In some ways, Milan Pride is similar to many Pride celebrations around the world. But in other tangible ways, the Pride event in this global capital of fashion and design located in Italy's northern Lombardy region, is like none other. Last June, a quarter of a million people attended the week-long celebration, which is expected to attract even more this summer.
Part of Onda Pride, which unites all the Italian Prides and is organized by the Commission of the CIG Arcigay, Milan Pride bills itself as a manifestation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, asexual, intersexual, and queer pride, “an extraordinary celebration of freedom.”
The Pride organization also considers it essential to its mission to be fully inclusive, regardless of immigration status, ability, ethnicity, or age, and includes programs for children and “Rainbow Families.” That could be why Milan Pride is not one big party with drunken people screaming and acting obnoxious, even though one can drink on the streets of Milan legally. I did not witness any obvious public intoxication.
The parade is very festive and happy, with the procession led by a marching band. Floats offer bright colors, unique artwork, and cheerful flair. Odd from an American perspective: there are no floats of dancing men in Speedos nor any shirtless beefcakes in the parade. The pinnacle of the family-friendly fare this year was the Rainbow Families choo-choo train, which had a ton of kids on it.
Over a dozen corporations, many of which are based in the U.S.A., sponsor Milan Pride. Companies like eBay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PayPal, Coca-Cola, and Netflix are major sponsors with floats in the parade.
Speeches open the post-parade festivities, and in 2018 included several government representatives, activists, and the mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, who wowed the crowd with a wholehearted and fervent speech that even made my translator emotional. Italy is experiencing a similar political climate as the U.S., including issues around immigration, and Sala’s speech resonated with minorities. The theme of inclusiveness and minority rights permeated the event. A banner reading, “Make Love, Not Borders,” was carried through the parade and most of the speeches focused on the right-wing’s tone-deafness to the rights of marginalized people.
Gathered at the Pride stage were about a thousand teenage girls, who had apparently been waiting overnight to see pop stars, Benji & Fede, perform. Italy’s sensational (and adorable) singing duo has legions of young fans. Another superstar act was singer Jo Squillo, who also delivered an impassioned speech about inclusiveness and LGBTQ support. Pride Saturday festivities spread out from the main stage and into the surrounding neighborhoods.
Tear yourself away from the Pride celebration long enough to see some of city’s most popular attractions. The Italian Association of Gay and Lesbian Tourism can help you plan your trip to hit the unexpected must-sees. Milan is very metropolitan and eclectic. If you want to see ancient ruins, masterpiece paintings, renaissance structures, world-class museums, and breathtaking churches, Milan is your city. It also offers exquisite food, fashion for all budgets, vibrant nightlife, and much more.
Domm de Milan, the cathedral church of Milan is the grand dame of the city. It is a gothic masterpiece dedicated to St Mary of the Nativity, and the seat of the Archbishop of Milan. The largest church in Italy (St. Peter's Basilica is larger but is part of the Vatican City, not Italy proper) and the third largest in the world — the cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete.
Art lovers simply cannot miss the gothic church of Santa Maria delle Grazie home to Leonardo da Vinci's “Last Supper.” Napoleon’s palace when he occupied Italy is now Civica Galleria d'Arte Moderna, a modern art museum with works by Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, Rouault, Modigliani, Dufy, and Vuillard. Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci (National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci) is a must-see for STEM fans, geeks, and techies.
Milan is an international capital of fashion design, so you’ll want to hit some of the city’s famous shopping districts. Upscale boutiques and restaurants crowd the 150-year-old Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Europe’s most expensive street (according to Milano Today), Milan’s Via Montenapoleone is the city’s most prestigious shopping street, equivalent to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills or Manhattan’s 5th Avenue. For lesser known fashion designers and more unique clothing, check-out the street Corso di Porta Ticinese. The longest shopping street in Milan, Corso Buenos Aires, hosts hundreds of mid-range labels from around the globe.
In the evening take in a show at Teatro alla Scala, one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world. Jazz lovers will enjoy Blue Note Milano, where you can nosh on a Lobster Roll on gluten free bread, grilled shrimp, or one of their pasta dishes while renowned musicians perform every night.
Milan is a beautiful, ancient, culturally rich metropolis and its Pride might just reset your expectations for future celebrations.