Heralded as one of Italy’s best destinations for queer travelers, Puglia is a favorite beach destination with a unique history, architectural style, and community of its own. Quiiky offers tours of the region designed specifically for LGBTQ+ travelers, created to show you exactly what makes the region so special. Just ask Scott, the founder of the Gay Puglia Podcast. We sat down with Scott to find out more about what makes Puglia special, and get his tips about the best places to visit, what to see, and how to make the most of your trip to Puglia. Read our conversation below.
Queervadis: How did you first discover Puglia as a travel destination? Can you describe your first experiences in the region?
Scott: I arrived in Puglia knowing three things. Puglia is the heel of Italy’s boot. It is known for beautiful countryside. People say it has the best beaches in Italy.
Earlier trips to Italy on holiday had taken me to Turin, Florence and Bologna. But my third visit had a more practical purpose. The U.K. had voted and it was time to make my own Brexit. After 20 years living in London, was Puglia (and Italy) somewhere my husband and I could live?
Five days of viewing properties in and around Ostuni gave me a sense of the Valle d’Itria (the middle part of the region). Green and glorious, with rolling olive groves stretching as far as the eye can see. Peppered with trulli – traditional white stone dwellings with a conical roof – and punctuated by white medieval towns built on hilltops.
That first taste of Puglia was also a chance to sample the region’s cuisine – authentic and seasonal and also considered to be one of Italy’s most exciting.
Fortunately we had also scheduled some leisure time. Even though it was October the weather was still warm enough to visit the beach; a few days in the old town of Gallipoli, chosen because it took us to Puglia’s Ionian coast.
Only then did I get a sense that Puglia had another reputation. “You’re in the gayest spot in Italy,” commented an Italian colleague when I teased my Facebook friends with a picture of the crystal clear waters at Punta della Suina as an alternative to Monday morning in the office.
Later that day we drove past a house in the middle of an olive grove with a “vendesi” sign and five months later we called Puglia home.
Queervadis: What makes Puglia different from other destinations in Italy?
Puglia is all about the sea. Going to the beach is a way of life and Italians, including Italy’s LGBTQIA+ community, have been coming here on vacation for years.
Wherever you find yourself in Italy you will be surrounded by beautiful countryside, rich in tradition and culture with wonderful, seasonal food. Puglia is no different.
But with over 500 miles of extraordinary coastline, sandwiched between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, Puglia’s coast is the longest of Italy’s mainland regions. The Gargano peninsula at the north with long stretches of white sand and limestone sea stacks is dense with wonderfully scented pine, becoming a dramatic roller-coaster drive as you follow the Adriatic south the along prickly-pear lined cliffs of the Salento peninsula.
Some of Italy’s finest beaches are found along the Ionian coast. Pescoluse’s two miles of white sand and crystal-clear water make it the Maldives of Puglia. The bay around Gallipoli is long and soft-sanded. Continuing north takes you past the golden dunes and maquis scrub-speckled beaches extend from Porto Cesareo to Campomarino.
An intoxicating combination of sparkling sea to swim in, sandy beaches to bronze on and hidden coves to disappear into, a long, hot summer and a vibrant nightlife make Puglia Italy’s go to gay summer destination for LGBTQIA+ travelers, drawing Italy’s gay population and a sophisticated international crowd.
Because Puglia enjoys the habit and repute of being Italy’s top gay summer destination the scene extends beyond a local or incidental one that you stumble upon by accident. You will find plenty of LGBTQIA+ visitors – especially in Ostuni and around Salento, (the southern part of Puglia) – who come because of the buzzing summer scene. Fantastic food, beautiful countryside, and amazing locations are an incidental bonus.
The world’s best known gay travel influencers the Nomadic Boys consistently rank Puglia in Europe’s top 5 gay destinations for LGBTQ+ travelers along side Sitges, Mykonos, Tel Aviv and Gran Canaria.
A 2021 survey by a leading Italian LGBTQIA+ travel website confirmed Puglia’s reputation nationally as Italy’s top gay summer destination and 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, creates the perfect atmosphere for a vibrant LGBTQ+ community.”
If that isn’t gay enough, Madonna regularly vacations here, most recently this summer for her 63rd birthday when she officially declared Puglia her favorite region in Italy.
Your podcast is called The Big Gay Podcast from Puglia. How would you describe LGBTQ+ life and culture in Puglia?
Puglia is known for its tolerance and inclusivity. A strategic location made it prone to invasion and occupation historically. Consequently our region has always been a land of passage and gateway to other cultures with a rich and diverse history.
We have three annual Pride parades: Bari Pride, Puglia & Salento Pride and Taranto Pride. There are a number of queer festivals and events over the year. Bari’s International Gender Film Festival, the Salento Rainbow Film Festival and Masseria Wave featuring queer cabaret, brunches and artisan markets. Sherocco is a new LGBT+ cultural festival planned for the Valle d’Itria in 2022.
Although Bari and Lecce are both University cities with a thriving student population and edgy clubs and bars that brings, Puglia doesn’t necessarily have any specific gay villages. Gay-friendly bars, clubs and beaches are found across our region.
Traditionally Gallipoli (known as “Gaylipoli”) comes closest. But Ostuni, with many stylish bars and restaurants and a sophisticated urban vibe, is an increasingly popular place for LGBTQIA+ visitors to stay.
Listen to the Big Gay Podcast from Puglia wherever you get your podcasts. Their website (gaypugliapodcast.com) is packed with guides, tips and recommendations; from the best beaches to the best restaurants and street food, to practical advice on the best time of year to visit and where to base yourself. Also follow them on Instagram (@gaypugliapodcast) and Twitter (@gaypuglia).
Plan your next trip to Puglia with Quiiky. Spend 8 days and 7 nights visiting the “gay heaven” of Italy: Apulia and Salento, or reach out to work with their LGBTQ+ travel experts to create a custom tailor-made tours designed specifically for your taste.