On vacation in romantic Taormina, Sicily, Richard Gere seemed proud to show off his gorgeous, bikini-clad girlfriend. “They were holding hands the whole time, kissing and caressing each other,” a witness to their June holiday tells Closer. “They really seemed to be in love!”

This trip has been a coming-out party for Richard, 65, and Alejandra Silva, a 32-year-old Madrid socialite whom he has been secretly dating for nearly a year. “They decided it’s time to stop hiding their relationship and show the world they are a couple,” explains an insider.

richard gere and alejandra silva
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Richard and Alejandra in Italy in June of 2015.

In Sicily — where they attended the Taormina Film Festival — the happy pair were seen touring Roman ruins, swimming off a luxury yacht and sipping wine together over leisurely dinners at La Botte restaurant. (“He always orders the salt fish,” says a witness.)

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Richard and Alejandra met through his charity, The Gere Foundation, “about a year and a half ago,” adds the insider. “They became closer recently, following the Nepal earthquake, when Alejandra worked with the organization.”

richard gere and carey lowell

Richard and his ex-wife Carey at the Golden Globes in 2013.

Beyond their altruistic instincts, the pair also found common ground in their shared love of “yoga, meditation and wine,” says the insider. “Richard has taken Alejandra to Tibet with him to meet with the Dalai Lama, who approves of her.”

Richard’s spirituality has influenced Alejandra, who was raised Catholic, in other ways, too. “She is so in love that she has been studying and practicing Buddhism,” a source told the Spanish press. “She is madly in love with Richard, and they are very happy together.”

To read the full story on Richard and Alejandra, pick up the new issue of ‘Closer Weekly,’ on newsstands now!