The Gay Travel Experience: Puglia, Italy
Puglia is Italy’s top gay summer destination. The region of Puglia makes up the heel of Italy’s boot. It has the longest coast of Italy’s mainland regions, spanning over 500 miles. Puglia sits between two seas, the Adriatic and Ionian, offering incredible beaches and views.
Year over year, Puglia’s reputation as a gay summer hotspot grows. The beautiful and the “gifted” (“dotato” is also the word Italians use to describe being “hung”) can be found swimming all around the coast. And we’ll tell you exactly where to find them in this guide!
Salento, the southern part of Puglia, remains the most popular Puglia gay travel spot. Here, most visitors gravitate towards the towns of Gallipoli and Baia Verde.
Italian men are incredibly style conscious and obsessed with waxing. Chest, abs, arms, legs…even sculpted eyebrows. Speedo style swimming briefs are the rule rather than the exception.
It’s also not uncommon to see male friends walking arm in arm. Even men who identify as straight aren’t beyond a same sex experience, especially in Puglia’s salty summer heat.
Keep in mind however, 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 company.
Puglia is especially known for its tolerance and inclusivity. This is enshrined in Article 1 of the Statute of the Region of Puglia:
“Puglia […] is an autonomous region founded on respect for dignity, rights, the freedoms of the human person and the values that informed those who fought for the Liberation and for the regaining of democracy in our country”.
The region hosts three annual gay pride parades. We put this down to Puglia’s rich and diverse history, a land of passage and a gateway to other cultures.
Long before the invasion of social media influencers, Puglia was conquered by Greeks, Romans, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Normans, Aragonese, and French. Many of their influences can still be seen today.
Regions of Puglia
For the purposes of this guide, think of Puglia in three parts. At the northern end near the “spur” of Italy’s boot is Gargano. The southern peninsula forming its heel is Salento. Sitting in the middle is the glorious Valle d’Itria, with lush rolling olive groves stretching as far as the eye can see.
Puglia’s best-known destinations include Bari, Lecce, Polignano a Mare, Monopoli, Alberobello, Ostuni, Gallipoli and Otranto, although most visitors experience Puglia somewhere between Bari and Lecce. But in this guide, we’ll focus on the best destinations for gay travelers.
Gallipoli is the best-known gay destination. Locally it’s referred to as “Gaylipoli.” But gay-friendly bars, clubs and beaches can be found across our region.
Puglia doesn’t necessarily have any specific gay villages or areas. Gallipoli comes closest. But as with most of Italy, the LGBT community tends to keep a lower profile.
Puglia Gay Hotels, BNB’s & Rentals
While hotels are always an option, Puglia is better known for its masserie and trulli. A masseria is a fortified farmhouse. Many of these have been converted to privately owned boutique bed and breakfast accommodations.
Trulli (one trullo, two trulli) are the limestone “hobbit” homes with conical grey stone roofs that are unique to Puglia.
Whichever accommodations you choose, be sure they come with air conditioning. Daytime temperatures can exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the peak of summer.
If you’re mainly interested in sunny seaside beaches and don’t have time to visit the rest of the region, stay in Baia Verde, located in south Gallipoli. Renting a fairly generic apartment will suit you well if you aren’t too hung up on staying in a place with character.
Demand for places to stay in Baia Verde peaks in July and August, and accommodations here are some of the most expensive in Puglia. August 15th is Ferragosto, Italy’s main summer holiday around which most Italians take their two to four-week vacation.
We stayed in this Airbnb rental twice. We chose it because it was close enough to the action, but away from the built-up area. Plus it’s surrounded by a beautiful small grove.
For more character, Gallipoli’s old town (centro storico) has some reasonably priced apartments. But if you need the comforts of a hotel and your budget allows, I recommend Bellavista Club Hotel.
It’s located right next to the historic center. Bellavista is a gay-friendly hotel in Gallipoli with panoramic views over the fishing port, the old town, and the Ionian Sea.
Places to Stay Around Gallipoli
Twelve miles to the north, Nardò feels like a gay village in summer. This area has less expensive vacation apartment rentals. It’s a pretty town with its own nature reserve with a gay nudist beach, located at Torre Uluzzo at Porto Selvaggio.
From there, Spiaggia d’Ayala is 30 miles north west, about a 50-minute drive.
La Restuccia Urban Masseria is a gay run masseria about halfway between Nardò and Lecce. They have queer events in the summer, including Masseria Wave, a program of curated DJ music festivals, artisan craft and food fairs, as well as gay brunches. It has less of a boutique feel, with around 180 bungalow apartments within the masseria grounds.
Lecce Gay B&Bs
We have visited two different gay run B&Bs on opposite sides of Lecce’s old town. B&B lastminute is a modern apartment with contemporary rooms and functional rooms, just a few minutes from Porta Rudiae.
We usually rent an apartment or house on Booking.com. Try to get one with a roof terrace which is quite common. We recommend staying just outside the Ostuni centro storico, around Parco Rimembranze, Piazza della Libertà or somewhere in between.
Anima Bed & Wellness is an LGBT friendly, gay owned and run, adult-only bed and breakfast and is highly recommended to us. It is set in a beautiful olive grove between Ostuni and Ceglie Messapica. Read about our visit to Anima Bed & Wellness.
Staying Near Spiaggia d’Ayala
Lune Saracene Gay and Nudist B&B is located just over half a mile from the hugely popular beach, Spiaggia d’Ayala. We had a fun time staying there, finding the other guests and hosts sprawled naked on the porch when we came back after dinner in nearby Maruggio.
Puglia Gay Beaches
Puglia’s coastline is made up of sandy beaches, rocky outcrops and secluded private coves. They’re extremely popular with the gay community and those who are a bit curious.
Our personal favorites were also the top choices of locals and visitors surveyed in our Big Gay Podcast from Puglia Best of Gay Puglia 2020 survey.
Gallipoli Gay Beaches
The gay and nudist beaches are found in between Punta della Suina and Spiaggia degli Innamorati. Comprising a stretch of rocky shelves and coves, you’ll need proper footwear, so bring some durable water shoes. It’s not the most comfortable of spots, but the water is amazing.
If OnlyFans had a section for beach porn, this video below is why you would subscribe:
On the Big Gay Puglia Podcast, we were surprised this beach area topped our poll with 34% of the vote. But we suspect the proximity to Gallipoli helps its popularity.
Access the Gallipoli gay beach area from the Punta della Suina car park. Walk through the pine wood toward the sea and follow the coast back up towards Baia Verde and Gallipoli. Go for about 10 minutes to find the nude and gay section. You will definitely know when you get there.
It costs about 5 Euro for parking in the Punta della Suina car park as of 2020. And, yes, Punta della Suina does literally translate as Sow’s (as in female pig) Point.
We recommend to ignore the flashy white and gold of G-Beach Club. Historically this was one of the most popular gay friendly beach clubs in Puglia. You might still find gay guides recommending it.
But following a change of management a few years back, they decided that while LGBT individuals were welcome to spend money there, this welcome ended if they wanted to display any public affection.
Same sex couples were asked to leave on at least two separate occasions for kissing at G-Beach Club. We were also contacted by their PR who asked us to remove tags to them on our social media because they did not want to be identified as a “gay” beach club.
Bring plenty of water. There are no beach facilities apart from those of the lido beach clubs toward the north and south ends of the shoreline.
Spiaggia d’Ayala, Campomarino
Spiaggia d’Ayala is our favorite gay and nudist beach in Puglia. It is by far the easiest to get to, sitting on a long stretch of golden sand. Convenient pine wood trees behind the beach offer some necessary shade, too.
Sometimes there is a concession stand or bar further down the beach closer to Campomarino. Otherwise, there are no facilities. The nearest are found in the town of Campomarino, which is a little over a mile away via the main road. The walk there along the beach though is shorter.
Torre Guaceto, Brindisi
Torre Guaceto on the Adriatic coast is especially popular with locals. But it’s difficult to reach since Torre Guaceto is in a protected nature reserve where vehicles are restricted. Once you park your car nearby, the gay section of the nude beach is still at least a 30-minute walk away.
Get there from the south side of the Torre Guaceto watchtower. Don’t pay attention to guides that take you from the north. This is even more cumbersome.
The Big Gay Podcast from Puglia Torre Guaceto guide explains exactly how to get there from the main highway, with photographs of the road signs, routes and what to look out for along the way.
Pôr do Sol Lido Beach Club
Our Best of Gay Puglia survey also asked visitors and locals to tell us where their overall favorite beach was. 39% of visitors and 30% of locals said Pôr do Sol was their number one choice.
Gay-owned and operated, Pôr do Sol is our favorite summer hangout. If you want a cool beach vibe, an LGBT friendly crowd, a fine sandy beach and beautiful crystalline water, you have to visit.
Pôr do Sol draws a mixed crowd in every respect. You’ll find Italians (locals and vacationers), international visitors, friends and couples, gay and straight individuals, and a diversity of ages among them.
The facilities include beach loungers and umbrellas, food, drinks, showers and toilets. A DJ set starts from mid-afternoon through sunset (which is amazing, by the way).
For more information read all about our working trip to Pôr do Sol. Hard work indeed!
More Gay Beaches in Puglia
There are spots up and down Puglia’s coast where nude bathing coincides with predominantly, but not exclusively, gay and gay-friendly locals.
Pietra Egea is a popular beach area, located between Cozze and Polignano a Mare. So is Torre Incina, located between Polignano and Monopoli. The Big Gay Puglia site offers a fantastic list of gay beaches with useful visitor tips, including directions and what to expect once you get there.
For a little variety, other favorite beach clubs of ours are located at Torre dell’Orso (the Bear Tower). While they’re not specifically gay beaches, we love this location. And in any event, there are plenty of straight guys for gay eyes.
Want even more gay beach recommendations? Discover more local spots, from Gargano to the Salento Maldives, as well as how to get to them, in the Big Gay Podcast from Puglia’s curated Puglia beach guide.
Puglia Gay Bars, Restaurants, Cruising & Bathhouses, Saunas
Puglia’s best restaurants, gay bars, clubs and cruising locations below are all segmented by town.
Bars and Restaurants
After a day on the beach at Baia Verde, the evening action shifts to Gallipoli’s old town located a little over 2 miles along the coast.
Picador Village is Salento’s mega club with drag queens and go-go boys. They’re located approximately 6 miles south of Gallipoli (about a 12-minute drive, with around 1,500 parking spaces available). Picador Village is hugely popular with the gay crowd, but draws a mixed clientele most evenings.
Surrounded by olive and palm trees, it’s a fun location, though relatively expensive for Salento. But then again, welcome to Gallipoli!
Gallipoli Gay Cruising
You can’t beat Gallipoli’s gay and nude beach for cruising at Punta della Suina and Spiaggia degli Innamorati (described in the beaches section above). Most of the action takes place in the pine wood that runs behind the beach.
As is the case with most of Puglia’s gay beach locations, cruising is common among those sunbathing, and most hookups on the beach are arranged using apps, rather than by chance encounter. A case of try before you buy!
Salento’s main city is bursting with piazzas and palazzi built using creamy limestone in Barocco Leccese style. The Basilica di Santa Croce has one of the finest and most intricate Baroque facades in Italy. It took over 200 years to complete and its detail is exquisite.
Remnants of Lecce’s Roman history are still on display in Lecce. A theatre and an amphitheater are testament to its importance as a flourishing Roman city.
Lecce Restaurants and Bars
The Lecce old town is packed full of amazing restaurants, busy bars and some of our favorite boutiques. Be sure to visit the trendy and popular Zei Spazio Sociale, an LGBT friendly bar and social space popular with Lecce’s student population.
For a more traditional venue try Marilyn Lounge and Disco Bar just outside Lecce’s centro storico.
Get more insider tips on where to eat and drink in Lecce in our Lecce city guide.
Lecce Gay Cruising
Away from beach locations, most gay cruising usually involves driving around for car sex. Lecce’s best-known spots are on the city’s outskirts.
The driver’s license test area around the Motorizzazione Civile di Lecce (outside business hours) is usually the best cruising spot. Otherwise, take a trip around the football stadium (Stadio Via del Mare). When we visited both after a night out (at around 2.30AM on Saturday morning) the stadium was busier.
Just pull up wherever you find some other cars parked. Asking for a cigarette, or a light, is a good start.
Bars and Restaurants
While not officially a gay or gay-friendly bar, you will notice that Franco Passion Cocktail Bar has a certain “something” about it. More fun than sophisticated.
Ostuni Gay Cruising
You’ll find Ostuni’s local gay cruising scene near the beaches of Lamaforca and Torre Pozzelle, which are in close proximity to one other. They’re about 8 km from Ostuni itself, just off the main coastal highway. By the way, these are both popular family beaches, with dedicated tourist villages nearby.
You will see guys waiting in their cars, or standing by the paths that lead into the woods. Once in the woods, which only stretch back a short distance, just follow the paths and the men.
Both cruising areas are popular with men who identify as straight (Torre Pozzelle more so). Most people are likely to say hello and ask you what you are looking for before inviting you to follow them.
Beware though! We have seen police cars drive up and down the stretch of road that leads to Lamaforca from time to time, pulling drivers over to check their documentation.
If you do continue onto Lamaforca’s beach you will notice a gay presence close to the carpark side of the beach.
Check out the Big Gay Podcast from Puglia Ostuni gay guide for detailed instructions on how to find the gay spots at both, plus more information on what to expect.
Bari Vecchia, a knot of narrow streets and alleyways, was the highlight of a trip to our regional capital. Extensive urban revival has transformed the area into a vibrant hub for bars and restaurants centered around the piazzas Mercantile and Ferrarese. It’s a great destination for visitors.
Bari Gay-Friendly Bars and Restaurants
Check out Reverso Unconventional Bistrot on your way into the old town. They’re a small gay-friendly wine and cocktail bar.
La Ciclatera Sotto Il Mare is a popular gay-friendly café with a wonderful terrace overlooking the Porto Vecchio and beyond. It’s the perfect place to enjoy something light to eat, or a pre-dinner aperitivo. They have a sister bar called La Ciclatera.
On-Off Stutalacapa is gay-friendly bar in nearby Torre a Mare, serving up international (i.e. burgers) and Puglian cuisine.
Big Gay Puglia Podcast’s Bari city guide has more recommendations including where to find some of our favorite street food in town.
Bari Gay Clubs
Makumba Tribe Village at the Palaghiaccio Acquapark is the most well-known gay club in Bari, with plenty of go-go boys and drag queens.
Pazzeska is Bari’s newest gay and gay friendly night, drawing a young and happy crowd. Their nights feature house drag artists, plus male and female dancers. They rotate around different venues in different towns.
Bari Bathhouses & Cruising
Bari’s only traditional gay bathhouse in Bari is Millennium Bath. They’re located in Marconi on the northwestern side of the modern port. You’ll find clean facilities, showers, lockers, private rooms and a blue-lit jacuzzi at Millennium Bath.
Popular central Bari gay cruising spots are along the lungomare Nazario Sauro (the sidewalk that runs along the seafront) and near the University of Bari’s Literature and Language Department building.
You will need a car to get to the main cruising spot which is by the Stadio San Nicola soccer stadium. Just drive around the car park, but not when there’s a game. Main cruising times here tend to be around 1:00 pm, just before 4:00 pm and after sunset.
Barletta & Bisceglie
Pacha Mama is a gay disco club taking place on Saturday nights during summer at one of the lido clubs in Barletta, roughly 60 km north of Bari along the coast. Their last few seasons have been postponed due to “technical” issues.
Only Men Sauna is Puglia’s premium bathhouse and sauna. Don’t let it’s location in the quiet countryside of the Valle d’Itria fool you. This is a modern, comfortable and large spa and sauna. Currently open on Sunday afternoons from 16:00 to 22:00, booking is required. Details here.
Puglia Gay Travel Tips
Grindr is usually the default. Many Italian guys will use Tinder though, especially if they are not out as gay. Scruff is typically underused.
The Planet Romeo gay dating app is also popular in Italy. Most guys looking for a hookup will have a profile and use it; some prefer it to Grindr.
Learning a bit of slang may come in handy. “Non ospito” (sometimes abbreviated to “nn ospito”) means I don’t host. “Ospiti” means you need to be able to host.
By way of reminder, public beaches are safe spaces open to all. While certain activities occur, these may be tolerated rather than lawful. Engaging in sexual activity in public can result in fines ranging from €500 to €30,000.
Where to Base Yourself
The beginning of this Puglia guide mentioned some great places to stay in the region, but here’s a little more information to help you figure out which areas of Puglia may be best for you.
Although Gallipoli is the hub of Puglia’s gay summer scene, most visitors tour around the popular gay nude beaches as well as the historic areas such as Lecce, the iconic Polignano a Mare and Alberobello, Ostuni. And Monopoli.
Puglia’s gastronomy hubs include Ceglie Messapica, as well as the region of Cisternino, known for delicious meat packages “bombette pugliese.” Though truthfully, good food is easy to find no matter where you are in Puglia.
Overall, staying in more than one location during your trip strikes a good balance. One for the surf, the other for the turf!
If you are travelling around our region then any of the Valle d’Itria’s main towns, will make a perfect, picturesque base, especially Ostuni, Cisternino and Locorotondo. One exception is the overly touristic town of Alberobello.
Nearby Monopoli on the Adriatic coast is fantastic too. It’s only a short distance away from its more popular and slightly more expensive neighbour Polignano a Mare.
If you choose to stay in Salento, where you find Gallipoli, Lecce and Otranto, be sure to head south to visit lesser known spots. Santa Cesarea Terme, Castro (the original) and one of our very favorite destinations in Puglia, Santa Maria di Leuca, are here.
The 22-mile coastal drive from Santa Cesarea Terme to Leuca is an absolute highlight, with stunning coastal views. We always take friends, stopping off variously at Porto Tricase, Marina Serra and Caletta del Ciolo before reaching Leuca which sits at the very tip of the Italy’s heel.
Because stopping and taking diversions en route is recommended, here are our suggestions to inspire you – Bitesize Puglia #1, including a visit to the rather splendid and stylish cocktail bar co-owned by British actor Dame Helen Mirren who has a summer home nearby.
While there is plenty to do and see around Gargano, it does feel out of the way if you are looking for a base to explore the rest of Puglia from. But in common with Salento it does have some of the finest beaches our region has to offer, including its own gay beaches.
Vieste and Peschici have beautiful historic old towns and fine town beaches. Eating at Al Trabucco di Mimì is still one of the best experiences we have had in Puglia for the location.
A road trip from Bari to Vieste or Peschici will take you along some stunning coast. Our own road trip adventure – Bitesize Puglia #2 tells you exactly which route to take to make the most of it.
How to Get to Puglia
Puglia has two international airports, Bari Airport and Brindisi’s Salento Airport. Main car hire companies operate from both.
Trenitalia express trains run along the national network connecting Bari, Brindisi and Lecce (and Foggia) with Rome, Milan, Venice, Turin, Bologna, Naples and the north (as do national bus services). Bari and Brindisi both have major ferry ports. Ferry connections include destinations in Croatia and Greece.
Getting Around Puglia
Hiring a car is undoubtedly the best way to get around our region. Train connections away from the main travel hubs of Bari, Lecce and Foggia can be erratic and cumbersome. Travelling by bus is possible, but requires planning and patience. It will also limit your choice of destinations and where you can stay.
Most of the gay and nudist beaches around Puglia are in secluded locations. Even the main ones will be difficult if not impossible to reach via public transport.
For detailed information on arriving in Puglia and getting around by public transport (including links to train and bus services and timetables) see our Big Gay Podcast from Puglia Guide to Getting Here and Getting Around. For insider tips on driving in Puglia including check out our Driving in Puglia Guide.
Puglia's Siesta: “La Pausa”
We have a very long midday “siesta” in Puglia referred to as la pausa, from around 12:30 pm/1:00 pm to 4:30 pm/5:00 pm when most places are closed. Restaurants will generally stop serving lunch around 2:30 pm. We suggest that you get there before 2:00 pm to be sure you’re able to get service.
Tips for Ordering Coffee in Italy
Italy doesn’t have coffee shops. For a coffee, you go to a “bar”. If you order a coffee (un caffè) you’ll be given a shorter, blacker and stronger than usual espresso. Offered with some water, still or sparkling, which you should drink before your coffee.
If you are recognized as a foreigner you might be asked if you want an americano or espresso, just to save you the surprise of a potentially unexpected short espresso.
Most of us drink our coffee while standing at the bar. It’s a social occasion. If you sit down you might pay 10% more, but considering a coffee is usually 90 cents, it’s nothing to get worked up about.
We have pesky mosquitoes from around May to September. You can buy spray repellent before you arrive or grab it upon arrival. Likewise, bring some soothing cream for bites. We recommend you choose accommodations that have insect screens fitted over the windows.
Puglia Travel Safety
We wouldn’t consider Puglia to be an unsafe destination for tourists. Be cautious as you would in any other tourist destination. Though rare, pick-pocketing and robberies can happen in crowded spots.
But this type of crime is common in so many places around the world. Practice smart travel safety precautions and be remember to keep your valuables secure on the beach if you go swimming.
We have no personal negative experiences. We have left our cell phones on display on cafe bar and restaurant tables outside, in a parked car, and in an unguarded backpack on a beach while we swim, along with our wallet, without incident.
Nevertheless that does not mean you should do so – and our advice as above stands.
The mafia (Sacra Corona Unita) exist in Puglia but isn’t something that should be a concern to travelers. Organized crime in Puglia is rarely in the public eye, except in Foggia. There are no public shootings or any obvious form of organized crime on the streets.
Stick to private rented accommodation shutters. These are quite common to keep the sun out. Many villas are fitted with alarms and benefit from private security.
Travel forums regularly advise against renting cars in Puglia, but you should completely ignore this. These sources state that apparently, rental cars will be stolen and shipped abroad. This is not something we recognize.
And in fact, any cars that we have rented have no markings that would even identify them as such. We know of no-one who has experienced any such incident. So don’t worry about it and enjoy your amazing holiday in Puglia!