What are some of your favorite places in Puglia to visit for queer travelers?
Puglia’s best-known destinations include Bari, Lecce, Polignano a Mare, Monopoli, Alberobello, Ostuni, Gallipoli and Otranto. Personal favorites are Vieste and Peschici in Gargano and at the other end of the heel, Santa Maria di Leuca. The drive along the Adriatic coastal route from Santa Cesarea Terme to Santa Maria di Leuca is the one thing I consistently recommend to anyone visiting Puglia.
Matera, in the neighboring region of Basilicata, and the star of the thrilling opening sequence in the latest James Bond 007 movie “No Time To Die” is always high on my list of must visits.
But queer travelers zoom in on two destinations in particular: Ostuni, in the heart of the Valle d’Itria, and Gallipoli.
The Valle d’Itria will host the Sherocco festival planned for 2022 and is a favorite with lesbian and queer women. In addition to its chilled urban nightlife Ostuni is close to Torre Guaceto, one of Puglia’s most popular gay and naturist beaches. (It also has two local “gay” beaches at Lamaforca and Torre Pozzelle). Its central location makes it the perfect base for exploring Puglia.
Paragon700 a boutique hotel and the Q40 queer apartment with its stunning roof terraces in the heart of historic Ostuni are standout examples of stylish, high-end gay owned and run accommodation that attract, albeit not exclusively, LGBTQIA+ travelers.
Gallipoli is well known as Italy’s gay summer paradise. A vibrant gay scene has developed around the southern Salento town and its nearby lidos at Baia Verde. Here you will find Italy’s favorite gay beach at Punta della Suina and my favorite beach lido club at Pôr do Sol.
Are there major annual events that you love to attend around Puglia?
Salento & Puglia Pride with the fringe events that take place around it is my favourite. Currently this takes place in Brindisi having moved after 2019 from Gallipoli.
In 2019 Matera held their first ever Pride parade and it was thrilling. The whole city came out to celebrate and support the LGBTQIA+ community.
I look forward to the Salento Rainbow Film Festival based in Lecce, showcasing queer international cinema.
The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series regularly stops off in Polignano a Mare and I have become a big fan. The penultimate and final rounds of the 2021 series were held here in September.
How has life in Puglia changed during the pandemic?
I joke that there are only two seasons in Puglia. Estate and non-estate. Summer and not summer. Visitors start getting serious about visiting Puglia around Easter and the season runs through to October.
Covid-19 hit us just as we were coming out of our winter hibernation. The first lockdown in the western world brought silence to our streets and public spaces and curtailed the feel-good nostalgia that comes with the spring weather and the promise of summer.
But by mid-summer the beach clubs and lidos were once again vibrating with activity. Summer 2020 was much the same. British and American visitors may have been fewer due to their domestic travel restrictions but our gay beaches were still packed with Italians and European travelers.
After a second covid summer most restrictions on public life have now been lifted and Puglia has slowly returned to a new normal.
How can folks listen to your podcast and follow your updates on LGBTQ+ life in Puglia?
You can find the Big Gay Podcast from Puglia wherever you get your podcasts. Our 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.
We celebrate summer in Puglia on our Instagram (@gaypugliapodcast) and use Twitter (@gaypuglia) to highlight day to day happenings and interests.