ComScore tag
Daily Xtra Travel

City Search


Please enter a search criteria!

Other Destinations in Italy

List of Articles for Rome

Rome

Gay Rome

photo: Wiki Commons

The Forum, Rome, by Stefan Bauer

Gay Rome

Modern Rome offers incomparable food, rich art, historic sites, and stylish shopping. Subtler pleasures here include the sublime light which plays across ancient marbles, and sets to glowing the burnt sienna and ochre-colored walls at sundown. With a languid stretch on a fallen column, a feral cat among the ruins appears oblivious to it all. Thousands of years of civilizations are built literally one block upon the next, often using the recycled substance of a predecessor – an extraordinary complexity of landscape with odd and incongruous joints -- legacies of the many generations born or arrived at this sometimes chaotic, rare and worldly-wise crossroads. Do the postcard sights, but dare to get pleasantly lost to find those little treasures that delight the casual wanderer.

The "Eternal City" still captivates the world. Ancient legacies of language, law, architecture, religion, and philosophy include our Roman alphabet and calendar, and over 25 million Italians emigrated in recent centuries, many to North America. For their descendants, and anyone who grew up loving pizza, pasta, good coffee, and La Dolce Vita, the place seems already familiar on arrival. To wander here is to understand not only whence we came, but perhaps also where we're headed in our own era. Amidst vast ruins in the olive groves at Villa Adriana, it's hard today to imagine that Emperor Hadrian once administered the Roman Empire from this peaceful retreat, 20 miles from the capital. The most powerful man of his day, he travelled constantly thoughout his domain and built many things, including the eponymous British wall, and the Pantheon. Lover to Antinous, whose storied beauty is seen in many statues, he wasn't the only emperor who didn't closet his same-sex desires.

Gay travelers come to Rome for all these, but the best reason to come is the Romans. Balancing easy masculinity with gentle charm, these men will invite you to share the enchantments of their culture, millennia in the making.

Men here abound in contradictions, quite conservative in some ways, liberated in others. The Catholic Church is still influential, so gay sexuality might be expressed less openly in more traditionally Mediterranean ways than in other European capitals. But in terms of masculine affection, there are few inhibitions. An undercurrent of homoerotic desire seems barely but discreetly concealed. Friendships are close and effusively public, and welcomes bestowed on visitors can be enthusiastic and generous.

Considering the complex and conflicted relationship between the Church and pagan cultures on which Rome was founded, it's remarkable that the Vatican Museum, paradoxically, is now home to one of the world’s most amazing collections of nude male beauty. The complex includes the Museo Pio Clementino with 54 galleries, and Michelangelo’s masterpiece at the Sistine Chapel.

The Borghese Gallery, has works by Caravaggio, Bernini, Canova, Rubens, Raphael, Titian, and others from the Cardinal Scipione collection; and the Capitoline Museums collection ranges over ancient architecture and art, including statues.

 

Getting here

Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport will most likely be your gateway to Rome. Express trains to downtown run every 30 minutes, and take half an hour en route. Follow the signs from arrivals to the train station to buy your ticket, and be sure to validate it in the machine on the platform, just before boarding the train.

Bus coaches cost from 4-8 euros each way, depending on the company and special rate offers of the day. Walk right after exiting the arrivals point, look for buses parked there and buy the ticket from staff who compete for passengers at their bus door. Coming back look for the buses alongside Termini Station at the NW corner (the Via Marsala side) and enter the Terravision internet cafe to buy your ticket. Trips take from 45-60 minutes. Taxis also make the trip, but the cost is steep.

Trains from the airport and from cities around Europe and Italy arrive at the central Termini station. For information on rail services see the Ferrovie website. Ciampino, the other airport where Ryanair flights come in, is served by Metro rail and bus services.
 

Getting around

Many of Rome's main attractions are concentrated in the historic center, so it’s easy to reach them by foot or a stop or two on the subway system or on the bus. Those outside the center can be reached via Metro Line A, often called the “tourist train.” After Metro operating hours there are night buses that follow street routes to connect the stations. A 1.50 euro ticket buys a trip on the Metro, or 70 minutes of bus travel with whatever changes you need. Unlimited downtown one to seven day tickets for Metro trains and buses can also be purchased - a 24 hour pass is 7 euros, and for seven days pay 24 euros. See the the ATAC website for more options, and all Rome public transit information.

Vespa motorbikes and bicycles can be rented too, for those adventurous and agile enough. EcoMove, and Bici & Baci are two of many options near Termini Station, and Berberini Scooters is near Piazza Barberini. Bikes for go for 10 euros/day and motorbikes for 30-80 euros/day -- with cheaper rates by the week.

 

Neighborhoods

Rome's gay scene is scattered all over the city, but most are within walking distance of the Colosseum or Termini station. Termini has long been a cruising area too - inside, outside, and in the restrooms. But beware of pickpockets, and those who might distract you as a silent partner disappears with your bag.

Just south of the Colosseum, Via di San Giovanni in Laterano has been designated “Gay Street” since 2007. In summer and for special events, the street closes to traffic for parties, music performances, and art displays. For events in Parco del Ninfeo each summer see GayVillage.

Il Settimo Cielo (Seventh Heaven) is a popular gay beach off Via Litoranea, beside a pine forest on the Roman coast at Ostia. A mixed crowd gathers here for loud music and beach volleyball games, or to relax, using umbrellas and chaises that may be rented. Admission is free (unlike many private Italian beaches that charge), and a summertime catering service offers a rich buffet of rice, fruit or pasta salads and sides, during lazy late afternoons, along with cool drinks.

 

Media & resources

Pride and Lui are national Italian glossy gay lifestyle magazines, free in the bars, with up-to-date Rome information, in Italian, both in print and online.

The Mario Mieli group website has local information and listings too.

ArciGay the Italian gay advocacy and service organziation, has a list of their member businesses. AZgay also has online events info and gay listings.

CulturalGay and The Other Side of Rome also have gay guides to Rome.

For bears' events see the websites: BearsInvasion, BearMonday, BearPride, and GrossoRoma.

For other men-only parties see BunkerClub, COX, Gorillas, Into the Tank, LeatherClubRoma, and FetishPrideItaly.

Other ongoing and special dance party nights in Rome include: Amigdala, Butter, COCKtail, Frutta e Verdura After Hours, GIAM, Glamorize, Muccassassina at Qube Club, Planet Roma, and Tommy at L'Alibi.

For the Rome Tourist office website see Rome.info

InRomeNow is a great English-language source for off-the-beaten-track, very current tips on food & drink, arts & culture, nightlife & shopping in the city. They also have an iPhone/Pad app with more than 250 interesting side trip destinations, all within an hour or two from Rome.

For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Rome listings pages.

 

Accommodations

Rome has many hotels. A cluster of very reasonably priced ones can be found in the vicinity of Termini Station. Off-season rates can be surprisingly inexpensive, but book ahead, especially in summer when demand exceeds supply.

2nd Floor (Via San Giovanni in Laterano, 10), nine modern apartment suites above Gay Street cafes and bars near the Colosseum, from 110 euros per single.

Altavilla (Via Principe Amedeo 9), classic palazzo with elegant rooms, between Termini station and the Coliseum; buffet-style Continental breakfast.

Ares Rooms (Via Domenichino 7), small gay-friendly hotel, great location, good rates; friendly, helpful staff; bright, modern rooms ten minutes walk from Termini, five minutes to gay bars, baths, near Colosseum and Forum, good restaurants, and shops.

B&B In And Out (via Arco del Monte 97), luxury guesthouse in distinctive 18th century mansion, close to the Campo dei Fiori and lively nightlife area.

B&B Orlando Innamorato (piazza de Re di Roma, via Mortara 2), gay-friendly guesthouse rooms, penthouse garden terrace, Italian and international breakfast, WiFi; Metro stop just 50 meters away.

Be First (via Principe Amedeo, 165), warm and welcoming 4-guestroom gay B&B near Termini Station, private baths, studio kitchenette, Italian breakfast, free WiFi.

Duca d'Alba (via Leonina 14),  4-star boutique hotel, 27 unique guestrooms, fully modern facilities, beautiful old building near Colosseum; breakfast buffet, WiFi, Concierge, guest laundry.

Scott House (via Gioberti 30), 4-star conveniences, 2-star prices  near Termini station; private baths, air conditioning, satellite TV, breakfast, internet.

Youth Station Hostel (va Livorno 5), low rates near Piazza Bologna,  shared dorm rooms for backpacker set, private bath, internet.

See another two dozen hotels and guesthouses at our Rome map and listings pages.

Looking for a country retreat? Relais Antiche Pietre, or Stone House Retreat (Contrado Bagno di Manziano 15, Parrano; 39-076-383-8084) is a gay-owned restored farm house with self-contained, fully-serviced apartments, and pool, in a peaceful rural Tuscan setting.

 

Food & Drink

Traditional Roman food was centered around inexpensive offal dishes, and of course spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, pecorino, carbonara, artichokes, clams and tomato sauce. Other pastas and thin crust pizzas with a wide variety of toppings are popular too. The Via Cavour and Termini areas have many good, basic and cheap trattorias and pizzerias, as do the Trastevere and Testaccio districts, and the student-frequented areas of San Lorenzo.

We list a sampling of local restaurants at our map and listings pages, and Italian friends will gladly steer you to some great options around the city. On first getting to town here are a few of the gayest gathering spots, mostly around Cavour and the Colosseum.

Caffè Letterario Roma (via Ostiense 95), gay-friendly bookshop cafe, art gallery, poetry readings, buffet meals, cocktails, free WiFi access.

Citta in Fiore (via Cavour 269), gay-friendly Chinese restaurant. Low prices and great Chinese and Italian food, wine and beer, always a warm welcome from owner Jada and staff, very popular with locals.

Coming Out (via di SanGiovanni in Laterano 8), bar and restaurant, right by the Colosseum, gay men and women, daily 11am to 2am meeting place for Rome's gay community, busiest weekend evenings; cocktail specials; good first stop in Rome with all local gay papers and information, WiFi access, sidewalk seating.

My Bar (via di SanGiovanni in Laterano 12), next to Coming Out, under 2nd Floor B&B by the Colosseum. Open from 8am daily with breakfast, panini, pastries, pizza and pasta, espresso coffees, full bar, sidewalk seating, free WiFi. Daytimes mixed, gay bar nights with dance floor in back.

 

Out on the town: Arcigay Cards

Arcigay, the national organization, works on behalf of gay people to change Italian society. Most bars, saunas, and some other gay businesses require membership, and many are associated with Arcigay. A card bought at one is valid nationwide. Check their website for member establishments.

 

Bars

Beige (via del Politeama 13), gay-friendly Trastevere district cocktail bar with Mediterranean buffet, evening music.

Bunker (via Placido Zurla 68), Thursday through Sunday men's cruise and dance club from 11:30pm, special parties, naked nights, smoking room, bear crowd.

Coming Out (via di SanGiovanni in Laterano 8), mixed daytime cafe, evening gay bar/restaurant by the Colosseum, men and women. Favorite meeting place for Rome's gay community and visitors on Gay Street, sidewalk seating, busy weekends, cocktail specials. Good first stop with all the local gay papers and information, open daily 11-2am.

Company Roma (piazza Manfredo Fanti 40), basement music bar for bears and friends; smoking and dark rooms; Shirtless nights, Original Enjoy Together Sundays, and theme nights.

Freni e Frizioni (via del Politeama 4-6, Trastevere), mixed, gay-friendly cocktail lounge and cafe, imported beers, pastas/pizzas, salads, patio seating.

Garbo (vicolo di Santa Margherita 1A), drag and transsexual favored hangout bar, has art exhibits, books, and live music.

My Bar (via di SanGiovanni in Laterano 12), mixed daytime cafe from 8am breakfast, evening gay bar until 2am by the Colosseum, mostly men, shares crowd with Coming Out next door. Sidewalk seating, busy weekends, cocktail specials, small dance floor at the back, karaoke nights, occasional go-go dancers.

Oppio Caffe (piazza del Colosseo/ via delle Terme di Tito 72), daily buffet meals, beer/wine and cocktails; special parties include Grand Buffet and Hairy events for bears.

The Random (via scalo San Lorenzo 99a), gay-friendly restaurant/pizzeria, mixed disco dancing, piano bar and karaoke pub.

CLOSED: Hangar (via in Selci 69), among Rome's most enduring gay institutions. American expat John and partner Gianni's international gay men's gathering place with naked dancers and basement dark room shut the doors after more than 32 years.

 

Sex Bars

For getting directly down to business, Rome boasts several man to man bars-cum-sex-clubs.

Diavolo Dentro (Largo Itri 23), sex club, darkrooms, cabins, labyrinth, sling, food, drinks, shows, naked nights, hardcore movies. Leather Club of Rome, Mr Rubber and Catacombs events.

K Sex Club (via Amato Amati 8), men's leather cruising and sex bar with shows, naked parties, open daily except Mondays.

Skyline Club (via Pontremoli 36), near San Giovanni metro, darkrooms, porn videos, high-energy music, naked parties, bears nights. Ask Gian Carlo for tourist advice.

See Leather Club Roma for year-round special events for leather fetish guys.

 

Saunas

Europa Multiclub Sauna (via Aureliana 40), biggest, most popular and diverse Roman bathhouse. Amenities include mega-size Turkish bath, Finnish sauna, whirlpool, solarium; massage, internet, well-equipped gym, plus snacks and drinks at the cafe. Cabins for playing, plus big-screen erotic videos to set the mood. Open daily 1pm to midnight, and all weekend hours -- some stay here in place of a hotel room.

Two other longtime local tubs are just off Via Merulana as you walk south from the Termini area: Apollion Sauna (Via Mecanate 59/A) and Mediterraneo Sauna (Pasquale Villari 3). Each has steam, dry sauna, massage, darkrooms, and a loyal group of regulars.

SPArtacus Bear Sauna (via Pontremoli 28), sauna by EMC, with bar, large Finnish sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi; private cabins, free WiFi and massage services, Saturday Teddy Bear PicNic and Pizza Sundays.

Terme di Roma Internazionale (via Persio 4), an old-style men's sauna out a bit from the center, open daily 11am-11pm with steam and dry saunas, maze and darkroom.

 

Nightclubs, dancing

For dancing, Rome has an energetic line-up, with circuit parties popping up all over, but also some regular weekly venues. Most have one or two nights when they're gay, or busy. Many clubs and circuit parties take a break during summer months, returning in September or October for a new season until June. Party nights move around a lot, so double check venues ahead of time, before heading out to the clubs.

Amigdala at various venues; monthly Saturday queer electronic music parties with live concerts, film screenings, videos, visuals, and art.

Bear Mondays at Rebel (Galilei 74), weekly gay bear dance parties, no cover charge. Bears Invasion takes place Summer Saturdays at Qube.

Butter gay/lesbian/alternative scene, with Deep House/Techno dancing, street food, art and video installations, at various venues including: Short Theatre (piazza Orazio Giustiniani 4); Monk Club (via Giuseppe Mirri 35); and Gasometro (via del Porto Fluviale).

COCKtail Sunday evening buffet dinners, cocktails & DJ disco parties with go-go boys - moves around the various clubs, so check their website/facebook for updates.

COX at Qube Club (via Portonaccio 212) or Alien Disco Roma (via Velletri), private men-only party occasionally in Rome, but usually in Milan and Bologna.

Frutta e Verdura (via di Santa Passera 27), October through May Sunday morning after-hour dance parties 4:30-11am for a gay/mixed crowd.

Gelosia at Rebel Club (Galilei, 74), Friday LGBT Pop dance club nights, young mixed 18-40 international crowd. Gaycs safer sex free information and condoms. ASSO/ AssoSex ASX membership cards.

G I Am at Planet Roma (via del Commercio 36), popular Saturday gay dance nights at 6-room club with 3 dance floors, playing House, Commercial, remixes, RnB, and NuDisco; garden area, sexy shows and dancers, plus women-only area.

Glamorize at Rashõmon Club (via degli Argonauti 16), gay-friendly Wedneday dance nights from 8pm with food, cocktails and DJ sets.

Muccassassina at Qube Club (via Portonaccio 212), long-time gay/mixed Friday dance party on three levels, drag shows and other live performances, go-go boys, local and international DJs, men-only cruise area with dark room, maze, porn, and sex shows.

Porcelli Romani at Bunker Club (Placido Zurla 68), a sexy party for 18+ men-only (and their admirers), features guest porn star shows and go-go boys, buffets, plus Rome's biggest men's cruise club with dark room, maze, cabins, glory holes, sling, clothes check, and a smoking area.

Tommy at Giolitti (viale Oceania 90), gay/mixed Saturday nights dancing, DJ sets, karaoke.

See mainstream and mixed/gay-friendly events at: Ex Dogana (viale dello Scalo S. Lorenzo 10); Lanificio159 (via di Pietralata 159); MACRO (piazza Orazio Giustiniani 4); MONK Roma (Giuseppe Mirri 35); Scalo Est (via dello Scalo San Lorenzo 10); and Short Theatre (piazza Orazio Giustiniani 4).

 

Shopping

Just off Piazza Spagna at the base of the Spanish Steps (Metro: Spagna) by the Keats-Shelly Museum there are high-end shops that line Via dei Condotti. At the far end, Via del Corso runs from Piazza Venezia to Piazza del Popolo, with more well-known, but somewhat less expensive brand names above their doors. The Egyptian obelisk, that stands in Piazza del Popolo was brought to Rome in 10 BC by Emperor Augustus.

Many local sex and fetish shops stock gay merchandise, but a couple are of more interest than the others: Alcovo (Piazza Sforza Cesarini 27) and Hydra II (Via Urbana 139) both stock leather and fetish items, and the latter also carries Western, vinyl, and vintage wear.

Coming Out Shop (Via di San Giovanni in Laterno 26), souvenirs, rainbow gift shop, books, CDs/DVDs, toys, clothing & accessories.

 

See Millennia of Male Beauty below, from our archives.

- Staff - November 2017
Rome

Gay Rome

Millennia of Male Beauty

Rome is a wonder of archaeological and artistic heritages. Some might visit St. Peter's only for spiritual inspiration, but gay travelers are just as likely to feel a connection and resonance with what remains of pre-Christian Rome; a window onto older and alternative concepts of sexuality, and aesthetics. The attitude of the Church to that pagan legacy has been, and remains complex and conflicted.

A visit to almost any Italian museum clearly demonstrates that the ancients didn't equate nudity with a lack of modesty. Roman gods, emperors, athletes, warriors, and noblemen could be represented with statues of the perfect human form without the artifice of garments, as could those of the Greeks, from whom Rome inherited so much. Their comfort with nudity is embodied in marble all around this city, and all across the lands of their ancient empire.

The Vatican Museum, paradoxically, is today home to one of the world's most amazing collections of nude male statues. But the Church wasn't always so tolerant. Christianity brought with it a type of sexual repression unknown in pagan times and fourth-century Christian emperors looked the other way as roving mobs, often led by monks, looted and destroyed countryside temples, smashing countless statues of incredible beauty. Over a millennium later, with the old religions safely dead, a more confident Church (following the fashions of the political elite) commissioned new works inspired by these same artifacts, during The Renaissance.

As the West emerged from the "dark ages" many artists and intellectuals looked back to the old Roman empire as a cultural beacon. In much the same way as local gods and sacred places of conquered peoples had been incorporated into the Roman state religion, so too the temples, institutions, holidays and many of the Roman gods were effectively assimilated into the new Christian milieu. Eventually a lot of pagan art began to be accommodated and more appreciated too, as it was unearthed or rediscovered. The sexual proclivities of some church superiors may have made them more sympathetic and helpful in the preservation of these finds. During that remarkable 15th century, the finest artists of their time were employed by wealthy patrons such as the Medici family of Florence, who also contributed four popes to head the church. 

The sexuality of artists such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and others obviously played a part in the inspiration they took from the pagan works, but for centuries the church chose to ignore that connection when they could. In some cases they later altered or covered up parts of some works - as for example the girdle that was added during the Baroque period to Michelangelo's naked Cristo della Minerva

So, where to see these works? The Vatican complex includes the Museo Pio Clementino with 54 galleries, and in the lesser Vatican halls such as the Museo Chiaramonti, the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, and the Museo Egiziano you'll see more ancient Roman, Greek, Etruscan and Egyptian art. To get a head start browse the Vatican Museum website, with extensive but incomplete virtual tours, and their gift shop sells books depicting the better known works. Since many gems aren't included it might seem fair to grab some shots on an iPad or smart phone, but discreetly and without flash, or the custodians will soon let you know it's forbidden. 

The Saint Peter's Basilica tour which begins at Michelangelo's Pietà, ends looking up at the masterpiece by the same artist at the Sistine Chapel. Certain coy postures and knowing glances are recognizable as those which pass between men today, faithfully captured by the master artist. They betray perhaps his own affection for the street youth and urchins who modeled for him as angels and saints, intact with the grit and grime they brought with them. Through art they transcend their humble origins, doing their part to bridge the millennia, echos from a culture we can no longer fully comprehend, inspired by the art of an older religion in which the divine could guilelessly assume mortal flesh.

Many ancient relgions and cults left fewer relics and more scant information. Pagan Greeks and Romans were not the only ancient cultures that did not see sex or nudity as profane. Hindu temples, Buddhist carvings and ancient European fertility gods are instructive. Human bodies seen holistically, not divided into good and bad parts, beyond the concepts of sin or pornography, good and evil can be the Holy of Holies. Almost nothing is known about Mithraism, except that the practice was exclusively male, popular with soldiers, celebrated underground, and involving intense initiations. Leather night at the bathhouse or an orgy room in Berlin or Rio de Janeiro should be so intense - but the yearnings share a common source.

Sex and nudity as morally and socially subversive? Under the powerful central government such as in Rome, the cult of Apollo identified closely with the official ideals of the Roman state and furthered the aims of the ruling classes. But there were also the now-lost rites and rituals to honor Bacchus and Dionysus, gods of ecstasy and chaos. These mysteries were celebrated in temples but also in public festivals and street processions of common people. It's ironic that many of those marbles and paintings, if created today with film or digital representations, would be illegal under modern laws. In today's Termini train station the walls are adorned with more modest male nudes, yoked to commercial purposes in huge photo posters, weak echos from the city's ancient past. One can't gloss over the violent and brutal aspects of ancient Roman society, but artists of today could envy many characteristics of their civilization.

Being that this is Rome, you don't need to look far to savor magnificent art of other more recent eras either. The Fontana delle Tartarughe in the Piazza Mattei depicts four youths, one at each corner, each astride a rather odd looking porpoise with turtles above. The fountain, dating from 1588, was restored and modified in 1658. You'll find this tiny square just off via Arenula, near the tranquil courtyard of the Palazzo Mattei di Giove, which is adorned with antique statues, busts, and bas-reliefs, and home to the Italian Center for American Studies. Other worthwhile destinations include the Borghese Gallery (Piazzale del Museo Borghese 5), with examples from the works of Caravaggio, Bernini, Canova, Rubens, Raphael, Titian, and many others from the collection of Cardinal Scipione; and the Capitoline Museums (Piazza del Campidoglio 1, atop Capitoline Hill) with a collection which ranges across ancient art and architecture.

The Villa of Hadrian (Via di Villa Adriana 204) was the great emperor's retreat, just to the northeast of the city in modern day Tivoli. The site includes the best example of a Roman Alexandrian garden. Hadrian, born in what is now Spain, was also responsible for the construction of the Pantheon and for the wall bearing his name, built to protect Roman Britain from tribes to the north. The emperor was the lover of Antinous, made a god by Hadrian after the youth's death. Representing a Roman ideal of youthful beauty, Antinous' visage survives in countless busts and coins as perhaps the most common among extant portrayals of any face dating from that period.

Naples is an easy day trip on the train, and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli has another trove of classic marbles. Most are intact, not having suffered the removal of offending bits, or the addition of fig leaves which has scarred so many Vatican statues. Many were dug up in the towns of Pompeii, Herculaneum and surrounding areas buried by the volcanic ash of Vesuvius. When excavated in 1819, some artifacts were deemed obscene, and locked away in the Gabinetto Segreto, and in 1849 the doorway to the room was bricked up. Opened, closed again, and then again, it finally opened to the public only in the year 2000, in it's own exhibit room.

Stone statues endure but a little longer than flesh in terms of the ages, but they will surely outlive today's artworks of canvas, paper, film or digital files. One can hope these ancient marbles will survive another few millennia, to inspire our descendants in some unimaginable future - or else to serve, better than our bones can, to show who once trod this earth.

- February 2008