In Italy over the past month, a series of incidents in which gay people have been physically and verbally attacked has led to the country’s press referring to a “summer of homophobia”.

As reported in the Guardian, the attacks were all apparently prompted by the sight of gay couples kissing in public.

In Ostia, near Rome, two men were forced to leave a beach after their fellow sunbathers became angered by the sight of them kissing each other on the lips.

In the popular gay summer resort of Torre del Largo, two men were fined for kissing in public, despite the fact that there are no laws in the country against doing so.

At Pesaro, a resort on the Adriatic coast, a gay couple were bottled after they were seen kissing in the street.

Franco Grillini MP, who is also the president of Italy’s premier gay rights organisation, Arcigay, said in dismay that “homophobia is racism, pure and simple, and as such should be punished”.

Paola Concia, Italy’s first openly lesbian member of parliament, added: “Suddenly a kiss has become obscene and illegal simply because it has taken place between two people of the same sex”.

In response to the apparently growing public prejudice, Ms Concia, along with other gay activists, has organised a mass kiss-in at Torre del Lago, calling it “Many kisses against intolerance”.