Rome has been at the heart of world history for millennia. This is something that becomes obvious as you tour the various landmarks that make the city famous, from ancient Roman ruins to Renaissance palaces and even the very seat of the Catholic Church. This focus on the past and on tradition can make it difficult to envisage Rome being a modern city with a thriving gay scene.
But thriving it is, despite being smaller than that of similar European capitals like Berlin and London. There may be relatively few gay venues – and they may be quite spread out – but the gay bars and clubs of Rome come in an exciting variety of shapes and sizes, and there is still something for everyone.
Every summer, gay Rome moves to the southern suburbs of the city for Gay Village, a 15-week long party and celebration. Every night from May to September, you can expect to find gigs, club nights, film screenings, theatre, competitions, and cultural events. Over 200,000 people attend every year, meaning you are guaranteed to meet LGBT folks from all over the world during your visit.
Most gay visitors to Rome stay in hotels around the Colosseum. This area offers a great base to explore the sites and Rome’s gay nightlife.
The Roman city center is best explored on foot, so we have mostly included centrally-located hotels. The metro can be useful for covering bigger distances, but you will have to mostly rely on taxis for getting back late at night. All the most booked hotels are close to the city centre and the Colosseum gay nightlife.
Italy is relatively progressive in terms of its attitude to LGBT rights, but it does lag behind other Western countries in certain areas. Gay marriage is not yet legal in the country, and neither is same-sex adoption. The laws regarding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and identity are also less developed than in many other European countries.
However, there is some evidence that public opinion is ahead of legislation in this area. The country ranked 8th in the world in a 2013 poll in terms of acceptance of homosexuality and data shows that this is continuously improving.
Despite being the capital, Rome is not necessarily as progressive as one would hope. It is still quite a traditional city with a large population of conservative Catholic Italians, so discretion in terms of public displays of affection is advised outside of the city’s gay spaces.
The first stop for most gay tourists to Rome is Gay Street (real name Via di San Giovanni in Laterano). This street directly in front of the Colosseum is not as completely gay as the nickname would suggest, but it does contain some popular gay bars.
Coming Out is perhaps the most beloved gay Rome bar, and is a great place to start the night with a few drinks. Next door, My Bar has a slightly more dancey vibe while Colosseum Bar is low-key but buzzing. The crowds at these bars tend to spill out onto the street, giving you the unique opportunity to have a drink with a spectacular view of the Colosseum (and of the Italian men surrounding you).
The other main grouping of bars is in trendy Trastevere, with Beige, Freni e Frizioni, and Garbo all located a few minutes’ walk from each other. While the bars in Gay Street are more relaxed and casual, these are all lounge cocktail bars with a more upscale atmosphere. It’s also not a long walk across the river to Capella Orsini, which hosts extremely popular weekly Bear Monday parties.
A lot of the nightlife of gay Rome is outside the historic city center. Some of the largest and wildest parties happen in the (now up-and-coming) area of Ostiense, namely TOMMY Night, MEN2MEN, and G I Am. Out of these, only MEN2MEN is gay men only, with the other two being popular with a mixed crowd.
Several of the city’s cruise bars are also spread out in the districts outside the city center, including Skyline, BUNKER, and Il Diavolo Dentro. As with the clubs, their remote location makes it almost impossible to incorporate them into a bar-hop, but they do tend to be quite large, meaning you can spend a whole evening there without it getting boring.
In the summer months, the best gay parties in Rome take place at Gay Village. The club nights run on weekend evenings, with special themed nights happening throughout the season. Check the Gay Village website to find out what’s on during your visit.
Aside from cruise clubs, of which there are a few throughout the city, most of the play in gay Rome takes place at one of the city’s saunas. These are all within the historic center of the city and walking distance from the main attractions.
Apollion Sauna is a 10-minute walk away from the bars in Gay Street an comes with all the standard facilities in attractive Roman-style decor.
Further south in San Giovanni (but still only a 20-minute walk away from Gay Street) is Illumined Sauna, which is one of the newest and largest, with a 30-man Finnish sauna and 50-man steam room. However, it had nothing on Europa Multiclub (EMC), was is Italy’s largest gay sauna. EMC has yet to reopen following Covid-19.
Access to Apollion and EMC requires an ARCO card, which is also applicable for discounts at some of the city’s cruise bars and gay venues throughout Italy. It costs €10 for a pass to one club and €17 for a pass to all clubs (both lasting a year), which could be worth it if you intend to visit various saunas.
You have a few options for getting tested for HIV in Rome. There are private clinics offering the service, which will tend to have English-speaking staff and be used to welcoming foreigners. However, these will tend to be expensive: DoctorsinItaly does HIV testing in Rome, as part of an STD screening, recommended by a doctor after filling out an anonymous form. The cost of the screening varies from €70 euro ($77 USD) for a 4th generation HIV test, to about €400 euro ($445 USD) for a full screening.
Your other options are going to a hospital or to a local AIDS charity. Both of these will be cheaper (or free), but you may have more difficulty finding an English-speaking member of staff. If you have anyone who can help you translate (or if you speak some basic Italian) this is probably a better choice:
HIV incidence in Italy is comparatively low, even for European standards. Nonetheless, you should be careful and practice safe sex in all your encounters in Rome.
The historic center of Rome is divided into 22 numbered rioni. These are the areas most visited by tourists, but there are other more residential neighborhoods beyond. There is not a particular gayborhood, but there are two clusters of gay venues: one near the Colosseum, which has been dubbed Gay Street, and one in the Trastevere area.
Celio (R.XIX) – Home to Rome’s most famous landmark, the Colosseum, as well as to Gay Street, the closest Rome comes to having a gayborhood. This street houses some of gay Rome’s most beloved bars, such as Coming Out and My Bar.
Monti (R.I) – Monti borders Celio and is a trendy, hipster neighborhood, with a lively nightlife that attracts many young tourists. It is also home to two of Rome’s gay saunas, Sauna Mediterraneo and Apollini Sauna, as well as to Censured Club.
Esquilino (R.XV) – On the other side of Monti is Esquilino, a modern and multicultural neighborhood that is also paradoxically one of the city’s oldest. It is less pretty than many of the districts in the old center, meaning it attracts fewer tourists, however it is a good place to stay due to cheaper prices and proximity to the train station. Rebel Club, one of Rome’s newest gay dance clubs, is here, as is Company ROMA, a bear-centered cruising club.
Trastevere (R.XIII) – This large region on the left bank of the river has become extremely popular with tourists thanks to its faded old-world charm, wide pleasant piazzas, and excellent restaurants. There is another grouping of gay bars near the river here, made up of Freni e Frizioni, Beige, and Garbo.
Campitelli (R.X) – This area is home to the Roman Forum, once the bustling heart of city life in Ancient Rome, as well as to Piazza Venezia, a grand square that is one of the main thoroughfares in the modern city. Campitelli is both incredibly touristy and quite local, which combines in a chaotic but entertaining mix.
Trevi (R.II) – This area is centered around the Trevi Fountain, and tends to be so filled with tourists as to be difficult to walk through. Visit early in the morning or late at night to get a chance to see the fountain in peace, and avoid restaurants in the area as they tend to be tourist traps.
Sant’Angelo (R.XI) – The Jewish Ghetto of the city, which preserves a lot of its history in its old buildings and collection of traditional bakeries, restaurants, and shops.
Parione (R.VI) and Ponte (R.V) – Parione contains the Piazza Navona, one of the city’s grandest squares, while Ponte (meaning “bridge”) is most famous for the Ponte Sant’Angelo, a pedestrian bridge built in Ancient Rome. It connects to Borgo, the rione adjacent to Vatican City. Alcova, a popular leather fetish shop, can be found in Parione.
Vatican City – The seat of the Catholic Church is not in any of Rome’s neighborhoods, since it is a country unto itself (the smallest in the world). The visit to the Vatican is a culturally fascinating one, including St.Peter’s Basilica, the world-famous Sistine Chapel, and a show-stopping collection of art. However, it can be extremely tightly packed with tourists during peak season.
Regola (R.VII) – A historical area that houses the Palazzo Farnese and Via Giulia, two key landmarks of the Italian Renaissance. It is also where the city’s most popular bear party takes place every week at Capella Orsini.
San Giovanni – This neighborhood is not one of the rioni, and is a principally residential neighborhood. It does have some lovely Renaissance architecture and could be a good place to stay, especially as there is a dedicated Metro station. Illumined Sauna and Skyline cruise bar are here, immediately next to each other.
Ostiense – A gritty residential area south of the main city frequented by students and young party-goers. There are several large clubs here, including three popular gay parties: G I Am at Planet Roma, TOMMY Night, and MEN2MEN at Frutta e Verdura.
Prenestino Labicano and Casal Bertone – Two other neighborhoods outside of the historic center. Both highly residential areas, they are not really of note to most tourists. However, Prenestino Labicano has three of the city’s cruise bars: BUNKER Club, K Men Club, and Il Diavolo Dentro, and Casal Bertone houses the city’s biggest weekly gay party, Muccassassina at Qube Club every Friday. All of these are quite out of the way from the city center, so would require a taxi to reach.
Visitors to Rome often end up walking more than they would expect, since this is the best way to explore the city’s historical center. However, you will need to rely on the Metro to cover bigger distances across the city, especially if you are visiting during a sweltering hot summer.
Tickets are the same on all bus, tram, and Metro lines, costing €1.50 for a single ticket (valid for 100 minutes). See here for public transport route maps.
From Leonardo Da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport – There are three bus services, all of which take about an hour and go to Termini train station (approx €9). The express train service also goes to Termini but only takes about half an hour (€11), while a slower service connects to Trastevere, Ostiense and Tiburtina stations for €5.50. A taxi ride to the city center costs a fixed rate of €40.
From Ciampino Airport – This smaller airport serves budget European airlines. There are also regular buses to Termini up until 10:30 pm, and the journey is about 40-45 minutes. A taxi ride to the city center costs a fixed rate of €30.
Metro – The most convenient public transport for most tourists. The Metro only has two lines serving the city center which intersect at Termini. Not all major landmarks can easily be accessed with the Metro, but most of the key ones can. Metro B is the most convenient way to get to Gay Village during the summer (Piramide station).
Bus – There are 25 lines which cover most of the city: these can be useful to fill in the gaps from the Metro. However, the bus can be slow and unpredictable, and night services are rare. Bus number 170 goes to Gay Village (Ponte Testaccio station).
Tram – There is a small tram network that could be useful for a few specific tourist trips such as Piazza Venezia to Trastevere.
Taxi – Official taxis are white, metered, and easily identifiable. You can hail one, call one, or get one at a taxi rank which are located in key locations throughout the city. Flagfall varies from €3.50 on weekdays to €6.50 at night, then its €1.10 per km. Due to the high flagfall and to the spread-out nature of the city’s gay nightlife, your nighttime taxis may end up being quite pricey, so always try to split the cost in a group.
Bicycle – Rome is too hilly and too cobbled to be enjoyed by bike.
Car and Motorcycle – Driving around Rome is not a good idea due to traffic and chaotic Italian roads. A motorcycle or scooter can be a great way to get around, but only if you are an experienced rider. Bear in mind that much of the historical center is closed to traffic during the day on weekdays and on weekend afternoons.
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