgarity.

Venice has also been scandalised by uncouth tourists in the past month, with videos emerging of two people urinating in litter bins and another washing himself in the Grand Canal.

That news led the junior tourism minister, Ilaria Borletti Buitoni, to call for means to better regulate tourism, which, she said, “while certainly a source of economic development, must not come at the detriment of the cultural identity of the city”.

In June this year, one Tuscan hotel owner even produced an etiquette guide for the rich but uncouth Russian visitors that upmarket Italian resorts like to fleece while holding their noses.

The television commercial advised Russians to “smile more” and to be more polite in their dealings with waiters and hotel staff. They were told that ordering a cappuccino after lunch or dinner was a faux pas, and were warned against ordering red wine with fish or seafood. The commercial added that choosing the most expensive bottle from the wine list every time was considered vulgar.

Salvatore Madonna, the hotelier behind the advice, sought to deflect accusations that it was condescending. “We don’t want to give them instruction, just to offer advice on some of the peculiarities of the Italian way of life,” he said.

Italians, who traditionally go on holiday with their parents and lie on sun loungers in family groups, were alarmed, or in some cases amused, by pictures that emerged last week of three young compatriots walking around Barcelona completely nude, an incident that reinforced the theory that uptight Italians like to let their hair down as much as any other nationality, once they’ve grabbed a cheap flight to somewhere else.

Pictures of the toned and handsome male trio caused a mix of outrage and titters in Italy. In Barcelona, however, locals took to the streets, calling for the city authorities to do more to combat the scourge of “drunken tourism”.

“Here tourists do whatever they want,” local photographer Vicens Forner told El País, busily snapping photos of the Italian tourists.

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