While Rome and Milan may sometimes steal the limelight when it comes to traveling in Italy, Puglia is an LGBTQ+ hotspot (literally during summer too) that's definitely worth adding to your travel bucket list. We checked in with local Puglia misterb&b hosts and bloggers, The Puglia Guys, to see their 5 reasons why you should be adding Puglia to your summer LGBTQ+ itinerary this year.
1) Puglia is Italy’s top gay summer destination and considered to be one of Europe’s top five summer hotspots for LGBTQ+ travelers.
For decades Italy’s gay population have been coming to Puglia - the sun-kissed southern Italian region that forms the heel of the boot - for those three ‘S’ words. Sun, sea and salty adventure. With over 500 miles of coast Puglia has some of the best beaches in Italy. Stretches of soft white and golden sand alternate with rocky shelves and hidden coves, surrounded by crystal clear waters.
Italy’s LGBTQIA+ community voted Puglia the nation’s top gay summer destination for LGBTQIA+ visitors in 2021 and 2022 - ahead of Tuscany and Sicily.
According to the Italian National Tourist Board:
“Puglia is rightly considered one of the most gay-friendly Italian regions. The natural beauty of the beaches of Salento and the city of Gallipoli, surrounded by the sea, creates the perfect atmosphere for a vibrant LGBTQ+ community”.
Meanwhile on Puglia’s Adriatic side Ostuni, Puglia’s ‘White City’, increasingly draws a gay crowd. It’s the perfect location for a base to explore the region and to visit the main gay beaches. A busy nightlife on and around the main piazza della Libertà, makes it especially good for people watching.
2) We have Italy’s favorite gay beach, and plenty more to go around.
Puglia’s top three gay and nudist beaches make up a well known circuit visited by most visitors.
Punta della Suina, nearby Gallipoli, regularly tops polls as Italy’s best gay beach. In 2022 it was recognised as one of 40 of the best beaches in Europe.
Torre Guaceto’s gay clothing-optional beach is located in a nature reserve lying to the north of Brindisi, not far from Ostuni. A secluded location means that it takes a little time to get to the gay section, but is worth the journey.
In contrast Puglia’s D’Ayala gay beach is easy to access. It’s a 5-minute walk from parking your car to hitting the gay section (the most extensive part of D’Ayala’s naturist beach). Dripping with good looking men seriously searching for those three ‘S’ words. It’s also our favorite.
But there are lesser known spots up and down the length of Puglia’s Adriatic and Ionian coasts and secret cruising beaches, popular with locals.
Wild rugged coast and wild rugged men draw hardcore naturists. Getting to Porto Selvaggio’s (less cruisy) gay beach is hard work.
Much easier are Ostuni’s two local gay cruising beaches. Popular with ‘straight’ and married men, the woods behind the beach tend to be the main attraction rather than the small beaches tucked away in adjacent coves.
Gay and naturist bathing takes place in discreet coves and bays all around the coast. From Vico del Gargano and Manfredonia in the north, heading south to Monopoli, Lecce, Nardò, Taranto and beyond.
And for those who want to party there are plenty of beach lido clubs and bars. For a cool beach vibe, a gay friendly crowd and some fine sandy beach Gallipoli’s Pôr do Sol is our choice pick. It draws a mixed crowd in every respect. Italians and international visitors, younger and older, friends and couples, gay and straight curious.
Be sure to stay to watch the sunset behind the old town. It’s spectacular.
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Going to the beach is a way of life in Puglia and elsewhere Speedo style swimming briefs are the rule rather than the exception. Italian men are incredibly style conscious and obsessed with waxing. Chest, abs, arms, legs. Even sculpted eyebrows. It’s not uncommon to see male friends walking arm in arm. Men who identify as straight aren’t beyond a same sex experience, especially in Puglia’s sweet summer heat.
But keep in that while many Italians embrace a non-traditional “masculine” style and take pride in couture and personal grooming, not all Italian men with plucked eyebrows are looking for male attention!
3) Puglia is also known as one of Italy’s top foodie destinations.
Wherever you are in Puglia, good food is only just around the corner. Food is an integral part of Puglia’s identity. Historically, impoverished Pugliese made the most of what was available, a celebration of ‘mare e monti’, produce from the sea and the land, with little going to waste. Today Puglia’s regional cuisine is celebrated for its simplicity and innovative use of seasonal ingredients.
Olive groves and vineyards are all around. Puglia is Italy’s top regional olive oil producer, accounting for almost 40% of Italian olive oil. As Italy’s 2nd largest wine producing region, Puglia is known for rich, robust reds like negroamaro and primitivo. And Puglia gave the world burrata cheese!
Orecchiette con cime di rapa, polpette, bombette pugliesi and panzerotti are some of the must-eat dishes to try on vacation in Puglia. Best of all, you don’t have to spend a fortune to eat well.
4) Madonna’s declared Puglia her favorite part of Italy.
The great grandmother of pop is a frequent visitor, having last come to Puglia in 2021. She celebrated her 63rd birthday in Ostuni, with a party held in one of our favorite old town restaurants.
She put pictures on her Instagram. Since her visit, Ostuni’s Casa San Giacomo has become Puglia’s gayest restaurant!
5) Discover some of Italy’s iconic locations you probably never realised were in Puglia. With plenty of breathtaking scenery in between.
Puglia, with its diverse and dramatic landscape, is the perfect place to explore and adventure on the road or off the beaten track. The trulli of Alberobello and Polignano a Mare’s Lama Monachile beach are images often used to promote Italy.
But these are not the only highlights a trip to Puglia has to offer. Our favorite road trips take us through the Valle d'Itria, along the prickly pear lined cliffs of the Adriatic coast and around the spur of Italy’s boot.
The drive from Ostuni to Alberobello, and onto Monopoli and Polignano a Mare takes you through an expanse of rolling olive groves, bright red soil, dry stone walls and trulli - the dry stone huts with a conical roof that are unique to Puglia. At its heart is Alberobello, a Unesco World Heritage site. It may be Puglia’s most touristic destination, but no trip to Puglia would be complete without a visit.
Following the coastal route along the Adriatic from Otranto to Santa Maria di Leuca at the very tip of the heel, is one day-trip we recommend to all our guests. Watch as the coast plunges suddenly into the sea, and discover some secret bathing spots only known to locals.
Finally there’s Gargano - the spur of the boot. Set against a dramatic coastline of white limestone cliffs, rock formations, coves and caves with exceptional, long sandy beaches. The Foresta Umbra, the last of an ancient prehistoric forest that once covered much of Central Europe, extends for almost 10,500 hectares across most of the north east side of the peninsula.
Meet the Host
Scott is a former attorney at an international law firm. After 20 years based in London he moved to an olive grove in Puglia. He is one of the Puglia Guys who collaborate on writing the Big Gay Puglia Guides - just for fun travel guides to gay Puglia. They have recently contributed to the Puglia section for a new edition of the Rough Guides Guide to LGBT+ Europe and have just filmed the Puglia episode of a new BBC TV travelogue series ‘Clive Myrie’s Italian Roadtrip’ which explores how Puglia became Italy’s ‘LGBTQ+ capital’.
Why should a guest choose Apartment Q40 Ostuni?
We have a comfortable, central apartment less than a 2-minute walk from Ostuni’s main square. It has amazing terraces with a stunning panoramic view across the olive groves to the Adriatic Sea and over the centro storico, Ostuni’s old town. Writing the gay Puglia guides keeps me up to date on gay life in Puglia, so we are full of tips and suggestions to add value to your vacation.
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For more on The Puglia Guys, be sure to follow their social networks and keep up to date with great new LGBTQ+ content on Puglia and beyond.
Feeling inspired to go to the beach? So are we! If you'd looking to go further afar, be sure to check out our interactive global gay beaches map - your one-stop guide to finding the perfect patch of sand to drop towel.
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