What Frankfurt is to Germany, Milan is to Italy. But it’s not enough to classify Milan as the country’s financial capital. It’s also a bustling urban center, a center of modern industry, art, and fashion. It’s home to both the world famous La Scala opera house and Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, at the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Milano, the Italian name, comes from the Latin Mediolanum. This ancient city, founded by a Celtic tribe in 400 BC, was conquered by Rome in the 2nd century BC. It became the capital of the Western Empire in 293 AD, before the Visigoths and then the Huns and Ostrogoths moved in. Under Charlemagne, who took the title "King of the Lombards," Milan was firmly placed in the Holy Roman Empire.
Even as Napoleonic France and the Austrians fought over the city, Milan became a center of lyric opera. Mozart, in the 1770s, had premiered three operas at the Teatro Regio Ducal, and La Scala was to become the reference theatre of the world, with works by Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and Verdi having premières here. Verdi was interred in the Casa di Riposo per Musicisti. By the 19th century other important theaters, such as La Cannobiana and Teatro Carcano, were established. As the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in 1861, Milan had commercial dominance over all of northern Italy and the city's population expanded greatly during years of the late-19th to mid-20th centuries.
Much of Milan is made up of narrow, cobblestone streets showcasing chic shops selling Gucci and Armani fashions. Gay venues range from glamorous nightclubs full of pleasure and pursuit to cruise bars filled with the noises of sex and seduction. Even the coffee shops — packed with stylish men wearing thick sunglasses and sipping small cups of aromatic coffee — exude a distinctly sexual vibe. Gay Pride takes place here in mid-to-late June.
Several airports serve as gateways to Milan. Malpensa Airport, which receives the bulk of international flights, is about 45km from downtown. The Malpensa Express train, running every 15 minutes, and the Suburban Line S10 train arrive downtown at Centrale FS station. The smaller Linate Airport, with mostly domestic flights, has express and shuttle bus services into town. Orio al Serio, towards Beramo, is the low-cost airlines' area hub, with shuttle buses into the city.
Trains from around Italy and other parts of Europe arrive downtown at Stazione di Milano Centrale FS. See Gruppo Ferrovie or FS, for international service and Viaggia Treno for domestic connections. Metro trains, suburban rail lines, trams and buses may also be found here.
The city is well served by public transportation from the main terminus at Stazione di Milano Centrale. Azienda Trasporti Milanesi, or ATM, has 3 subway Metro lines, 17 tram lines, plus trolley and bus services. Some trams date from the 1920s. Tickets for trams and buses can be bought at stations or at the many tabac/espresso and newspaper caffe/shops. Bicycles can be rented from the BikeMi stands all around the city, with the swipe of a credit card. Taxis are reasonably priced, taking you to most parts of town for around 10 euros.
Currency and Money
Italy is part of the Euro Zone, so the euro is the accepted currency. There are plenty of ATMs in the downtown area.
Media & resources
ArciGay, the national Italian gay/lesbian association, has branches and affiliated clubs all over the country. Many clubs require a membership card. Get one at the door, once bought it's good for all member clubs for the specified time. For the local branch see ArcigayMilano
GayStreet website has info and links for via Sammartini, next to Central Station, promoting one of Milan's gayest areas.
For a general tourist website see TurismoCommuneMilano
For locations and web-links for the businesses below, and more complete listings, see our map & listings pages.
Hotel ADA (Via Sammartini 15), a minute walk from Milano Centrale, inexpensive, clean, range of rooms from doubles with bathrooms, to rooms with shared bath.
Hotel Charly (Via Settala, 76), twenty comfortable gay-friendly rooms, central and quiet location, garden, big buffet breakfast option, WiFi access and bar.
Hotel Salerno (Via le Vitruvio 18) is a five-minute walk from Milano Centrale and offers well equipped and comfortable rooms at budget prices. The staff are friendly and cute, and they're close to many gay venues on the "Gay Street."
See two dozen hotel and guesthouse suggestions at our map and listings pages.
Bars and clubs
AfterLine (via Sammartini 25), long-running gay club, busy weekends, locals and tourists, dancing to modern pop and house music; video and chill-out rooms. Young male crowd, go-go boys, nude strippers, theme party nights.
Blanco (via Morgagni 2, Piazzale Lavater), stylish cocktail bar, mixed crowd, DJ music, Friday dancing.
Club 23 (via Sammartini, 23), members-only nightly gay party bar next to After Line, Friday/Saturday open to all; male strippers, drag shows, contests, horny young guys.
Company Club (via Benadir 14) men's club, leather events, Friday and Saturday Bear Company nights until 5am, big Sunday buffet spreads and retro music.
Cru Sauvage Lounge (Piazza Don Mapelli, 2) upscale gay-friendly cocktail lounge bar, mixed men/women crowd, finger food, attractive garden patio, DJs play acid jazz.
Club 56 (via Tucidide 56), damce club, men/women mix, gay/alternative special party nights
G-Lounge (via Larga, 8) upscale cocktail lounge, music DJs, mixed men/women, gay-straight crowd.
KO (via Resegone, 1), nightly cocktail lounge and dance club, naked male strippers, drag shows, porn videos, dark cruise room.
L'Elephant (via Melzo 22), popular gay/lesbian cocktail lounge, faux-leather & pink boa-bedecked decor, buffet, DJ sets, bingo.
Magazzini Generali (via Pietrasanta 16) Wednesday, Friday and Saturday dance club mix; house and pop music, shows, performers.
Mono (via Lecco 6, Porta Venezia), retro-style, gay-friendly cocktail bar, mixed & artsy international crowd
Nuova Idea (via de Gasperi 14; Corsico) Saturday night, dance club, drag shows, go-go/strippers, relaxed cruise area, garden.
One Way (via Cavallotti 204; Sesto San Giovanni) gay disco, mix of mostly men, Saturday bear nights, various theme parties.
Popstarz (viale Emilio Alemagna 6), gay/alternative club kidz electropop/indie/retro dance party.
Rhabar (via Alzaia Naviglio Grande, 150), lounge bar for women, theme parties, pizza nights, shows, karaoke.
VM18 (via SammartiniI 23/25), Thursday through Sunday private men's club, another part of the AfterLine complex, an ArciGay member, with erotic male strippers.
For some restaurants see our map and listings pages.
Cruising and saunas
Alexander's Club Sauna (via Pindaro, 23), dry sauna, Turkish bath, video lounges, massage, cabins and dark room, plus bar and special theme party nights.
Bangalov (via Calabria, 5), Tuesday - Saturday men-only sex club from 10pm, naked and underwear parties, blackout nights.
Cruising Canyon (via G. Paisiello, 4), open 24/7, with glory holes, variety of cruising sets including a truck, sex cabins.
Depot Milano (via Dei Valtorta, 19), sex/fetish cruising club, leather, military, and rubber, underwear, naked and piss parties, masked and bisexual nights. "Everything is dark and raw."
Fenix Sauna (via Oropa, 3), former Metro Cimiano, next to to Flexo Club, dry and steam saunas, Jacuzzi, massage, private cabins, videos, solarium, bar.
Flexo (via Oropa, 3), by Metro Sauna, cocktail bar on one level; other floor dark maze, glory holes, porn videos and naked parites.
Illumined (via Napo Torriani, 12), non-stop 24/7 young crowd, sexual frolics, some naked only, dark and bright rooms. Diverse guys include office workers, students, and those into sports, military or leather/fetish. At relaxed bar the friendly staff speak many languages. NOTE July 2014: closed by police, issue to be resolved in court.
Magic Sauna (via Masiocchi, 8), traditional men's club, membership not required, small but with roof terrace when weather permits. Massage by an array of gorgeous guys.
Metrò Sauna Centrale (via Schiaparelli, 1), modern, clean, well-equipped sauna facilities, Jacuzzi, private rooms, massage services, video lounge, internet access, bar with snacks, solarium.
Royal Hammam (via Plezzo, 16), modern elegance, hammam, jacuzzi, waterfall (for neck and back relaxation), swimming pool; plus massage services, bar drinks and food, labyrinth, and dark room.
Europa 92 Sexy Shop (via Sammartini 21), sex shop, video DVD sales, video viewing cabins, cruise scene.