Pride in Places: This gay nightclub in Italy is considered Europe’s Studio 54

Performer inside Plastic in Milan, Italy.
Photos: Courtesy of Plastic’s Facebook

Since 1980, music, fashion, and queerness have intersected at Plastic in Milan, Italy. The country might be one of the worst in Europe regarding gay rights (same-sex marriage is still illegal), but its LGBTQ+ community has always thrived underground.

Not long after its inception, the gay nightclub developed a reputation for where to see and be seen; Andy Warhol described its lively avant-garde atmosphere as the best nightlife in Europe. Imagine the influence of Studio 54 in New York, including familiar faces from the scene. 

Other celebrities who frequented Plastic were Madonna, Elton John, Andy Warhol, Prince, Freddie Mercury, Bruce Springsteen, Grace Jones, and Keith Haring. However, the streets leaving Plastic were less safe for less famous people. 

Patron inside Plastic in Milan, Italy.

In 1985, Arcigay was founded and became Italy’s largest gay organization, connecting the LGBTQ+ community to vital recourses. 

However, to partake in the organization’s benefits, you need an Arcigay card, a literal gay card, which was also required to enter most gay bars, nightclubs, and saunas. It created a membership system for the LGBTQ+ community to identify itself safely among each and to discourage outside harassment. There are 73 local committees and affiliated associations in Italy.  

Patron inside Plastic in Milan, Italy.

A representative from Arcigay told GayCities that it’s the normal way associations in Italy get their sustainability. Nowadays, only particular nightclubs require a membership card for entry. “We’re talking of sex-oriented clubs that need to be private associations to elude the laws about sex in public. But I can’t give you any information about these clubs, their cards, their bonus, or anything else because they belong to another association.” That would be the Arco card

Patrons inside Plastic in Milan, Italy.

But Italy’s strict Catholic roots and conservative elderly population aside, Milan manifests as the gay capital of the country. Despite Plastic being the center of queer nightlife, it somehow managed to keep its mystique and low profile online. For this reason, it continues to thrive as the social throne for the monde beau.

You won’t find much on the Internet about what occurs within the historic venue’s walls, and the gay nightclub did not return any of GayCities‘ requests for an interview. 

A search through every gay travel blog in Milan online offers limited information about the venue despite the fact it’s a fashionable crowd with a firm, judgy door policy. Unless you’re one of its insiders, your entrance is never guaranteed. Still, what most of the little information available seems to agree on is that it’s the most iconic European gay venue that exists. 

Patron inside Plastic in Milan, Italy.

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