In Rome, a city not historically known for its gay friendliness (thanks, Vatican!), walls are nonetheless breaking down. This past June, EuroPride marched from Piazza dei Cinquecento through the center of the city to the Circus Maximus, with about a million participants overall. And now, the highly rated, English-language tour company Rome Walks is offering a queer eye into the Eternal City with their new gay-themed tour “Antinous’ Rome: For the Love of Hadrian.”
Classical history refresher: Back in those halcyon pre-gay days, Hadrian, arguably Rome’s most beloved emperor, was openly involved with a Greek boy named Antinous. While traveling through Egypt, Antinous drowned in the Nile River. Hadrian wept, and like all great men of worth and power (cough, Taj Mahal, cough), in his sorrow went on to deify his lover. Coins were minted with his image. Cities were named after him. And in his capital city, some of the grandest remaining monuments – Pantheon, Castel Sant’Angelo – and fantastic pieces of art were commissioned to the memory of his lover with “the perfect male form.” The End? Not quite.
“We consider Hadrian and Antinous’ relationship to be a fascinating piece of history and want to offer our clients a way to see the historical foundations of the Eternal City while feeling embraced by gay culture,” says LeAnne J. Smith, the Creative Director of Rome Walks. “Many of our guides themselves are gay and love the topic.”
Taking it slowly over 3 hours, the English-speaking and often PhD-holding guides will take a closer look at two of Rome’s most visited sites, the Pantheon and Castel Sant’Angelo (aka Mausoleum of Hadrian), uncovering the many clues of the Emperor’s dedication to the memory his lover. In addition, time will be spent in the aristocratic residence-turned-national museum, the Palazzo Altemps, where statuary of the male form was said to be based on Antinous for over five centuries, and will continue through the cobbled streets of the historical center, ending on Pincian Hill overlooking the city skyline where an obelisk (what else?) was erected to the youth. Expect plenty of storytelling and photo ops along the way.
Tours start at the Ponte Sant’Angelo and run on request from 8:30am to 5:30pm, every day except Monday. Costs are $291 (€225) for a private group up to four people; additional $32 (€25) per person over that. Visit www.romewalks.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to book. For general trip-planning info, check out our Rome Travel Guide.