My name is Michael Rizzi, and I’m a gay vlogger from Toronto, Canada. I refer to myself as a “gay vlogger” and not just a ”vlogger” because my sexuality is more than just a label – at the core, it’s who I am as a person. It influences so many different parts of my life, including how I travel.
For over two weeks, my boyfriend, Christian, and I travelled the beautiful country of Spain, in collaboration with The Travel Project. We were sent there on a mission: to better understand why Spain is one of the best countries in the world to travel to if you’re LGBTQ+. What did I learn? Well, we’ll get into that. However, I will start off by saying that Spain is far more than delicious tapas & paella. Spain is everything you could ever want in a country…hungry yet?
Why is telling this story so important to me? Because as LGBTQ+ people, we have to consider our sexuality or gender identity when traveling. It’s easy to forget this when you live in a country that provides love and support for your identity. As such, we need LGBTQ+ travellers to tell their story and inspire others in our community to travel without fear.
I’ve always wanted to visit Madrid. I’ve heard it described as the “gay capital of Europe,” so I’ve been curious to see what all the fuss is about! Before leaving for our Spain adventure, I saw countless Instagram posts from World Pride Madrid – needless to say it kept my anticipation levels at their peak!
Upon arriving at our hotel, Christian and I were ready to take on Spain – well, that is until the jet lag hit us moments later… SO, after a long-needed nap, we left our hotel, navigated the city’s seamless public transit system, and entered Madrid’s city centre.
What was the first thing we saw? A same-sex couple walking together and holding hands, effortlessly showing their affection for one another. Pedestrians around us didn’t seem to take notice in their affection, everyone just walked along with their business as usual. This wasn’t a unique experience, either!
Famous for its iconic Catholic churches, can Barcelona really be a destination for LGBT+ travellers? Absolutely!
Prior to visiting Barcelona, I didn’t know too much about the city and its culture. However, I was familiar with the city’s historical relationship with Catholicism, with famous sites such as La Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell.
Can a city with such deep religious ties be a welcoming environment for the LGBTQ+ community? To answer that question, Christian and I decided to sit down with Juame Vidal of Visit Barcelona and Eloi Morte, the Director of Pride Barcelona. They took us to restaurant called FOZ, a local eatery in the heart of Barcelona’s gay district. While indulging in some delicious local cuisine, we learned that over 50,000 people marched in this year’s Pride Barcelona. I’ve definitely got Barcelona marked down as a city I need to re-visit…
However, the most interesting thing we learned about Pride Barcelona is that it attracts a large number of local LGBTQ+ people. Juame and Eloi emphasized that the LGBTQ+ community in Barcelona is very close, and the LGBTQ+ culture as a whole is a fundamental part of Barcelona’s appeal as a travel destination.
During our last night in Granada, our Contiki fam (straight, bi, queer – everyone!) decided to go out to a gay bar together. We danced (and had a couple drinks) until around 2AM, when I decided that it was time to experience Spain’s LGBTQ+ nightlife. We headed towards Granada’s gay district and ended up in front of Pub La Sal.
The street outside of the bar was very quiet, with around 8-10 people hanging outside. We approached the bar’s door, and noticed a doorbell. After ringing the doorbell, a young guy opened the door, and the beautiful sounds of pop music flowed out onto the street. In contrast to the quiet streets of Granada, Pub La Sal was a bright and colourful bar, filled with local LGBTQ+ people.
Suddenly, 2AM became 3AM, which turned into 4AM even faster. Once the bar closed, we met a few locals who offered to take us to a disco club for yet more dancing.
I can honestly say that my Spanish adventure was a once in a lifetime experience. Spain is probably one of the only countries that I can visit for over 2 weeks, and want to go back the moment I leave.
With Contiki you’ll learn about the best bars and restaurants to visit, and find local gems that aren’t in any travel guide. In this same way, it’s so important that our community is a resource for LGBTQ+ travellers. Next time you see a tourist at your local gay bar, offer to show them around, or give them some recommendations! Treat them as you’d want to be treated when you travel abroad.
And as my final note, I want to say thank you to Contiki, for giving my boyfriend and I the trip of a lifetime. There’s nothing that will replace the experience we had.
Michael and Christian travelled with Contiki as part of The Travel Project. If you are an aspiring writer, photographer or videographer and have a story about how travel has changed your life and helped you realise who you are as a person, we want to hear it. Head here to discover more.
To see more of Michael’s trip to Spain with The Travel Project, head to his channel here.