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 - Palermo locals are at long last eschewing their rather famed air of resignation.

The city is slowly but surely casting off the Mafia's spell, and becoming an attractive option for the gay traveller as their stunning sex-starved youths step out into warm night air, albeit it not yet entirely shameless.


The view over Palermo from the pool at the St Thorn guest house. Check out Bookings for more details.
Despite a general lack of LGBT-specific venues, Palermo is a generally tolerant city with a significant gay and lesbian community. LGBT club nights and queer events are occasionally held at I Candelai. Palermo bear group Orsi Siculi organise special events and club nights which are publicised on their Facebook page.

Many bars in town are gay-friendly, among them Enoteca Butticè a beautiful wine shop that also has a restaurant that serves fresh and non-frozen foods and they choose the ingredients they find in the best markets in the city every day to create different dishes.

Bar Garibaldi in Via Alessandro Paternostro is a famous anti-fascist bar and resturant that also sells books and records alongside their food and drink in a positive atmosphere. They try to attract a crowd that stubbornly insist on wanting to change things, and say that their bar is open to all but the fascists, racists and homophobes. It's a fascinating concept worth checking out, not least because they serve a rather good aperitif for free every night!

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. One of their most famous sights exactly reflects that dichotomy, the very beautiful Fontana Pretoria in Palermo which is known as the Fountain of Shame.


Fontana Pretoria (Fountain of Shame)
Photo: worldwidephotoweb

GAY ACTIVISM AND PRIDE

Italy's largest gay organisation, Arcigay has a branch in Palermo and is a good source of information on LGBT events. Their objectives are the promotion and defense of human and civil rights, the fight against homophobia and heterosexism, against prejudice and discrimination. It is committed to equal dignity and equal opportunities among individuals regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and any other condition. The headquarters of the Association are the Rainbow Workshops in Via della Rosa alla Gioiamia 2/4 in Palermo.

The city's annual Pride takes place in June. The main event and parade of Palermo Gay Pride is normally on a Saturday, the other days events and activities are held in the pride village. They also stage the Sicilia Queer Film Fest in either May or June which is very well attended.

Take a dramatic and atmospheric ten minutes stroll uptown past the awesome Teatro Massimo - their famous opera house located on the Piazza Verdi. It is the biggest in Italy, and one of the largest of Europe, renowned for its perfect acoustics.

Close by you'll find the expat-sounding Lord Green pub on Via Enrico Parisi off Via Libertà. 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

After midnight, stroll five minutes down Via Principe di Villafranca to Exit10 & LOVE 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.

MORE 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.

ON THE BEACH AND IN THE BUSH

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.
In summer it's worth taking to the rocky beaches inside the nature reserve northeast of Sferracavallo about 15km northwest of central Palermo. They are popular with gay men and also worth a visit in the area is the beautiful rock named "La formica", about 1 mile from the harbor of Porticello, Santa Flavia, Palermo.
Tourist over the rock named 'La Formica'
Photo: alexstorn
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 Libertà near Exit10 & LOVE 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!

INFORMATION

The Visit Palermo website (www.visitpalermo.it) has a dedicated LGBT Tourism section with gay-friendly listings. 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 or Stanstead.

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Arcigay (Website; Wordpress)
Bar Garibaldi (Via Alessandro Paternostro, 46; T: +39 091 588511; Website)
Cinema Orfeo (Maqueda 25; T 0039 91 616 2090)
Exit10 & LOVE (Piazza Santa Francesco da Paola 39/40; T: 0039 348 781498)
Enoteca Butticè (Piazza S. Francesco di Paola, 12; T: +39 091 251 5394; Website)
I Candelai (via dei Candelai 65; T: +39 333 700 2942; Website; facebook)
Lord Green (Via Enrico Parisi, 30; no phone)
Orsi Siculi (facebook)
Palermo Pride (Website)
Rise-up (via Ugo la Malfa 91; 0039 347 0448069) Website
Sicilia Queer Film Fest (Website)

Revised February 2018.

 

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