Gay Gods & Heroes Itinerary
In the 18th and 19th centuries, gentlemen completed their education by going on the so-called Grand Tour, to experience the cultural riches of Italy and Greece. Well….welcome to the gay Grand Tour. Greece and Italy are two of the world’s most amazing countries, renowned for their beautiful landscapes, their beautiful people, their delightful cuisines, their fascinating history and art. On this trip, you can experience all that—and probably for the first time in modern history, experience it through a gay lens. Because these are countries with amazing *gay* histories and cultures, from the ancient Greeks, whose myths and legends told of gods and heroes who had male lovers, and who considered male same-sex love the root of courage, to the Italian Renaissance, where the greatest artists of Western history rediscovered the male nude by portraying the apprentices who were also their great loves. So come complete your gay-ducation, while enjoying two of the loveliest countries on the gay gods’ earth.
HOTEL DE LA VILLE
An elegant and comfortable hotel along the most fashionable shopping street in Florence, the De La Ville is a 5 minute walk from the Duomo and the Baptistery with the Gates of Paradise, and 10 minutes from the Uffizi. In short, it is a short walk from everything in Florence: shops, restaurants, cafes, open-air markets, museums …
Via degli Antinori, 1, 50123 Firenze Fl, Italy
DAY 1 – We start our tour of Italy with a walking tour in the center of Florence, learning about the city’s key role in the Renaissance and the role of homosexual love in the Renaissance. Our afternoon ends with a visit to the Galleria dell’Accademia, where we see Michelangelo’s ‘slaves’ and the international symbol of male beauty, his David. This evening, we get to know our group over a glorious meal of Florentine specialties, centered on the most famous la bistecca alla Fiorentina, and its splendid red wines.
DAY 2 – Today, we visit two of Florence’s amazing museums, where we will discover the whole history of Florentine Renaissance art. from Donatello to Cellini. We start the morning at the Bargello, where we see several key male nude sculptures from the Renaissance, including Donatello’s David—the first freestanding male nude after ancient times; we then plunge into the Uffizi, the greatest of all collections of Renaissance painting. Bursting with masterpieces, the Uffizi is also a storehouse of homoerotic art by masters as varied as Botticelli, Caravaggio, and Bazzi (known to contemporaries as ‘II Sodoma’-the sodomite!). The afternoon and evening are yours to explore this charming city, its museums, its wonderful fashion boutiques and artisan shops, and its charming restaurants. Don’t forget to ask Professor Lear for his gelato recommendations!
GRAND HOTEL SANTA LUCIA
One of Naples’ most charming and best-located hotels, the Grand Hotel Santa Lucia is in an art nouveau building on a quiet (and safe) stretch of the harbor promenade, right across from the Santa Lucia port and the medieval Castel dell’Ovo. It has great views out to Capri and across the bay to Mount Vesuvius and is in easy walking distance of a number of good restaurants. In short, it’s one of the best bases for a visit to Naples!
Via Partenope, 46, 80121 Napoli NA, Italy
DAY 3 – This morning we take the express train to Naples, passing through the hills of central Italy. On arrival, we have the first of our Neapolitan meals-pizza in the city that invented it! We spend our afternoon visiting the great Naples Archaeological Museum, where we see the amazing collection of frescoes and statues that were excavated in Pompeii and other nearby sites. The Museum also has some fabulous homoerotic pieces, including the joint statues of Harmodios and Aristogeiton, the male-male couple who were revered as the founders of the Athenian democracy; also, there is the fascinating Gabinetto Segreto, the collection of erotic art that until the 1960s was only open to “people of mature age and respectable morals.” This evening we have dinner in our hotel’s neighborhood, along the city’s famous bay.
DAY 4 – This morning, we drive south to Paestum, which, like many southern Italian cities, was in ancient times part of Magna Graecia (greater Greece) and today is home to some of the best-preserved Greek temples in the world. We visit the temples and the museum, which contains one of the greatest homoerotic images in ancient art: a wall-painting of a symposium, where, among other party games, a man courts a youth in the ancient Greek style. For the afternoon, we return from Greek culture to Roman culture and visit Pompeii, the ancient city at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius, buried by the volcanic explosion of 79 AD and rediscovered in the 18th century. This is the place where archaeology was invented and is still the world’s greatest archaeological site-a place unlike any other, where you can see right into the private lives of ancient people. Sexuality will, of course, be our special theme: Pompeii is rich in the history of the erotic, and full of many surprises, especially in the main bordello and the locker-room of the Suburban Baths! Lunch today is in a lovely restaurant overlooking the temples of Paestum. We are in the heart of the world’s mozzarella production and will get to enjoy it. The evening is yours to relax in Naples.
DAY 5 – This morning, we take the hydrofoil out to Capri, the pearl of the Mediterranean. We spend the day exploring the island, famous for its beauty and for the rich and famous who have played there-and in particular for their same-sex relationships. After a boat ride around the island, we go up to the village of Capri, where we learn about the Emperor Tiberius and the orgies he supposedly held on the island as well as Capri’s gay culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the island was the site of a gay scandal that rocked the German empire. We visit the public garden, donated to the village by Alfred Krupp, the man at the center of the gay scandal, and then cross over to the village of Anacapri to visit the famous Villa San Michele, home of a fascinating 19th century figure, the great cholera doctor Axel Munthe. Munthe was straight-in fact, he was the lover of the queen of Sweden-but he was definitely an ally. In fact, his villa is the one place on the tour where Oscar Wilde stayed the night: Munthe discovered that Wilde and his lover “Bosie” Douglas had been kicked out of the island’s main hotel (as so often happened after Wilde’s imprisonment) and invited them to stay at the Villa. For lunch today we eat some of Capri’s wonderful seafood right at the water’s edge.
September 28-October 2
HOTEL DEi BORGOGNONI
Housed in a dignified 19th century building, the Hotel dei Borgognoni is on a quiet street but right in the center of the city. It is the ideal base for an exploration of Rome: 5 minutes walk from the Spanish Steps or the Trevi Fountain, 10 minutes from the Pantheon, and around the corner from many of Rome’s great shops, restaurants, cafes, pizzerias, and gelaterias!
Via del Bufalo, 126, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
DAY 6 – After our train ride from Naples, we have a classic Roman lunch, and then set off a walking tour through the central pedestrian area of this amazing city. We see many of the famous sights and many quiet, unknown nooks. We visit monuments such as the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona, the Trevi fountain, and the Piazza di Spagna with its famous staircase. With thousands of years of history in every street, we encounter some of the key themes of our tour, from Hadrian, the “gayest” emperor, to Michelangelo’s biggest crush, to Caravaggio, the artistic rebel and genius, as well as Rome’s great opera heritage. Along the way we make stops for coffee (at possibly the best cafe in Italy) and gelato, one of Rome’s many signature specialties. The evening is free for your own explorations. Given that our hotel is in the absolute center of the city, there are many excellent restaurants nearby (please ask us for suggestions!).
DAY 7 – This is our one long day, because we have a lot of special things to see! In the morning, we delve into the core of the ancient city-the Forum, the Palatine Hill that housed the imperial residences, and the Colosseum, famous for its ghastly gladiatorial combats. While exploring the archaeological sites, we examine the bizarre tales Roman historians relay about the emperors, in particular their complicated and lurid sex lives. After a lovely lunch in a quiet historic piazza nearby, we go underground to explore a recently discovered ancient senatorial palace, where a sound-and-light show explains the fascinating and complex history of the site. We finish our afternoon with a visit the Capitoline museum, with its magnificent collection-ranging from the famous she-wolf of Rome to Caravaggio’s strangely erotic St. John the Baptist and its amazing view back onto the Forum (from an ancient corridor underneath the museum). Our day ends a short walk from the hotel. Evening free.
DAY 8 – Our day begins with a drive into the countryside to Tivoli, where we visit two great villas: Emperor Hadrian’s country retreat (where, among other things, he built a temple to his lover Antinous, who was worshiped as a god after his death in the Nile), and the Villa d’Este, with its splendid Renaissance gardens and fountains. After a lunch in a country restaurant famous for its local produce and wine, we return to Rome to visit Palazzo Massimo, the center of the city’s antiquity collections. Here we will see such masterpieces of Greco-Roman art as the Discobolus (a model of masculine form for the Greeks) and the sleeping hermaphrodite-a statue that has much to tell about the Romans’ sexual attractions-as well as the stunning garden frescos from the Villa of Empress Livia. Evening free.
DAY 9 – On our last morning in Rome, we visit another of Rome’s great art museums, the Villa Borghese. The Villa, a 17th century country estate built by a cardinal who was definitely somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum to give parties and house his family’s art collection, still has one of the world’s great collections, including several of Caravaggio’s homoerotic masterpieces. Your afternoon and evening are free for shopping, wandering, or more museums and churches, and to explore Rome’s many wonderful restaurants. But in the evening, we set out again, for something really special: a chance to visit the Vatican Museums in the off-hours, when its great collection, and above all, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, can be enjoyed without overwhelming crowds. And instead of a traditional farewell dinner, we will have something better, an “aperitivo” of hors d’oeuvres and wine in the Vatican Museum’s courtyard!
Day 10. Our Italy tour ends with breakfast this morning. The tour starts again in Greece tomorrow afternoon. You are free in between, so take a break, in Rome or Athens. Note that tonight’s hotel is not included, but please let us know where you want to spend the night and how you want to go to Athens, so we can help you with arrangements.
Recently renovated, the Electra Palace is a gracious, older hotel that offers superb up-to-date amenities.
It is on a quiet street, but 2 minutes walk from the heart of modern Athens’ central shopping district and under 10 to the Acropolis-a perfect location, not to speak of the breathtaking views from the rooftop!
18-20 Nikodimou Street, Athina 105 57, Greece
DAY 11 – The tour starts again this afternoon with a walk through the center of Athens, led by Professor Lear. We get our first glimpse of the Acropolis, with its glorious temples and dramatic setting-as well as of the Agora below. Gay history is all around us: we see the llissos-the river where Socrates discourses on male-male love in Plato’s dialogues; the remains of the vast temple built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian (the first great fan of Greek homosexuality); the statue of Lord Byron, the bisexual English rake whose heroic death dramatized the Greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire; and several other sights that underscore the gay theme that runs through ancient Greek history. After a fascinating lecture on same-sex love in ancient Greece, it’s time to eat! We celebrate the beginning of our tour with a delicious meal of traditional Greek food, at a roof-top restaurant with a splendid view of the illuminated Acropolis.
DAY 12 – Today we spend the morning exploring the Acropolis with our archaeologist guide: first the hilltop itself and then the excellent new museum at its base. After a lovely lunch in the museum’s neighborhood, we continue our exploration of the heart of the ancient city, visiting the Agora, which served as the city’s central marketplace and the Kerameikos, or main cemetery, where Pericles delivered his immortal funeral oration. We learn about the glory of classical Athens, while focusing on the central role of same-sex relations in Athenian culture: in particular, we learn about Harmodius and Aristogeiton, the gay couple that served as Ancient Athens’ Uncle Sam. This evening is free for your own explorations of our hotel’s neighborhood-the Plaka, the heart of historic Athens.
DAY 13 – Today we take a trip out of Athens to explore the fascinating sights of the northern Peloponnese, just across the Corinthian Gulf. Our first stop is at Nemea, the site of one of the ancient Greek world’s four great athletic competitions. Less well known than Olympia, Nemea is of special interest to us for the astonishing homoerotic graffiti from 2500 years ago preserved on its walls. After lunch we visit the mysterious ruins of Mycenae, center of the world of the Iliad-where we will discuss the fascinating relationship of the hero Achilles and his friend (and possibly lover) Patroclus. Finally, we visit the world’s best-preserved ancient theater, in nearby Epidauros, before returning to Athens for a free evening.
DAY 14 – This morning, we take a short trip out to the Athenian shore and the iconic temple of Neptune on the coastal headlands at Sounio—where we can look for Lord Byron’s graffito signature! we cross Athens to visit the National Archaeological Museum, with the world’s greatest collection of ancient Greek sculpture. Our visit focuses on the amazing history of the male nude in ancient Greek art, plus a number of other fascinating artifacts that include Greek vases (Professor Lear’s specialty). This afternoon is free, for shopping, more archaeological touring, or perhaps the National Archaeological Museum, with the world’s greatest collection of ancient Greek sculpture (Professor Lear will provide a guide to the history of the male nude in ancient Greek art, plus a number of other fascinating artifacts). In the evening we offer an optional lesson in traditional Greek cooking with a prominent local chef, where we will enjoy the results of our cooking.
DAY 15 – Today we make a second day excursion, to visit another one of Greece’s most famous sites, the vast temple complex of Delphi. Here the ancients came to consult the oracles of Apollo, which they received from the ravings of a drugged priestess. We take a thorough look at the vast site and the museum, and pay special attention to the cult statue of the divine Antinous, the emperor Hadrian’s deified lover-and pagan competitor for Jesus Christ! Statues of Antinous have been found throughout the Greco-Roman world, but as we will see, the statue in Delphi seems to have been worshipped with special zeal. Lunch is included en route. On our way back to Athens, we stop at a rarely visited site that is rich in gay history: the lion monument of Chaironeia. Built to commemorate the Sacred Band, the crack regiment of later classical Greece, the monument honors a warrior unit composed exclusively of lover/beloved couples. We return to Athens for a final free evening.
DAYS 16 – 17 We take an early morning ferry across the Aegean for lovely views of the Cycladic islands, landing in Santorini before lunch. We spend two days exploring this ravishing island, curved around the bay created in prehistoric times by a sunken volcanic caldera. We visit Akrotiri, the Minoan city that may have inspired the Atlantis legend as well as the island’s charming “modern” villages and beaches, especially Oia, the sparkling white village famous for its sunsets over the caldera and the donkeys that form its traditional transport system. Lunch will be included on both days as we explore the island; evenings will be free for relaxed dinners.
MYCONIAN KORALI HOTEL
The Myconian Korali Hotel is just outside the town of Mykonos, perched on a hillside with a ravishing view of the sea and Mykonos’s famous windmills. Enjoy the pool, the terrace, the exquisite cocktails….
Mykonos Town, Mikonos 846 00, Greece
DAYS 18 -19 – A short two-hour ferry ride takes us to Mykonos, perhaps the loveliest of the Greek islands, famous for its beautiful white village, its turquoise sea, its beaches-and its gay nightlife. We visit Mykonos town (including its archaeological museum, with some explicitly sexy images from ancient times) and we also spend a full morning on the nearby island of Delos, the Greek Pompeii, with its amazingly well-preserved ancient city-including the famous row of phalluses in front of the temple of Bacchus! We will have lunch together on Day 8 when we arrive, and on Day 9, we will have one last lovely Greek seafood dinner to toast our new friends, this beautiful country, and its amazing gay past!
DAY 20 – Our tour ends with breakfast this morning, but let us know if we can help with your flight arrangements or further travel plans.