Gay History for Gay Travelers

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Florence

 September 23-25

accommodations

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!

 

Naples

September 25-28

accommodations
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.

Rome
September 28-October 2

accommodations

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 tour ends with breakfast this morning, but let us know if we can help you for further travel arrangements, in Italy or beyond!