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.
From Malpensa there are rail connections from airport Terminal 1 to Piazza Cadorna Station or Milan Central Station - see the Malpensa Express website. Urban line bus number 73 connects Linate to the Piazza San Babila station on Metro Line1 - see the ATM website.
Trains from around Italy and other parts of Europe arrive downtown at Stazione di Milano Centrale. See Gruppo Ferrovie or FS/ TrenItalia, for international service information, and Viaggia Treno for connections throughout Italy. Metro trains, suburban rail lines, trams and buses may also be found at the station.
The city is well served by public transportation from the main terminus at Milano Centrale. Azienda Trasporti Milanesi, or ATM, operates four subway/ Metro lines, tram lines, trollies 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 nightclubs and saunas require an ArciGay membership card. Buy one at the club's door and it's good at any of the others for the specified time. For the local branch see ArcigayMilano
For a general tourist website see TurismoMilano guide in seven languages.
For locations and web-links for the businesses below, and more complete listings, see our map & listings pages.
Hotel ADA (Via Sammartini 15; 39-2-6698-2632), a minute walk from Milano Centrale, inexpensive, clean, range of rooms from doubles with bathrooms, to rooms with shared bath.
Hotel Central Station (via Giovanni Battista Sammartini, 15; 39-2-6707-1766), gay-friendly budget hotel rooms and dorm beds, bar, breakfast, WiFi; near the Sammartini Gay Street scene.
Hotel Charly (Via Settala, 76; 39-2-204-7190), twenty comfortable gay-friendly rooms, central and quiet location, garden, big buffet breakfast option, WiFi access and bar.
Hotel Salerno (Via le Vitruvio 18; 39-2-204-6870), five minutes walk from Milano Centrale, offering 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 more hotel and guesthouse suggestions at our map and listings pages.
Bars and clubs
Beerbanti (via Andrea Solari 52), gay-friendly tapas and cocktails bar, beers on tap, tapas, pizza and sandwiches, good prices.
Blanco (via Morgagni 2, Piazzale Lavater), stylish cocktail bar, mixed crowd, DJ music, Friday dancing.
Ciringay by Tropical Island (Bastioni di Porta Venezia), April through September outdoor bar, evenings until 5am at Park Giardini Indro Montanelli; drinks and snacks, friendly and cruisy, mostly male crowd.
Club 23 (via Sammartini, 23), members-only nightly gay party bar next to Confused, 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.
Confused Club (via Sammartini 25), 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. Long-time gay club known as After Line.
G-Lounge (via Larga, 8) upscale cocktail lounge, music DJs, mixed men/women, gay-straight crowd.
Join the Gap at Karma (via Fabio Massimo 36), weekly Sunday LGBT dance parties by Arcigay Milano, large club area, three floors of Pop, Commercial, R'n'B, and Vocal House, big buffet spread, shows, karaoke.
KO (via Resegone, 1), nightly cocktail lounge and dance club, naked male strippers, drag shows, porn videos, dark cruise room.
LeccoMilano (via Lecco 5), small bar, artsy mixed LGBT crowd, men/women, weekend DJ sets, events.
LElephant (via Melzo 22), popular gay/lesbian cocktail lounge, faux-leather & pink boa-bedecked decor, buffet, DJ sets, bingo.
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 spettacolo, dance club, drag shows, drag go-gos, naked boy and girl strippers, relax cruise area and dark room, garden.
One Way (via Cavallotti 204; Sesto San Giovanni), Saturday gay disco party, free entry to those under 23, mostly men, go-go boys, bear nights, various theme parties.
VM18 (via SammartiniI 23/25), Thursday through Sunday private men's club, formerly part of AfterLine, an ArciGay member, with erotic male strippers, private dances.
For more bars, and some restaurant suggestions, 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.
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, naked nights, dark and bright rooms. Diverse guys: office workers, students; also those into sports, military or leather/ fetish. Relaxed bar, friendly staff, many languages.
Metrò Club Milano (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.
Tblue Sauna (via Ernesto Breda 158), newest of Milan's gay saunas, cabins, large Jacuzzi, pool, bar/lounge; open daily until midnight, until 2am Saturdays. Same building as Saturday Overjoy Disco Club nights, in what was the old Transfer Club.
Europa 92 Sexy Shop (via Sammartini 21), sex shop, video DVD sales, video viewing cabins, cruise scene.