by Thomas Abeltshauser
Milan is not only the second largest city in Italy, but also also a trendy fashion capital and another gay stronghold apart from Rome.
When you arrive in downtown Milan from the airport by train, you’ll be welcomed by one of the most impressive buildings. Milano Centrale station, an imitation of Roman monumental architecture, was completed in 1931 and still stands like a fortress. The terminal station is not really beautiful, but one of the most important ones in Europe. We grab a taxi at the forecourt to check into our hotel as quickly as possible. We only have a long weekend to explore this city of 1.2 million inhabitants.
Our first point of call: the Brera quarter with its innumerable small alleys and street cafés, where you can be charged 10 Euros for 25cl of wine. But this may be worth it. The men in Milan, as you soon discover, pay much attention to their appearance. Milan is a fashion metropolis, so even men with good “gaydar” find it difficult to tell the straight from the gays. It seems to us that men here shave their legs – no matter what sexual orientation one has – or else belongs to bears. While we are enjoying a glass of San Colombano, Milan’s red wine, and refelct on ideals of male beauty, we decide to spend the afternoon in the art gallery around the corner.
In the courtyard of Palazzo Brera, which also houses the Academy of Fine Arts, stands Antonio Canova’s nude of Napoleon Bonaparte, showing the warlord with a very glorious bottom. In the permanent collection of Pinacoteca di Brera, Andrea Mantegna’s Dead Jesus is especially worth seeing. We then start the evening at the Elephant. Many bars and clubs offer a so-called aperitivo on weekends that usually starts at 7 pm. This is quite a sumptuous buffet, where you can lay the basis for a later pub of club night at a flat rate of about 10 and 15 Euros.
The gay youth of Milan meets at the Elephant. Nobody there is older than mid-30. People talk mostly among themselves, but those too shy to flirt come into contact with others when getting another order from the bar. How should this not make your mouth water? We move on to Mono Bar, an extremely stylish and funny retro bar, in which the crowd is not so licked, rather way-out. It reminds us of Berlin in the nineteen-nineties or the famous Fabuloso in Madrid: a place like a time machine in which you immediately feel at home.
The atmosphere is equally relaxed and we soon talk to people. We end the evening with having made new friends. The sky over Italy’s economic centre is clear the next morning that is blurred by mist on most days. We want to take advantage of the weather and climb the roof of Milan. One of the 130 old tram cars from 1928, the Milano Ventotto, takes us to Piazza del Duomo, the cathedral square. No less impressive than the central train station the day before, but much more charming is this church: a Gothic dream in white. 463 steps take you to the cathedral’s roof from where you have an amazing view over the city up to the Alps on a clear day like today.
A triumphal arch next to the cathedral leads you into Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II, a spectacular, covered shopping arcade from the 19th century that makes you feel like standing in a film set. More important than the shops is the architecture with its glass roof and the floor mosaics. You can shop in here, of course, but if you can’t find what tickles your fancy, just move on to Via Manzoni. Here you can find everything from Armani in its gigantic flagship store to Paul Smith. The good thing is that it is usually much cheaper than in Germany.
We pay a visit to the Navigli canals this night. It reminds us of Amsterdam or Venice, so picturesque is the pub and bar bustle left and right on the canal banks. This is where the hip Milan scene meets, a cosmopolitan mix of sexy and smart guys who are the best proof that Milan is just cooler without being arrogant. There are also a few gay shops by the water, but it doesn’t really matter where you sit down for a drink, since there is no designated gay area like in other Italian cities. Maybe Milan is really the first postgender capital? The city is unique, anyway. Molto bene!
Homepage of Turismo Lombardia featuring citymaps, tips and events.
Offical hompage for tourism in Milan.
HOW TO GET THERE
Milan has got three airports that are linked to many German airports by direct flights, e.g. Dusseldorf and Berlin by airberlin. Malpensa airport has an express rail link to Milano Centrale, travelling time approx. 45mns; the coach service from Linate airport takes about 25mns.
Garda (Via Napo Torriani 21) Gay-friendly 3-star hotel, centrally located near the Duomo and Scala, www.hotelgardamilan.com
44 Suite (Via Vitruvio 44) Two gay-owned apartments on the 5th floor of a hotel. Next to Milano Centrale and equipped with all ameneties you need for a short break, www.44suite.com
Hotel Charly (Via Lodovico Settala 76) Small and gay-friendly hotel in a quiet side street, 5mins from Milano Centrale.