Renaissance art-filled galleries and museums, towering church domes, six-packed sculptures, the best ice cream in the world and nearby verdant vineyards producing wine…lots of wine – these are what most associate with Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region of Italy. The culturally rich city is also home to such wonders as the tombs of Michelangelo and Ponte Vecchio, a scenic multi-layered bridge filled with shops.
However, despite the undeniably gay undertones of the city – with its sexy nude male statues dotted around – what Florence is not known for, is its gay nightlife. Rome and Milan seem to have beat in that respect, but beneath the culturally rich veneer of the city a bustling gay scene exists for those willing to seek it out when night falls and the galleries close. Florence is a gay-friendly city with fashion designers and students making up a significant portion of Florence’s population – if not to the extent of Milan – and let’s be real, fashion and the LGBTQ+ world go as hand-in-hand as Dolce & Gabbana.
We look at the best gay bars and clubs in the city to whet your whistle at after a hard day’s culture vulturing in Florence.
Piccolo is where the local gays tend to start their night and the gay locale that LGBTQ+ tourists usually find first, as it is located not far from the Santa Croce Basilica – the burial place of Michelangelo – on Borgo Sanra Croce. The cocktails are lush and the atmosphere welcoming to all, with a mixed crowd of varied ages.
Piccolo Café represents Florence’s artsy vibes perfectly in that it also serves as a queer gallery with the walls exhibiting cool queer art – such as a glitter ball shaped like the male member on the bar. It’s small – the bar that is – but the crowds tend to gather on the streets in front during the summer, especially at the weekends when a DJ pumps out mainstream pop music. Piccolo is closed Mondays and Sundays – perhaps to let the weekend hangovers subside.
The bar’s name leaves no doubt to the intended clientele of this trendy bar. Found on Borgo Allegri amongst the winding roads around Piazza Santa Croce – one of Florence’s main squares – the crowd tends to be younger but represents all letters of the LGBTQ+ community with a wide spectrum of sexualities and gender identities enjoying drinks there. The drinks are cheap, and the cocktails are as good as those in Piccolo.
Music wise expect pop and dance music with a small – but serviceable – dancefloor to warm up on before hitting the clubs. Nights out start later in Italy so Queer bar really gets going after midnight and in the summer often gets packed out to capacity.
For a more chilled out vibe, you can’t go wrong with Twist Bistrot – a café by day and a bar by night – found on Via Cavour just off San Marco Square. The décor is delightfully quirky and camp; with full bookcases, shelves full of things like board games and crockery, coke bottle lampshades and portrait art making it look like an eccentric Italian grandmother’s living room. Not to mention the chandeliers and vinyls hanging from the ceilings. This is because the café/bar doubles as a vintage market with the oddities found on its walls available for purchase behind the bar – including the dresses along the back wall. The music is from the 70’s/80’s and – as you might expect from such a campy locale – it is the place to go for drag shows. Even the clientele like to dress up in vintage dresses.
A little out of the center, Tenax is the most queer-friendly club in town for those who just want to dance after a drink or five. Open on Fridays and Saturdays its world-famous DJs spin techno, electro and house music till the early morning to a mixed crowd. The venue is huge and performance art and bands spice up the nights’ entertainments. Tenax has been running since 1981 and its regulars call it a “family club”. Why not join the family?
Circolo Fabrik Firenze
If you want to go all in however, then Fabrik might be more up your alley. The venue – atmospherically in an old factory – isn’t actually in Florence but is just 15km away. So, you can either hop in a taxi or take a train to Calenzano. It’s also technically a gay cruising bar but when a circuit party is in town – which it frequently is – Fabrik is where it is held. As are bear nights and other gay men-only themed nights. Sunday afternoon even has a ‘naked night´ for a frisky way to round off the weekend. You’ll need an Arco membership card to enter, but that’s easily accomplished at the door or through their website. The card has the benefit of giving you access to more than sixty clubs across Italy.
In Florence, culture and parties are not mutually exclusive. Being his birthplace, Leonardo da Vinci is said to have known how to have a good time in the city. Now you do too.
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