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 Travel Article Travel Article Archive  
January 2009 Email this to a friend

Rome
You'll come to Rome for the ruins and culture, but stay for the hot men and even hotter bars

By Leonardo Alfano

Hangar, Rome
At Hangar

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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded Rome article click DailyXtraTravel

Come for the history, the ruins and monuments, the art, the unmistakable feel, and stylish sensuousness. But come most especially for the Romans! Even as they epitomize macho, these men with gentle charm will invite you to share in "la dolce vita" of their lives, in a culture that's been millennia in the making.

These sensual and passionate, sometimes raunchy and brash men exude style and self-confidence, but abound in contradictions; quite conservative in some ways, liberated in others. The Church is still influential, so gay sexuality might be expressed less openly, in more traditional Mediterranean ways than in other large European cities. But in terms of masculine affection, there are few inhibitions. An undercurrent of homoerotic consciousness seems barely but discreetly concealed. The welcome bestowed on visitors can be enthusiastic and generous, and friendships and family devotions are close and effusively public.

Accommodations

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

Ares Rooms (Via Domenichino 7) is more than a gay-friendly hotel with great location, good rates, and a friendly, helpful staff. They offer bright modern accommodations just 10 minutes walk from Termini. It's just five minutes more to walk to several gay establishments in the area. They're also close to the Colosseum and the Forum, and a cluster of good restaurants and useful shops.

Other area hotels in the low to medium price range that are comfortable for gay visitors include: Altavilla (Via Principe Amedeo 9) , B&B Best Place (Via Turati 13), B&B Gaspare (via Balilla 16), B&B In And Out (Via Arco del Monte 97), B& B&B Bologna (Piazza Bologna 6), Duca d'Alba (Via Leonina 14), Scott House (Via Gioberti 30); and Villa Appennini (Via Appennini 32). Youth Station Hostel (Via Livorno 5) is a typical European hostel with very low rates for beds in shared dorm rooms for the backpacker set.

Saunas

Arcigay Roma Gruppo ORA (Arcigay.it) is the national organization, based in Bologna, which works on behalf of gay people for changes in Italian society. Visitors will soon notice that most bars, saunas and many other gay businesses in Italy require membership to enter. Many are associated with Arcigay. A card bought at these clubs is valid nationwide at all member establishments. The fee helps gay Italians work for a more equitable society, one that's more enjoyable for you to visit.

Europa Multiclub Sauna (Via Aureliana 40, www.gaysaune.it) is the biggest and most popular of Rome's bathhouses with a great diversity of visitors. Amenities are some of the finest among gay saunas anywhere, with a mega-size Turkish bath, Finnish sauna, whirlpool, and solarium. They offer massage and internet, and a well-equipped gym, plus snacks and drinks at the EMC Café. Their many cabins offer plenty of nooks to get better acquainted with new friends and big-screen erotic videos get you in the mood. They open daily, 1pm to midnight and throughout weekend without closing -- so some young men use it in place of a hotel.

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 its own loyal group of regulars. Rios Sauna Club (Via dei Colli Albani 10) is a full-service sauna, seven stops down the metro from Termini, and Termi di Roma (Via Persio 4) is another long-time sauna, still a local favorite, out a bit further from the center.

Food & Drink

Just to the south of the Colosseum Via di San Giovanni in Laterano has been designated Gay Street since 2007. In summertime and for special events, the street closes to traffic for free movies, music performances, and art displays. A right-wing attack on a gay bar here in September 2009 mobilized gay and progressive political communities, but only strengthened their resolve to keep gay Romans safe in their meeting places.

Coming Out (Via di SanGiovanni in Laterano 8) bar and restaurant for gay men and women, open daily from 11am to 2am, is the big meeting places for Rome's gay community on Gay Street; busiest on weekend evenings. All the local gay mags are distributed here and they have cocktail specials every evening if you need another excuse to come early.

Ice Cream Bears (Via di San Giovanni in Laterano 120) is just down the street, with tempting sweets and beverages, and a cabinet full of rich gelato flavors to sample, served up by Gianni and Carlo, friendly local bears who've made this a gathering point for guys in the area.

Also conveniently located along the gay trail, Citta in Fiore (via Cavour 269) is a friendly Chinese restaurant. Low prices and great food here, plus the welcome always extended by owner Jada and staff, make this place very popular with locals. La Bagette (Via Merulana, 83) is a typical little Italian bar, owned by two lesbians, with a rare and pleasant gay ambience for wine, cocktails, coffee, delicious fresh fruit juice and light afternoon meals.

Hangar (Via in Selci 69) which started as a casual get-together for gay friends 20-some years ago, has proved to be one of Rome's most enduring gay institutions. American expat John and partner Gianni open the place every night except Tuesday, from 10:30pm until 2am, hosting Rome's most international gathering place for gay men. Conversation flows easily here, often in English, so for the inside scoop on what to do and see in Rome, Hanger is a good place to get your bearings.

Sex Bars

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

Skyline Club (Via Pontremoli 36), near San Giovanni metro, has two darkrooms, porn videos, and pulls a generally younger crowd that likes the high-energy music they play. Third Saturdays here are devoted to bears. Co-owner Gian Carlo offers friendly tourist advice.

Frequency (Via Enea 34), three metro stops further down Via Appia Nuova, (beyond Furio Camillo), is a bar open nightly except Tuesdays, with a weekend sex club that's known for it's naked parties. The Leather Club of Rome (Lcroma.com) meets here too.

The Sphinx Club formerly at Piazza Manfredo Fanti, is still closed, but may reopen at a new location. Check local leather websites for updates.

Other sex clubs include Diavolo Dentro (Largo Itri 23) with darkrooms and cabins, labyrinth and sling, food, drinks, shows and hardcore movies -- open weekends only; and K-Men's Club (Via Amato Amati 8), a men's cruising and sex bar with shows, open daily except Mondays.

Pubs & Dancebars

Garbo (Vicolo di Santa Margherita 1A) is a drag and transsexual favored hangout. Taverna di Edoardo II (Vicola Margana 14), formerly a bar and now a restaurant, is still popular with a gay crowd.

For dancing, Rome has a highly energetic line-up, with many big circuit parties popping up, but also some regular weekly venues. Most have one or two nights when they're gay, or busy, but one opens every night except Wednesday: Max's (Via Achille Grandi 7/A), a small but popular dance club with a crowd of both young and older guys, busy on Mondays.

Gorgeous at the Alpheus Club (Via del Commercio, 36) is a famous Saturday night dance event that spans six dance floors, five bars, and their "winter garden." They pull a hot and sexy mix of gay men and women from all over Italy.

Omogenic, Friday at Circolo degli Artisti is a Friday night gay dance, held at Circolo degli Artisti (Via Casilina Vecchia 42). In summer months they spill out from their big room dance club, to an outdoor area that includes a cinema, bar, and cafe.

The big gay weekly event takes place each Friday night with Muccassassina at Qube Club (Via Portonaccio 212). The party goes late into the night, with three levels of dancing, drag and other live shows, performances, go-go boys plus top-rated local and international DJs. As with many of the gay dance clubs, it's mixed with straight couples too. But with sexual divides more blurred these days, the straights here can get pretty kinky too.

Other regular Saturday night dance events include Bump at Alien (Via Velletri 13), and Tommy at Alibi (Via di Monte Testaccio 40-44), with their big dance floor and summer roof patio. Gloss is a Thursday gay dance at Alibi with house music on the ground floor a mix of pop and R'n'B upstairs, and shows by sexy go-go Gloss Boys. Frutta e Verdura After Hours (Via Placido Zurla 68/70) has gay Saturday night/Sunday morning (and holidays) after-hours dancing from 4:30am, near Piazza Vittorio Bottego. For upcoming Push Circuit Party events in Rome, see Pushclub.it.

Shopping

Libreria Babele Rome (Via dei Banchi Vecchi 116) has been Rome's gay bookstore since 1993. As well as the expected gay books and magazines, DVDs, and CDs, this gem is also a community center of sorts, with guides, maps, events and a comfortable drop-in and hang-out feel to the place. You can find titles in English.

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.

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