Words: Tay-Her Lim
Ahh.. the eternal city. A religious papal city built over the hedonistic sins of ancient Romans. A modern metropolis working alongside thousand year olds relics (the public toilets felt like they were a thousand years old!). Rome seems like a marriage of contradictions that shouldn’t work, yet it does so beautifully. It may sound like the campest city in the world –after all, Baroque (aka drama!!) was born here. Nevertheless, this is a religious Catholic city, with more churches than 7-Elevens. So, keep your fluorescent pink tank tops and Louboutins at home. It is still enchanting nonetheless. How many cities in the world can be the star in a movie with Audrey Hepburn as just the sideshow? So pack your Fendis and Guccis, and head off for a Roman Holiday!
Cathay Pacific offers direct flights to Rome, but they’re likely to be the most expensive option. Good deals and connections can be found on British Airways, Turkish Airlines and other European airlines.
Via del Babuino 181, 00187 Rome, Italy
To those who want everything (location, mod con, intimate but must be luxe too!), you can find it all at Babuino 181. Located smack in the middle of Rome’s shopping mecca and right by the Spanish Steps, you will be grateful for the comfy bed after carrying those shopping bags while killing your Ferragamos on the cobbled streets.
Inn at the Roman Forum
Via degli Ibernesi 30, 00184 Rome, Italy
Located just a few steps from several ancient sites, including the Colosseum, this boutique B&B offers views of the Palatine Hill and the Forum. Perfect for the history buff. Yes, you can virtually smell the blood and sweat of those gladiators.
Like most capitals, Rome hotel rooms can be tiny (yes, it can be smaller than your Hong Kong flat!). A reasonable option especially for a group of gay boys is rental apartments. There are many good choices at Roman Reference, from cutesy cozy studios, to orgy-capable 5 bedroom penthouses.
Giggeto Al Portico
via del Portico d’Ottavia 21/a I – 00186 Roma
Located in the atmospheric Jewish Ghetto, this is a quintessential Roman-Jewish restaurant, and it has a penchant for all things deep-fried (very Atkins diet). Get your fingers greasy by tucking into yummy fiori di zucca (zucchini flowers), or the fantastic fried artichoke (a Roman tradition). Grab an outdoor table to be seated next to the ancient fish market.
Via Della Croce, 76/B
Technically a wine bar, this restaurant near the Spanish Steps draw locals and tourists alike with its excellent antipasti and cold cuts, and home comfort food like hand-made bucatini and ravioli. The backroom is cozy and very 18th century. Good for a romantic dinner or a lunch break from shopping.
Forno di Campo De’ Fiori
Campo De’ Fiori 22
One of the best pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) joints in Rome, Forno di Campo De’ Fiori is a good but not-too-touristy option. Grab a slice of pizza bianca, and sit by the fountains while watching the world goes by – bliss!
Thanks to the ancient urban planner, all the major ancient Rome sites are located around the the Colosseum. Go ahead, relive your fantasy of being down and dirty with all the gladiators. Then amble along the ruins of the Forum until you get to the Palatine, the poshest address in ancient Rome. At their peak, these mansions would have made houses on the Peak look like slums! Best of all, you can end the day by watching the sun set over the Colosseum from the delightful Coming Out bar (see below).
If you have been as sinful as we have, you will need the mothership of all Catholic churches to confess it all. Welcome to the smallest country in the world – the Vatican City. Bypass the queues and get a guide for the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. 7km long, the Vatican Museum houses an impressive art and sculpture collection, a few of which are statues of Roman imperial ‘favourites’, i.e. their gay lovers. Blame these statues for giving us gays body image issues! Once you recover from the shock that you can’t take photos of Michelangelo’s frescos (a Japanese company own the royalties to the Sistine Chapel!), be awed by St Peter’s Basilica, which is thankfully free. Yes, it feels like a Catholic Disneyland at times, with long queues and payment for everything (even a confession will cost you!), but getting a glimpse into the pope’s inner sanctum is so worth it.
Museo e Galleria Borghese
If there’s only one art museum you have to go in this city (or in your lifetime), go to this one. This is the queen of all private art museums. Housed in a villa built by Cardinal Scipione, the villa itself is already an art piece. The museum is wonderfully curated (though not all are legally collected), showcasing the best of Renaissance and Baroque art. The stars here are denser than on 90210 – Bernini, Raphael, Caravaggio, Canova – you name it, Borghese got it. Pre-booking is necessary, but you will be squealing with delight when you see Bernini’s sculpture of ‘Apollo e Dafne’ .
Do what Romans do – chill
Lap up the Roman lifestyle, and just walk around the beautiful city while enjoying the food, wine and eye candies. Do a spot of sightseeing at the Centro Storico, with a compulsory stop at the 2000 year old Pantheon. A doppio (double espresso) in Piazza Navona later, take out your murse and do some damage to your credit card at Via Babuino and Via Condotti. Have a shopping break with a two hour long lunch. Walk off your gelato or tiramisu by more walking or shopping. Too tired? Cruise the hot Italian boys/girls at the Spanish Steps or Campo De’ Fiori. If you have fallen in love with Rome (or that Roman one night stand), go over to the Trevi Fountain and throw a coin over the shoulder. Cheesy, but it has to be done. Then more drinking and eating in the boho-chic area of Trastevere. Stroll its pretty streets, holding the hand of your Roman holiday romance.. Ah, sweet sweet life!
Catholic guilt does not help the gay nightlife in Rome. It is relatively subdued compared to other major European capitals. Rome does have its own gay street – Via San Giovanni in Laterano, where most of the gay bars and shops are located. In summer the biggest gay event is the Gay Village, where a huge park is transformed into a gay entertainment mecca, with dance floors, bars, and outdoor shows. For clubbing options, head for the many gay nights in the established clubs in the Testaccio neighborhood. Ironically, while you can find Roman-style bath houses everywhere in the world, there’s very few in Rome. What gives?
Via S. Giovanni in Laterano, 8.
A gay bistro-cafe and bar, manned by cute staff. The street terrace is THE place to be. With a view of the Colosseum (and many cute Romans!), this is a great spot for a drink after an Ancient Roman tour.
Muccassassina at Qube
Via di Portonaccio, 212
Started 23 years ago as a gay party, Muccassassina is now one of the biggest parties on Friday nights in Rome, popular with both the straight and gay crowd. With multiple dance floors for different music, expect long queues at the entrance.
Via di Monte Testaccio, 40/44
A club with two dancefloors of House and Pop music. Hosts regular gay nights like Gloss on Thursday, and Tommy Night on Saturday.
Bear Monday at Radio Londra
Via di Monte Testaccio, 67
A weekly party for bear and bear lovers on-you guessed it- Mondays. Perfect for the Monday blues (and winter months too – never go wrong with Italian fur!).