Saturday, February 14, 2009


Europe's Gay Village

Almost everyone knows the expression "Rome Wasn't Built In A Day" and wandering around this ancient city you will soon realise that it will take several days just to visit a few of the numerous historic sights and monuments. The Eternal City---as Rome is renowned--- is perhaps the only urban center in the world where you stroll along an ordinary street and turn the corner to be confronted by the massive Roman Colosseum. Or perhaps you are taking a leisurely walk along a narrow cobbled lane and at the end of the street is a piazza with the magnificent Trevi fountains right before your eyes.
But Rome has much more to offer than simply the well-known tourist attractions. Mussolini's home and gardens are soon to be open to the public for the first time since his death and the Auditorium Parco Della Musica is a modern day amphitheatre dedicated to arts and music which is also the host of Rome's gay and lesbian film festival every year. There is in fact The Other Rome comprised of lesser-known but equally fascinating and historic sights to enjoy.
But for the past six years Rome is well known amongst Europe's GLBT communities for the annual Gay Village which is a popular element of the Estata Romana---Roman Summer---and is now a tourist attraction of this city. Although the influence of the Pope reaches far beyond the Vatican walls and Rome's gay night life may not be as robust compared to other European capitals, the Gay Village is a phenomenon. You might even see the advertising billboards for the Gay Village at major airports throughout Europe attesting to its widespread recognition.

Since 2002 a city park has been the venue for the festive Village and this year from June to September the Parco del Ninfeo---instead of at Parco delle Cascate as in previous years--- has been home to an open-air community of shops, cafes, bars, movies, performances, parties and more. Nestled amongst the trees and shrubbery, the Village compound is a hub of activity after dark on Thursdays and Fridays and all day long on Saturdays. One of this year's special attractions is a fitness centre including indoor cycling, reiki, volleyball and Tango. To appreciate the size and scope of this undertaking it should be noted that the estimated cost of Gay Village is $2.4 million. Sponsors have contributed $300,000 and the rest is expected to be made up by admission ticket sales and earnings from the shops, restaurants and bars in the Village. The Gay Village is located at the Parco del Ninfeo in the relatively new EUR Business District of Rome ( located at Via delle Tre Fontane and Via dell’Agricoltura) and is a little difficult to find but after searching for the location the gratifying gay rewards are immense. Almost every gay and lesbian Roman visits the village regularly throughout the summer and tourists make the trek from all over Europe to experience the sense of community, plus enjoy the parties and festivities.
As with so many major European cities Rome has several major parks to enjoy and the Parco Gianicolense is one of the largest and is located at the summit of one of the seven hills---la città dei sette colli---encapsulating Rome. Here you will not only find some of the most beautiful parkland and pathways to enjoy but also one of the most spectacular views of the city. Strolling around this large verdant acreage you will come across the Fonte Acqua Paola, the Porta San Pancrazio, the Garibaldi Monument and Piazza, the Faro al Giancolo clock tower and even an unusual view of the Vatican from this height which is spectacular at night time. Whether you are an amateur photo buff or not, the sights here will definitely prove to be worthy of a take-home memory. It is also a wonderful escape from the extreme summer heat of the city on any sumer day when you are searching for some cool breezes.
Another flight from the inevitable Roman summer heat in the city is a day trip to the less well-known Spiaggia Il Buco gay beach. From the heart of the city it is about a one hour journey on public transit and makes a fun picnic day away from the historic ruins and a chance to catch some eye-candy as the local gays and lesbians enjoy their piece of paradise on the Tyrrhenian Sea. There is a stretch of nude beach which is mostly populated by the gay community. And of course there are plenty of places to escape the sun and enjoy a cool beverage plus some local pasta specialties or real Italian thin crust pizza. Getting there is slightly complicated but if you take the Metro B (blue) line train from the Termini Station to Piramide and then change to the Metro destined for Ostia and get off at Cristoforo Colombio, then take the number seven bus to Capocotta, you will easily find the beach using your gaydar---or by asking a local resident. It is well worth the journey and any Roman holiday needs some oceanside time.
In the city of Rome there are over fifty gay and gay-friendly, bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, saunas and other businesses to enjoy. There is a Gay Map of Rome presented by and it provides very comprehensive listings for all that is gay in this metropolis. You can find the map at most gay establishments. An easy place to discover, pick-up your map and begin your tour of gay Rome is the appropriately named Coming Out bar close to the Colosseum at 8 via S. Giovanni in Laterano. This is in the heart of the city and once you have your map in hand you can plan a route to visit some of the popular night-spots such as Gloss, Gorgeus, Hangar---very popular with tourists---Mediterraneo Sauna, Frequency Club, Sky Line, Sphinx and of course the most popular disco Muccassassina---the number one night club in all of Rome. As with all European cities the action begins after midnight and the bars and clubs fill to capacity very quickly on weekends. Romans are very friendly and wherever you go you are sure to receive a warm welcome and most of the locals speak English or are very adept at making themselves understood!
If it's your first time in Italy then you will probably soon discover the uniquely Italian phenomenon of roof top gardens. If you can take a moment to divert your eyes from the visual feast at street level and cast your sight to the skies, then you will notice that almost every building has a roof top garden in varying shapes, sizes and complete with robust flora and fauna. It is an Italian expression of prid---and of course very gay--- to out-do the neighbours with a spectacular city garden on high and enjoy the views from a very inviting and luscious patio in the sky. Due to the warm climate these gardens proliferate each year and some have grown to resemble a full fledged city park. If you're lucky enough to meet a local and visit their roof top paradise you will understand this obsession in the heart of the city. As you walk around Rome cast your eyes upwards and see if you can spot the gay gardens even if there is no rainbow flag to assist your gaydar.

Gay accommodations in Rome are not abundant but there are several reasonably priced gay Bed & Breakfasts. The Gay Open Bed & Breakfast is centrally located at Piazza Vittorio and a little further out is The Frutta & Verdura Bed & Breakfast, both very conveniently located for sightseeing and nightlife. Close to the main train station you can stay at the very gay-friendly Edyta Bed & Breakfast for perhaps the cheapest price in all of Rome, yet still enjoy your own spacious, clean room with a bathroom plus friendly and helpful owner operators. It is still possible to enjoy Rome on a limited budget but in order to achieve this online advance research and early booking are a must.
However, if you are looking for a decadent treat on a special occasion The Bernini Bristol---a Sina Hotel and member of IGLTA---is set in a 19th Century Roman Palace located at Piazza Barberini and is close to many Roman sights including the Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps and of course the famous via Veneto. Here you can indulge in luxury and even luxuriate in one of their suites with your very own large roof top garden overlooking the city and with memorable sunsets and night time vistas with luminous extravaganzas. All of the the rooms are spacious and include ultra-modern or classic décor with indulgent accompaniments. They also have a gourmet rooftop restaurant with a 360 degree view of the city.
Whatever type of holiday home-away-from-home suits your budget you can find multiple choices in this city of copiousness. However, it is likely that you will probably spend very little time in your hotel room if you intend to experience and enjoy all that Rome has to offer in culture, history and gay life.

Any lover of Italian food should be prepared for a true gourmet experience, but it can also be an expensive undertaking. When planning your dining adventure it is advisable to leave the tourist areas and head off into the side streets to find a pizzeria or smaller cafe where a traditional Italian four course dinner perhaps including antipasta, pizza, veal, pasta or other Roman specialties can be enjoyed at more reasonable prices. Try to avoid dining at the attractive and very appealing restaurants on the beautiful piazzas where you will pay a high price for the view as well as your meal! Of course dinner on the via Veneto at one of the renowned restaurants like Harry's or Cafe de Paris is a must at least once during your vacation but the prices are around one hundred dollars per person for a three course gourmet dining experience with a guaranteed vacation memory to match every penny spent.

So When In Rome.....don your walking shoes and be ready to step back in time as you explore the ancient monuments by day, feast upon gourmet Italian dinners with real gelato for dessert in the evening, and then perhaps a nightcap with an Italian stallion to complete your Roman holiday.


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