Discover Italy's penis café in Taormina Sicily

written by Kiki Deere
updated 10/12/2021
Share
fb tw mail_outline
attach_file

Where is world's only penis café? Outside the progressive town of Taormina in Sicily, of course. Join Rough Guides writer Kiki Deere as she finds some phallic fun in southern Italy. The information in this article is taken from The Rough Guide to Italy your essential guide for visiting Italy.

My long hair brushes against an erect penis. I grab the bannister. My hand firmly grips a dark phallus.

Excited male members line a windowsill. Others pop out of corners. There's even a large one on the balcony.

First thoughts? I'm on the set of a porn film? Perhaps visiting a female brothel?

Wrong. I am in Turrisi. Sicily's penis café.

The penis café which first opened in Castelmola in 1947

The curious penis café of Castelmola

I eagerly open the café menu. It's predictably penis shaped. And the first image is a courgette with two tomatoes.

A group of middle-aged ladies giggle nearby. The source of mirth? A large penis on their table. Husbands shift uncomfortably in seats. Not knowing where to look.

The penis café may seem vulgar. But it's not that simple.

Phallic lamp handcrafted by Sicilian artisans

Taormina's bohemian backstory

Massimo is the owner. He's third generation. And keen to fill me in on the history.

"The café was opened in 1947 by my grandfather" he says. "It wasn't then as it is now. It was more of a post-war bazaar. A souvenir shop/café. And customers drank almond wine. A traditional drink here. This area of Sicily was once a winery for the Greeks. And wine was sweetened to be transported."

I sip my own almond drink. Nowadays it's mostly white wine.

"Taormina was progressive in the mid-1800s', Massimo goes on. "Sicily in general was progressive. More so than the rest of Italy. Perhaps even Europe".

Indeed. Poets, writers, painters and actors came here for its natural beauty. They loved the Mediterranean. And fell for Greek ruins and Mount Etna. Taormina was a magnet for 19th century artists wanting peace. And looking for inspiration.

Massimo explains. "Painters looked back back to the Hellenistic period. They saw nudes. Many were created in Castelmola. Photographer Wilhelm von Gloeden, set his nudes of young boys here. Bohemian attitudes and sexual openness became a way of life. My grandfather wanted to reflect this in his café."

A statue on display at the penis café Sicily

Sicilian artisans create enviable phallic art

This must have been a liberal corner of Italy. I couldn't see my Italian grandmother here. Calmly sipping coffee in the 1950's. Surrounded by assorted phalli.

Massimo's family commissioned all the pieces. And they were created by Sicilian artisans. An even larger collection remains behind closed doors.

"Valuable objects are best not displayed," Massimo says. "Many people try to steal them. I had to install cameras last year"

In the 1990's a customer spotted men fleeing the café. They were carrying an outsize penis. Clearly not their own. They stuffed it into a car. And drove off.

The witness noted the number plate. Called the police. And the car was tracked down.

The thief was a lawyer from Catania. He returned the penis. Claiming he and his friends were, "overtaken by the moment".

A Sicilian lawyer fleeing with a large penis? I laugh at the thought.

A penis café rooted in local history and culture

In fact the bar's reputation is widespread. It's also popular. And many have tried to recreate it elsewhere.

However, the area and the penis café are inseparable.

Massimo muses, "The café's rooted in a social and cultural context. It wasn't born here by chance. Factors led to its creation. Right here, in 1947."

Behind me, sits a statue of Taormina's patron Saint. It seems out of place. Innocent, yet surrounded by erotic memorabilia.

"This is Sicily. This is our history", Massimo says. He points to an old wooden cart. It's decorated with intricate arabesques. And hangs from the ceiling.

Prefer to leave planning and booking to experts? Have a look at some sample itineraries. Both Complete Italy or Italy Itineraries offer inspiration. All Tailor Made Trips can be modified together with your local expert, then booked for a stress-free holiday. Click 'Modify this itinerary' to contact a local Italy expert.

An eclectic collection of erotic memorabilia at the penis café

continued below

An inspiring café for aspiring artists

A large visitors' book lies open on a stand. I can't resist a look.

Most comments are drawings. Customers expressing delight with infantile sketches. Some the full package. Others just cartoon testicles.

Customers are prolific artists. And Massimo now has over 100 'visitor books'. The first was opened in 1952.

He despairs at where to place the next volume. But he's grateful for his customer's endeavours.

In fact, the café's logo and menu were inspired by customer art.

But every detail here is considered. In the bathroom, I look in a penis shaped mirror. Even the tap's carefully chosen. Two round handles are testicles. The spout's a phallus. And the water jet replicates bladder-emptying relief.

As I leave, Massimo gives me a folded business card. I slip into my pocket and forget. Until later. Then I flip it open. A small paper penis pops out. Naturally, it's erect. Serving as a reminder of Castelmola's exciting history.

Ready to travel to Italy? Find out about the best time to go and the best places to see and things to do in Italy. For inspiration use the Italy itineraries from The Rough Guide to Italy and our local travel experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there. And don't forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this does not influence our editorial standards - we only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Travel advice for Italy

author photo
written by Kiki Deere
updated 10/12/2021
Share
fb tw mail_outline
attach_file

Raised bilingually in London and Turin, Kiki Deere is a travel writer specialising in Italy. She has seen her work published in a number of magazines and UK broadsheets, including The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and Lonely Planet online. She has completed numerous guidebook writing assignments for Rough Guides that have taken her to far-flung corners of the globe, from the Brazilian Amazon to the remotest province of the Philippines. Follow her @kikideere on Instagram and Twitter.

Planning on your own? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides' trusted partners for great rates

Find even more inspiration for Italy here

Ready to travel and discover Italy?
Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels