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. But the busiest and safest bet is in any
port car park, especially the one just south of town, turning off from the Bowling Alley
Isola Bella & Mazzarò Bay.
Again, you'll see the Italian trend for mixed gay-friendly bars and eateries. The Trattoria
Dal Cavaliere will provide welcome succour mid-cruising those central streets. Just around
the corner, the inviting Forzese Night Bar also offers snacks whilst your eyes scour the
streets from its front terrace.
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 the same decadent, 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. And if you still need to let off steam, try the small, clean and ambitiously-named
Mykonos Sauna next door.
Uptown a little and you can try two non-summer venues: the Sottosopra Disco-Pub with its
small dance terrace and Pegaso's with its acclaimed dark rooms. But 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.
THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Trattoria Dal Cavaliere (Piazza Stesicoro, Catania; T: 0039 (0)95 31 04 91)
Forzese Night Bar (Corso Sicily 12, Catania; T: 0039 (0)95 345678)
Nievski (via Alessi 15-17, Catania; T: 0039 (0)95 31 37 92)
Havana Pub (via Platamone 20, Catania; T: 0039 (0)95 53 01 29)
Villa Romeo Villa (via Platamone 20, Catania; T: 0039 (0)95 53 01 29)
Mykonos Sauna (via Platamone 20, Catania; T: 0039 (0)95 53 01 29)
Sottosopra Disco-Pub (via Santanello Fulci 9, Catania; T: 0039 (0)95 37 72 62)
Pegaso's Club (via Canfora 9, Catania; T: 0039 (0)95 44 54 38)
Pegaso's in Summer (via le Kennedy 80, Catania; T: 0039 (0)95 44 54 38)
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. You might also call or drop into the Open Mind LGB Centre
(via Gargano 33, Catania; T: 0039 (0)95 53 26 85) for the very latest.
Revised June 2015.