Queer travel destination: Florence, Italy

Florence, the birthplace of art, style and food – and Italy’s gay hub – is going to be more gay this spring, and LGBTQ Florentines are ready.

Tuscany’s capital Florence is coming back to life, according to Angelo Alterio, who was my gay guide with Gaily Tour just before the global pandemic hit Italy in 2020. He said tourists are slowly returning to the city of the Renaissance.

“There is a feeling of a kind of need for Florentines to be in contact with the rest of the world after being closed,” he said. “We have to come back to life”

There’s no better time than now to visit the Renaissance city – home to gay artists Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Benvenuto Cellini and Sandro Botticelli, who put Florence on the map with the patronage of Cosimo de’ Medici and the family in the 15th century.

The largest exhibition of master bronze and marble sculptor Donatello (Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi), one of Florence’s gay sons, is on view in ‘Donatello, The Renaissance’ at the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi until July 31 .

More than 130 sculptures, paintings and drawings by Donatello, including his famous bronze statue of “David”, are exhibited in a unique exhibition.

Where to play day and night

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Florence is brimming with art indoors and out, from Michelangelo’s ‘David’ to the Accademia Gallery to Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ to the Uffizi Gallery, passing through the Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance architecture of the city. The city is also home to cathedrals of Italy’s only fashion museum, the Galleria del Costume, as well as the Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo museums.

The best way to discover museums and popular sites is to get the Firenzecard. To get to know the city, hire a guide, like Alterio, a Florentine native.

The best view of Florence is from Piazzale Michelangelo, where you’ll have stunning views of the city with the Tuscan countryside as your backdrop. Other great views are at the top of the Duomo at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Ponte Vecchio.

Forget Milan, Florence is home to famous Italian fashion houses, like Gucci. It also hosts fashion shows, like the Pitti Immagine Uomo, which will turn Florence into a menswear show from June 14-17 for the first time since COVID-19.

“They wear the most extravagant, elegant and unique outfits,” Alterio said. “They are all gorgeous.”

From fashion houses to boutiques, Florence is the perfect city to pick up something new for a night out on the town.

The hottest places to show off your style are nightclubs, like the Crisco Club, Mamamia at the Viper Theater or the gay-friendly Tenax Discoteca Club.

Popular LGBTQ bars are Queer and Bossy at Soul Kitchen.

Pride Park NCS and XTRA Revolutionary Clubbing produce queer events not to be missed when visiting Florence.

The boys can relax at Florence’s newly renovated gay sauna, Florence Baths.

Where to eat and drink

Florence is a city of style and taste, but it is a small window, the “buchettes”, unique to Florence and Tuscany, which has made a historic comeback during the pandemic.

“I like when habits from the past come back,” Alterio said of the “buchettas”, which translates to “little hole”, which the Florentines pulled out of remission in 2020. “It’s a way of playing with the past to make it more up to date.

According to “Wine Windows in Florence and Tuscany”, there are nearly 300 wine windows that have operated for five centuries in the region. The windows allowed aristocrats to keep their distance while filling peasants’ flasks with wine, which proved beneficial during the bubonic plague and COVID-19.

Many windows are found in the Santo Spirito district of Florence.

Visitors love them. Taking a photo while ordering wine from a “buchetta” is a fun way to capture a moment in history.

La Buchetta Restaurant, one of Florence’s most popular restaurants, named after the historic wine window, has one that looks into the kitchen through its ‘buchetta’.

Babae diners can order a glass of wine delivered through its wine window.

Florence is full of great places to eat. I loved having an artisan sandwich for lunch at Ino by celebrity chef Alessandro Frassica. I enjoyed excellent dinners at Le Antiche Carrozze, Osteria Vecchio Cancello, the aforementioned La Buchetta restaurant, and had the best experience when I hired Chef Elisa Berghi, co-owner of Chianti Cooking Experience, to host a private dinner at my girlfriend’s house and my rental vacation.

I end the evening with the best gelato in Florence at Gelateria Santa Trinita.

Where to stay

Bears & Breakfast offers a comfortable gay stay in Florence. The city is full of LGBTQ-friendly hotels, such as the brand new 25Hours Hotel, a European boutique chain, and the family-run Florentine Residence Hilda and Cellai Boutique Hotel.

Traveling in Italy

COVID-19 is not over, but starting March 1 Italy dropped quarantine requirements for US travelers who have been vaccinated, tested negative or have proof of recovery from the virus up to 90 days before the trip.

Mask mandates remain in place, but Italy also began to roll back checking for proof of vaccination in public places on April 1. Italy recognizes CDC vaccination cards as equivalent to Europe’s Green Card, the European Union’s digital vaccination passport, which is separate from Italy’s Green Pass, the country’s vaccination record.

U.S. travelers can monitor Italy’s COVID-19 status with the Italian Ministry of Health.

Vaccinated and unvaccinated US travelers returning to the United States must test negative for COVID-19 one day before travel. Americans recovered from COVID-19 must also provide proof of recovery.