My marriage puts me in a privileged position

Edoardo Mastantuoni, also known by his Icelandic name Játvarður or simply Varði, is an adjunct lecturer and Head of the Department of Italian at the University of Iceland. He first visited Iceland in 2002, when he was 21 years old, and felt socially at ease immediately. He found great support from his immediate family when he came out at 17, but says that queer prejudice can at times still be found in his homeland of Italy.

Edoardo Mastantuoni, also known by his Icelandic name Játvarður, is an adjunct lecturer and Head of the Department of Italian at the University of Iceland.

“Those years represent for me the peak of romanticism. The scene and the people from Reykjavik struck me as being very ‘hip’ and utterly euphoric on weekends.”

That’s how Edoardo Mastantuoni, also known by his Icelandic name Játvarður, describes his first stay in Iceland during the Summer of 2002. He has fond memories of that Summer, being introduced to a legendary queer bar in Reykjavik.

“At that time there was a little club called Spotlight. I do not remember meeting other tourists during that Summer: Iceland was still the mysterious land of the intrepid and sturdy adventurers. My newly made Icelandic friends were keen on sharing with me the peculiarities of anything Icelandic; cuisine, landscapes, culture. The soundtrack of that Summer was the dance cover of ‘Heaven’ (‘Baby, you’re all that I want. Will you lie here in my arms?’). That song brings back many memories. I am very much a 90s boy and have never fully adapted to more recent beats,” says Játvarður, who was 21 when he first came to Reykjavik.

… The Italian gay scene is sophisticated and cosmopolitan. I would describe the Italian scene as ‘glossy’, glamorous. On the other hand, Reykjavik is young, euphoric, dynamic and galvanisingly out of control.

Játvarður hails from Italy, where the queer rights movement has overcome many obstacles after years of struggling. Játvarður came out as gay when he was seventeen and found support amongst his family members.

“My family is an anti-conventional, atypical middle-class family. This allowed me to find acceptance from all members of the family. Such acceptance and understanding was, in some cases, immediate and taken for granted. For my older brother it took almost a week to digest my coming out. A week is not so bad, after all,” says Játvarður and adds that he hasn’t fully come out to his extended family.

“To some people I have come out, to others I have not. It is a feature I never concentrated upon. The act of coming out is an old adolescent memory of 1998. What mattered to me thereafter was my

A family photo. Upper row, left to right: Matteo, Antonietta, Guglielmina, Edoardo. Bottom row, left to right: Giuseppe, Sara, Antonio Fernando.

studies, my academic path and the well-known search for a creative stream in which we are all involved in our lives. In short, after a mini-coming out at seventeen to the key people in my life and to my best friend, everybody else was just welcome to find out.

For example, at some point I moved to other cities to continue my education, then abroad, so a clear come-out to all uncles, aunts, very old acquaintances and the historic family friends never happened fully and the picture is a bit blurred to some. Maybe a bit less after I post this interview on Facebook,” he says with a smile.

Gays stigmatized in rural centers

In 2011, after completing his Ph.D., Játvarður was granted a scholarship by the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies and moved to Iceland permanently. There he met his spouse from Ukraine. Three years later they were married, something that would not have been possible in his homeland at the time.

“After many struggles, Italy finally recognized same-sex civil unions in 2016. This was absolutely necessary, as homosexual couples enjoyed neither legal recognition nor any legal rights whatsoever.

It was preposterous. Adoption is permitted only to opposite-sex married couples, hence there is much room for further developments and additional freedoms. A child who is much loved enjoys every prerequisite for growing up as a healthy and happy child, whoever the parents may be,” Játvarður says and adds that queer prejudice can still be found in Italy.

“Homosexuals can still occasionally be stigmatized, especially in rural centers. In cities, however, the situation is similar to that of Nordic countries, though aggressions might alas take place, sometimes.

The Royal Palace of Caserta, the home city of Játvarður.

In Italy we are, overall, more conservative than the rest of our fellow EU/Schengen countries,” he says.

“It is however important to take into consideration that it is a conservatism within European standards: Italy is European, naturally, which means that homosexuals, especially in bigger communities, are largely integrated.”

Bearing that in mind, does his family approve of his marriage?

“My parents were not present when we got married, but they have seen my husband both in Italy, when we were boyfriends, and here in Iceland, right after the marriage. In their eyes he is an acquired son. One could not wish for better.”

Wants to have a child with his husband

But if we move our attention back to Iceland, what image did Játvarður have of this country before he arrived?
“Endless green prairies where white horses run in slow-motion. Ridden by maidens in white gowns with extra-light blond hair. They resemble Jóhanna (Guðrún) in the last minute of her music video ‘Is It True?’. The maidens’ locks of hair move in slow motion in the wind. Blond children run happily. Blond farmers with checkered shirts are piling up hay in hay stacks. The sun is setting and giving the

Játvarður likes horseriding.

best of its horizontal golden light. Wooden houses in the style of Árbæjarsafn sparsely dot the pastoral landscape. This is the picture. The one that every European and Asian visitor has,” he says with a chuckle.

And now you’re an adjunct lecturer and the Head of the Department of Italian at the University of Iceland.  Did you find it difficult to tell your Icelandic co-workers that you’re gay?

“No, it was not difficult at all. This is a country where you feel socially at ease immediately. It may be difficult for some to make friends, but you can definitely be yourself without much perceivable prejudice. Nowadays the notion that I am gay just comes up immediately when I say: ‘My husband and I’, like Elizabeth II.

I sense that this even puts me under a better light than straight couples. People may look at me with tenderness because of my gay marriage. So, on the contrary, I can even consider myself privileged. Instead of bias, I might hold a privileged position in the eyes of my colleagues and friends. Isn’t that nice?” Játvarður says and continues on a more serious, and indeed pensive, note.

“What is sad is that I cannot make a child with my spouse. We have tried, I can assure you, both of us, to get pregnant. But to no avail.” He laughes. “Joking aside, it is psychologically daunting to consider that I cannot make a child with the person I am in love with. Think about it. How sad.”

“The club that was once on Hverfisgata had that ‘Berlin touch’ which made this city more complete. There are so many tourists in Iceland nowadays, so we should not be shy to venture into opening again a similar venue. It would … certainly take off.”

We go on to speak about the difference between the gay scene in Iceland and Italy. 

“The atmosphere in the Italian gay scene is sophisticated and cosmopolitan. I would describe the Italian scene as ‘glossy’, glamorous. On the other hand, Reykjavík is young, euphoric, dynamic and galvanisingly out of control. What I particularly enjoy is when there are events organized at Iðnó,” Játvarður says and goes on.

A student during a class of Self-Directed Study in Italian.

“It is pleasant when there are more alternatives and I must admit that, upon reflection, nowadays I most of all feel the loss of the venue Reykjavik once had on Hverfisgata (Bar 46).

Some may argue that a men’s club is a form of ghettoization. But I disagree: to me such men’s clubs were an opportunity to have a decent chat, to exchange ideas, to focus on something, while enjoying the pleasure of going out for a beer.

The club that was once on Hverfisgata had that ‘Berlin touch’ which made this city more complete.

There are so many tourists in Iceland nowadays, so we should not be shy to venture into opening again a similar venue. It would represent a sign of maturity and the place would certainly take off,” he concludes.

Gay video for Italian students

Játvarður has found success in his professional life, reforming the Italian courses at the University of Iceland so that they suit everyone, from beginners to advanced students.

“Together with Stefano Rosatti, adjunct lecturer and Head of the Department of Italian for the academic year 2017-2018, we have recently reformed the entire B.A. programme so as to make it possible also for absolute beginners to enroll in the course. There is one high school in Iceland which offers courses in Italian in its curriculum on a regular basis: Menntaskólinn við Hamrahlíð. Besides welcoming students from this school, we welcome anyone else who has no prior knowledge of

Játvarður in 2005, three years after he came to Iceland for the first time.

Italian and intends to study it from scratch, both Icelanders and foreigners, young and old,” says the Italian lecturer, stating that the Italian courses are immensely popular.

“One of the courses, ‘Self-Directed Study in Italian’, is taught as a one-to-one course (teacher and student) or in tiny groups of three students. The course is very popular, both among Icelandic students and Erasmus students, because they establish the language level, the days of the week, the times of the lessons.

The teachers at the Italian Department are very young and dynamic and do a fantastic job in maintaining the high quality of teaching and, at the same time, keeping our classes popular among students. We have also created a video presenting our courses. A video which my husband defined as gay, by the way,” says Játvarður and bursts out laughing.

Why gay?

“He was alluding to the soft voice and the cat walk with which I moved in one of the shootings. That was totally involuntary. I was in the bookshop Bóksala Stúdenta and unable to talk with a high tone of voice. I think he also refers to the general aesthetics of the video. Whatever the case, we are most definitely gay-friendly and welcome anyone to our classes.”

“We have also created a video presenting our courses. A video which my husband defined as gay, by the way.”

Our time is coming to an end, but before I let go of Játvarður I must ask him what the future beholds for him.

“We are the forgers of our future. I do not believe in the ideal country to live in or the man of your life. There are very fine living conditions and there are people you care about. But everything else is an investment, it is what you build, it is a project shared by the person who walks by your side. Again, not the ‘ideal man’, not the man of your life, but a man you definitely care for and in the company of whom you decide to walk your life.”

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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