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Etna and the Mafia aren't the only things active on Sicily finds OutUK's randy rover Adrian Gillan in Catania and Taormina on the East coast of southern Italy's fiercely independent island idyll.

It was Baron Wilhelm Von Gloeden who first put the coast at the foot of fiery Etna on the global gay map with his sultry, timeless and ambiguous nude photo poses of gorgeous local Taormina youths at the turn of the last century. Queer travellers have been drawn to this unspoilt and dramatic homo-haven ever since.

Taormina - about twenty miles north of Catania along the coast around Etna - is perched dramatically high above the sea. Wondering along its main street, the Corso Umberto, you'll now only rarely find the old Baron's celebrated souvenir sex snaps even furtively changing hands, but who needs them when you've got the real things basking on every terrace and winding, narrow, hilly street corner.

If you want to strip off and re-enact some of those faded sepia snapshot scenes yourself why not visit the famous cliffy White Rocks gay nudist beach along the coast below.


One of Baron Von Gloeden's classical recreations.
There are indeed smaller gay hubs in the capital Palermo and at Ragusa, Agrigento and Siracusa, dotted around the coast. But the real queer epicentre on Sicily is Catania itself, just south of Taormina and perched ominously within Etna's reach - rebuilt after being completely wiped out in 1693. As with many Italian scene's, there's a heavy cruising culture after 10pm.
You'll not struggle to pull within the hour, whilst strolling or rolling along any of the central avenues or squares, most notably Corso Sicily, Piazza Grenoble, Piazza Republica or Piazza Stesicoro. You can also check out the large and lush city centre Villa Bellini park or - when that shuts after dark - tread the green Piazza Cavour nearby.
Central Square In Taormina. Photo: Thevirex
Again, you'll see the Italian trend for mixed gay-friendly bars and eateries. The Trattoria Del Cavaliere will provide welcome succour mid-cruising those central streets of the heart of Catania. Here you will find waiting for you some delicious dishes of fish or meat. Bar Nievski - in a gorgeous, narrow, stepped lane just north of the cathedral, the Duomo, is a maze of rooms and terraces offering food and drink amid a communist ambient chic where all-comers are extremely equal.

On a very similar decadent and Bohemian revolutionary theme, the Havana Pub near the main railway and bus station is a fantastic experience. You enter via a large iron door and through a foyer of palms into a large bar with drag stage. It adjoins the busy and modern Villa Romeo club at weekends, majoring on Latin American music on a Saturday.

Le Capannine is a trendy beach club with tiki huts, sports facilities & parties with DJs, plus a bar/restaurant, and they often host gay-friendly dance parties.

For a more transgressive night, visit the biggest cruising bar in southern Italy, Codice Rosso in Via Conte Ruggero, where with some drinks and a candlelit atmosphere you can have an hot and passionate night. They have cabins for the passionate, a dark room for the more timid and some sling rooms and gloryholes for the adventurous as well as a FIRE area if you want to explore.
Isola Bella & Mazzarò Bay.
If after all that you just need to let off steam Terme di Achilleis is a gay sauna with nice facilities on two floors. It opened in 2005 and features Finnish sauna, steam bath, jacuzzi, showers. Upstairs there is a dark room, video room, smoking room, massage room, lockers and lounge bar. It's packed on Sundays and the guys are a good mix and most are up for some hot fun. It's clean and friendly with lots of delicious Sicilian meat around. Alternatively, South Factory Club (SFC) is a little newer and features a Finnish sauna, dark room, large hydromassage bath that can accommodate 20 men and there spacious cabins, a video room with sofa, massage room and smoking area on the upper floor. They hold a naked party on Fridays.

With out question, the highlight of any trip to Catania in July or August must be Pegaso's unique summer weekend outdoor reincarnation about four miles south of town, over the road from the Jolly Playa beach. You enter a park complex with large swimming pool where youths will swim skimpy or naked until dawn breaks, fresh and rosy-fingered, across Etna's vast shield. You can also dance the darkness away or get legless beneath the stars; or you can even safely cruise some gorgeous guys in the huge, bustling forest area within this sprawling open-air complex.

Palermo

Founded by the Phoenicians, named by Ancient Greeks (Panormus), Palermo remained a part of the Byzantine Empire, for a thousand years, long after the Roman era. As with Catania, it was under Arab, then Norman rule; and became the capital city of the Kingdom of Sicily. Italian unification came in 1860. The grip on the economy of the once powerful Mafia faded since the death of two leading anti-mafia judges, during the turmoil of the early 1990s. The airport was given the name Falcone Borsellino in memory of Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino who were murdered by the Sicilian Mafia in 1992.

The main center for industry and commerce, the city is known for fine restaurants, Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches, palaces and other fine buildings, and for it's nightlife and music scene. The Teatro Massimo opera house is the largest theater in Italy, recently restored, and with an active schedule. The Teatro Politeama is another grand edifice fronted by a lively piazza. Local cuisine including pasta con le sarde (sardines, fennel, capers, peppers, pine nuts and pasta) is a Palermo favorite. The many varieties of cannoli with their sweet fillings might top off the meal. As in Spain, most people eat late here, usually not before 9pm.

The Church of Jesus, better known as Casa Professa, stands on a rise rich in dark recesses where, according to tradition, once took refuge holy hermits and where there are still early Christian catacombs. The first building on the balcony was a convent of Basilian monks, built in the ninth century. The layout is in the shape of a Latin cross with a double dome and stained glass windows.
Casa Professa - Photo: rawpixel.com
During your trip to Palermo make sure you take in Casa Del Brodo built in 1890, with its informal ambience, winter fireplace and patio beside 15th century walls. There's a bookstore with music and literary events. Cha Palermo on the Via Velasquez ia a gay-friendly cafe, served in a warm, dark-wood-paneled tearoom pairing many international varieties with light bites & desserts.

For culture there's Cinema Rouge et Noir on the Piazza Verdi, an art-house cinema with many gay film festivals and screenings, just a minute walk from the famous Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele. This famous opera house was dedicated to King Victor Emanuel II. It is the biggest in Italy, and one of the largest of Europe, renowned for its perfect acoustics. I Candelai found on the Via Candelai has a live music club, DJ sets, monthly gay parties along with pop, tango and rock music nights.

And to unwind, Maxximum Time on the via Alessandro Scarlatti, is a gay sauna with dry & steam saunas, Jacuzzi, cruise area, video porn, TV lounge, bar, smoking area and massage tables. Outside Palermo there's nude sunbathing at the gay-frequented beach at Barcarello, a rocky spot reached on the bus to Sferracavallo.

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Casa del Brodo dal Dottore (Via Vittorio Emanuele 175, Palermo; T: +39 091 321655; Website)
CHA (Via Giuseppe Velasquez 28/30, Palermo; T: +39 091 580127; Website)
Cinema Rouge et Noir (Piazza Verdi 8, Palermo; T: +39 091 661 3507; Website)
Codice Rosso (Via Conte Ruggero 48 Catania; T: 0039 095 28 84 899; Website)
Havana Pub (Piazza Alessandro Manzoni, Grammichele, Catania; T: 0039 (0)933 94 14 72)
I Candelai (The Cultural Association Candelai, Via dei Candelai 65, Palermo; T: +39 091 327151; facebook)
Le Capannine (Viale Presidente Kennedy 93, Catania; T: +39 095 735 7235; Website)
Nievski (via Alessi 15-17, Catania; T: 0039 (0)95 31 37 92)
Maxximum Time (Via Alessandro Scarlatti 1/3, Palermo; T: +39 091 631 4158; Website)
Pegaso's - JULY/AUGUST ONLY (via le Kennedy 80, Catania; T: 0039 (0)95 735 72 68)
South Factory Club (SFC) Sauna (Via Fischett 10, Catania; T: 0039 95 518 4094; facebook)
Terme di Achille Sauna (Via Tezzano 13, Catania; T: 0039 95 746 3543; facebook)
Trattoria Del Cavaliere (Piazza Stesicoro, Catania; T: 0039 (0)95 31 04 91)
Villa Romeo Villa (via Platamone 20, Catania; T: 0039 (0)95 53 01 29)

Many of the venues shut for a week or two during July or August so it's wise to ring ahead if visiting at that time.

Revised June 2022.

 

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