Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Vacationer’s LGBTQ+ Guide to Bologna, Italy

With its irresistible charm, Bologna is a hidden gem that stands out among Italian LGBTQ+ tourist destinations. Characterized by its arched sidewalks and passageways, a testament to 13th-century town planning, the city is a vibrant hub for LGBTQ+ tourists and locals. With its large queer community and a left-wing administration, it is as safe a destination for LGBTQ+ visitors as you will find in Italy.

Bologna has a significant gay scene, history, and culture. In 1995, it was the first city to elect a transgender municipal councilor, Marcella Di Folco, who is also the first openly trans woman in the world to hold a political public office. Bologna is the birthplace of Pier Paolo Pasolini, the famous director and intellectual, who has become a symbol of the Italian gay community.

With all of that in mind, Bologna is also an ideal tourist destination for LGBTQ+ travelers, especially during its peak season – summer. During this time, Bologna hosts its annual LGBTQ+ Pride event, which spans several days and features a variety of activities, including marches, parades, film screenings, and workshops.





WHAT TO DO


Gaily Tours 
The LGBTQ-owned operator Gaily Tours offers private walking tours showcasing Bologna’s gay and lesbian bars, clubs, and the overall ‘scene’.

Lumière Cinema
One of the most prestigious cinemas in Bologna and Italy at large, Lumière has been hosting international festivals related to gender issues – such as Gender Bender and Divergenti, both of which explore LGBTQ+ themes.

Porta Saragozza
This historical Gayborhood, where clubs, pubs, LGBTQ+ events, and even protests and initiatives take place, is a must-visit for queers.

Cassero LGBTI+ Center
During the summer season, the lovely venues of the Salara (a former warehouse) and Giardino del Cavaticchio welcome a variety of cultural events including DJ sets, plays, and design-focused markets, which attract a diverse crowd from the gay, lesbian, and trans communities.

IGOR Libreria
One of the few bookshops in Italy to be entirely LGBTQ-oriented, IGOR (named after the little dog belonging to owners Raffaele Pancaldi and Gianluca Albertini) offers an impressive selection of foreign language books, fiction, and non-fiction, as well as comics and graphic novels, DVDs, gadgets and magazines. There is a library inside where you can relax and meet new LGBTQ+ friends while sitting in the peaceful atmosphere surrounded by plants, books, and often small exhibitions.

IGOR Libreria (Photo Credit: IGOR Libreria / Facebook)
IGOR Libreria (Photo Credit: IGOR Libreria / Facebook)





WHERE TO STAY


Thanks to the city’s efficient transportation system, many of Bologna’s neighborhoods are just 10-20 minutes away from Piazza Grande, the main square. However, depending on your budget, a room or an apartment in the city center may be the most comfortable option.

Grand Hotel Majestic
With an antique interior, the Grand Hotel Majestic is a prestigious five-star hotel often frequented by wealthier LGBTQ+ customers – boasts an incredible array of deluxe luxury rooms and a restaurant offering gastronomic delights from Bologna’s local cuisine.

Savhotel Bologna
A hotel located in the Bologna Fiere district, Savhotel is an 11-minute drive from the airport and 10 minutes from the city center. It is queer-friendly and has a fitness center, Jacuzzi, restaurant, and a bar/lounge area.

Villa Aretusi
Renowned for its Trattoria Aretusi’s culinary offerings, the Villa Aretusi provides a large selection of typical Italian dishes that LGBTQ+ tourists – and locals – adore, such as tortellini, crescentine, and tigelle. 

Hotel Fiera Wellness & Spa
The Hotel Fiera is an affordable solution that also offers many facilities focused on health and wellness, such as a large spa and sauna. Gay-friendly and often busy, it also has a great restaurant, Ristorante il Mercante, where it is easy to socialize.





WHERE TO EAT

A plate with traditional ring-shaped pasta tortellini with bolognese in front of the food showcase background in Bologna, Italy (Photo Credit: RossHelen / Shutterstock)
Traditional tortellini with bolognese in front of the food showcase background in Bologna, Italy (Photo Credit: RossHelen / Shutterstock)

Italian food culture is so strong that it is almost impossible not to stumble upon great restaurants or cafes wherever you go in the city. However, there are a few excellent spots to seek out, that you cannot miss.

Baracca e Burattini
Located near the Botanical Garden at Via Irnerio 39a, Baracca e Burattini, a fairly priced, gay-friendly restaurant, offers American-style breakfasts, lunch, dinner with vegetarian options, and free Wi-Fi. 

Bar Barattolo
Bar Barattolo is located at Via del Borgo di S. Pietro, 26/a, and is one of the most famous queer-friendly drinking establishments in the city. It has a lively, inclusive vibe, usually plays pop music, and has good food served all night.

Osteria BoccaBuona
Osteria BoccaBuona, situated at Via degli Usberti 5/a, is a relaxed LGBTQ+/mixed restaurant and café in the center of the city, offering a veggie menu and other excellent food options. It is best known for its ‘tagliere della boccabuona,’ a selection of typical Bologna bread, piadine, and crescentine, served with cured meats or veggies.





NIGHTLIFE


Bologna has many clubs and bars that are historical sites for the LGBTQ+ community. Key locations include The Red (Bologna is nicknamed ‘The Red’, because of its red-brick roofs) which is owned by a non-profit solidaristic association, Cassero, and Bar’t.

The Red
Red Club, located in the industrial area near Zona Roveri, is Bologna’s busiest and most bustling gay and lesbian nightclub. They have excellent DJs, smoking rooms, a dark room, and even a swimming pool.

Cassero
Cassero is not only one of the most popular clubs in Bologna for gay residents and tourists but also the location of the renowned LGBTQ Center. It hosts the provincial Arcigay committee (one of the largest LGBTQ+ associations in Europe) and an extensive library specializing in gender and LGBTQ+ subjects in Italy, as well as art exhibitions and social gatherings. But for many visitors, it’s mostly about the lively dance parties, including Absolutely Queer Disco Night, drag shows, and techno events.

Bar’t
Not for the faint-hearted, Bar’t is a sex and cruising bar presented across multiple levels, located at Via Polese 47a. The men-only venue features a cruising labyrinth, a play area with a sling, naked parties, bear nights, and DJ sets.

Francesco Bacci

Francesco Bacci is a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at the Freie Universität, Berlin. He was a visiting scholar at Stanford University for the academic year 2022/2023. he has been working as a freelance journalist and fact-checker for various international magazines and portals, including LGBTQ Nation, Siegessäule, Film in Dublin, and Daddy Berlin, among others. His work mainly involves the analysis of queer culture and cinema. He is currently based in Berlin.

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