Mafia and Etna aren't the only things active on Sicily: already seduced by her Eastern towns, OutUK's Adrian Gillan heads west to hit Palermo.
Invaded throughout history - by Greeks, Romans, Moors, Normans and WW2 Allies to name a few - and slowly but surely casting off the Mafia's spell: Palermo locals are at long last eschewing a famed air of resignation, as stunning sex-starved youths step out into warm night air, albeit it not entirely shameless. Though fiercely independent, Sicily is still Italy and - whilst there's a church with confessional on every corner - there's a macho man in many a trembling bush.
The view over Palermo from the pool at the St Thorn guest house. Check out Bookings for more details.
To the east, Catania has its clubs, Taormina its bars and beaches: Palermo's westerly scene - perhaps more mixed and less assured - is oft encountered under leafy palms beneath starry skies aside a lapping sea.

Since ArciGay - the local LGB cultural and political hub - shut down, Palermo's queer conscience largely lies at the gay-dominated L'Altroquando bookshop on Via Vittorio Emanuele, the city's main shopping street - especially in the upper loft where shelves brim with gay porn and novellas and staff are very helpful and knowledgeable, up to speed with the latest.

Just behind the church of Santa Domenico in Via Roma, Le Cicale may have likewise shut its doors amidst rumours of an ill-fated future, but you need only stroll fifty metres around the corner to the stylish and buzzing Ai Grilli Gił bar on Via Malta to mingle gaily outside on the piazza, or loll on Bohemian cushions inside, with a young, mixed and trendy crowd, clearly convinced that gay's still cool.

Suitably reassured, take the dramatic and atmospheric ten minutes stroll uptown past the awesome Teatro Massimo and Teatro Politeama to the expat-sounding Lord Green pub on Via Enrico Parisi off Via Libertą. The bar is another mixed but gay-slanted affair that spills its manly load out onto surrounding streets.
The internationally renowned Teatro Massimo under construction in 1890.

CLUBBING DELIGHTS

Then after midnight, stroll five minutes down Via Principe di Villafranca to Club Exit on Piazza Santa Francesco da Paola, a most unique and remarkable delight. Utterly gay and how so! All queer life is here: dykes and drags, camps and bears, young and old - all mixing together in Palermo's only permanent and dedicatedly gay club. Extremely friendly, with a retro interior that's scarce used in the summer months, when all sorts mill and thrill on the piazza, onto which an outdoor bar backs. Exit only shuts for the night every month or so when Rise-up does just that on Via Ugo la Malfa, a good ten minutes' drive or taxi ride out of centre. It's bear-led but all are welcome and many accept the invite.

FILM FUN

Naturally, Italy has a rich cinematic heritage and few scenes can equal those found at Cinema Orfeo on Via Maqueda, a mere spit-and-a-spunk from the Stazione Centrale. Men cram in to watch straight and gay porn and help ease each other's manly burdens on the rear rows as the projector whirs. Back up near Exit, Cinema Etoile on via Mariano Stabile shows similar footage to leave all-cummers gasping.

IN THE BUSH

But the real glory of Italian culture has surely always been found out and about: boys will be boys and what society suppresses, will only spring up behind a bush in the dead of night. Not that you need wait until darkness falls to attract attentions at the shady gardens between the sea and the Foro Italico, level with the lovely Villa Giulia park; or at the small palm tree enclosure a few yards along at Porta Felice. Failing that check out wide Via Libertą near Exit and Lord Green, notably the stretch running from the Teatro Politeama to the Giardini Inglesi (English Gardens); or the Stazione Centrale and along via Roma, round the corner from Orfeo; or the whole area around the sporty Favorita Football Stadium just south of said stazione - busy all year round, round the clock. Basically: bush spells boys!

For OutUK's guide to gay life on the other (Eastern) side of Sicily, in lovely Taormina and Catania click here.

OutUK's hotel partners Bookings offer accommodation in Palermo at special prices. Ryanair fly direct to Palermo from London Stansted, and Easyjet offer a service some days from London Gatwick.

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Ai Grilli Gił (Via Malta 11, just off Piazza Santa Domenico; T: 0039 91 584 747)
L'Altroquando Bookshop (Via Vittorio Emanuele, 145; T: 0039 91 611 4732)
Cinema Etoile (via Mariano Stabile, opposite the old L'Ora newspaper building; no phone)
Club Exit (Piazza Santa Francesco da Paola 39/40; T: 0039 348 781498)
Lord Green (Via Enrico Parisi, 30; no phone)
Cinema Orfeo (Maqueda 25; T 0039 91 616 2090)
Rise-up (via Ugo la Malfa 91; 0039 347 0448069) Website

Revised February 2015.

 

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