Skip to content

Gay Puglia | Salento: Italy’s Ultimate LGBTQ+ Summer Destination

  • by
Rough Guides Travel Guide reveal Puglia as a top gay European destination

Puglia, nestled in the southern tip of Italy, offers a warm and welcoming embrace to LGBTQ+ visitors seeking an unforgettable summer retreat.

The heel of Italy’s boot is well established as the nation’s top gay summer destination for LGBTQ+ travellers. The Italian LGBTQ+ community have been coming here for decades. The region consistently tops polls as Italy’s favourite gay summer hotspot. Year on year Gallipoli is voted Italy’s top gay summer destination and Punta della Suina Italy’s top gay beach.

Puglia’s reputation was confirmed in the 1st edition of The Rough Guide to the Top LGBTQ+ Friendly Places in Europe published in June 2023; it featured as one of only 3 Italian destinations and was listed as one of Europe’s 6 top summer destinations.

The region’s draw as a gay favourite – which now extends well beyond Europe – is easy to understand. With mainland Italy’s longest coastline, there are plenty of white beaches with crystalline waters to choose from, as well as a globally-recognised food culture and rich cultural history, influenced by the Greeks, Arabs, Spanish and just about every invading Mediterranean power of the day.

Punta della Suina, Gallipoli. One of Europe’s Top 40 beaches and voted Italy’s best gay and nudist beach | Photo © The Puglia Guys
Punta della Suina, Gallipoli
Red tuna with pasta from Ostuni Bistrot, Ostuni. Puglia is a world renowned foodie destination. Photo by the Puglia Guys.
Spaghetti all’assassina, Bari’s killer spaghetti | Photo copyright ©️ the Puglia Guys for the Big Gay Puglia Guides, local guides to Puglia’s best restaurants, food, accommodation and beaches.

While the LGBTQ+ scene is well-established, Puglia remains a hidden gem. There is an abundance of boutique style accommodation and LGBTQ+ friendly B&B, but the lack of resorts means it off the main gay circuit. There is no shortage of beautiful sandy beach to suit all moods and styles, and no shortage of beautiful people found on them.

Ostuni in Puglia’s Valle d’Itria and Salento, the southern part of Puglia, remain the most popular Puglia gay travel spots. Both destinations are relatively close to the region’s most popular gay beaches.

Most visitors looking for a salty hot Salento summer gravitate towards the towns of Gallipoli and Baia Verde on the Ionian coast where beaches have more than a hint of the Seychelles, with multihued water and soft white sand.

1. Gallipoli: The Ideal Gay Summer Destination:

La Purità, Gallipoli’s main city beach under the defensive wall of the old town. Photo copyright the Puglia Guys.
La Purità city beach sits below the old town’s defensive sea walls

The old fishing town of Gallipoli sits on an island connected to the mainland by a 16th-century bridge. The town’s picturesque old town, enclosed by ancient walls and dotted with historic churches, palaces, and piazzas, features narrow alleys, whitewashed buildings, and a charming harbor overlooking the Ionian Sea.

Renowned for its seafood and Mediterranean cuisine, offering visitors an opportunity to indulge in delicious dishes made from freshly caught fish and local produce.

1.1. Take me home (where to stay):

La Restuccia Masseria Urban, Salentoìs queer village host to Masseria Wave. Photo copyright ©️ The Puglia Guys.
Masseria Wave, La Restuccia
Photo ©️ La Restuccia
Masseria Wave, La Restuccia copyright La Restuccia
Photo ©️ La Restuccia

La Restuccia Masseria Urban, Salentoìs queer village host to Masseria Wave.

La Restuccia | Contrada Monte, Lequile | in-between Lecce and Gallipoli it’s about a 20-minute drive to Gallipoli. Home to the Masseria Wave season of drag performances, burlesque cabaret, DJ sets and live music from June – September, La Restuccia is a queer village of itself. It has 74 functional rooms (including 2 themed Wave Rooms – the Juicy Room and the Zebra Room – decorated by local artists) and 2 suites, a huge swimming pool dripping with drag queens in summer in a literally surreal Wild Palm kind of setting (in both senses). La Restuccia – Masseria Urban website.

1.2. Take me to the gay beach:

Punta della Suina | Officially Italy’s top gay beach and growing in fame as one of the best beaches in Europe. The lido section has soft golden sands, but head north to the longer stretch of beach adjacent to the pine forest beyond (which includes the main gay and naturist clothing optional section). The gay section is around a 10 minute walk in the direction of Gallipoli, located between Spiaggia di Punta della Suina and Spiaggia degli Innamorati. You will know it when you get there.

The gay beach is accessed from the main car park via the pine wood. Take the G*Beach pathway (but avoid G*Beach lido and bar; although some LGBTQIA+ guides still recommend them, the bar is no longer considered LGBTQIA+ friendly following the reporting of two alleged homophobic incidents).

Pôr do Sol | Lungomare Galileo Galilei, Baia Verde | in-between Gallipoli and Punta della Suina is Baia Verde, a small town with a beach front full of lidos with sections of public beach snuck in-between them. Lido Pôr do Sol is a laidback friendly beach where everyone is welcome. It draws a mixed crowd. Italians and international visitors, younger and older, friends and couples, gay and straight. The bar and lido serve perfect beach food. The Sunday afternoon LED beach party is pulsing, but every night there’s a relaxed vibe as the sun sets, and here is one of the best places to watch the sun set over Gallipoli’s old town.

Por do Sol | Lungomare Galileo Galilei, Baia Verde | in-between Gallipoli and Punta della Suina is Baia Verde, a small town with a beach front full of lidos with sections of public beach snuck in-between them. Lido Pôr do Sol is a laidback friendly beach where everyone is welcome. It draws a mixed crowd. Italians and international visitors, younger and older, friends and couples, gay and straight. The bar and lido serve perfect beach food. The Sunday afternoon LED beach party is pulsing, but every night there’s a relaxed vibe as the sun sets, and here is one of the best places to watch the sun set over Gallipoli’s old town.
Sunset at Por do Sol, Baia Verde, Gallipoli photo copyright ©️ the Puglia Guys
Por do Sol, Baia Verde, Gallipoli. Photo copyright ©️ The Puglia Guys

Porto Selvaggio | for those who like their naturist experience a little wilder (by which we mean closer to nature). Porto Selvaggio is a nature reserve filled with thick, pine forest, covering an area of 1100 hectares in the comune of Nardò. A little less than 20km north of Gallipoli, this is one of Puglia’s most beautiful nature reserves. The naturist and gay section is located at Grotta del Cavallo a little distance away from the main bay at Spiaggia della Sorgente | Spiaggia di Porto Selvaggio

Porto Selvaggio gay beach, situated in a nature reserve, is a popular local beach with rocks | Photo © the Puglia Guys for the Big Gay Podcast from Puglia guides to gay Puglia, Italy’s top gay summer destination
Porto Selvaggio gay beach, situated in a nature reserve, is a popular local beach with rocks | Photo © the Puglia Guys for the Big Gay Podcast from Puglia guides to gay Puglia, Italy’s top gay summer destination
Porto Selvaggio, situated in a nature reserve, is a popular local beach with rocks | Photo © the Puglia Guys for the Big Gay Podcast from Puglia guides to gay Puglia, Italy’s top gay summer destination

1.3. Take me out:

Caffè Bellini Gallipoli | Corso Roma 9 | 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. Gay bar. Caffè Bellini Facebook.

Gogò Food & Drink | via Roma 13/G | Popular gay bar whose seating area is adjacent to Caffè Bellini. Gogò Food & Drink Facebook.

Picador Village | SP289 loc | 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!

Masseria Wave | La Restuccia – Masseria Urban, Aquila | Where old and new worlds meet. Festivals, webinars, drag shows, DJ sets,
art exhibitions, retreats, workshops, comedy and burlesque cabaret…all in the setting of an 18th century masseria about 30 minutes from the centre of Lecce. The Wave runs from June to September, with off-season events like the Halloween Wave party taking place throughout the year. London’s Dalston Superstore were in residence for a week during the 2022 run. The Wave website.

2. Lecce: Baroque and Roll:

Lecce’s The Basilica di Santa Croce has one of the finest and most intricate Baroque facades in Italy, taking over 200 years to complete, its detail exquisite. Gay Puglia and gay Lecce guides brought to you by the Big Gay Podcast from Puglia.
Basilica di Santa Croce, Lecce

Salento’s main city is bursting with piazzas and palazzi built using creamy limestone in barocco leccese style. The Basilica di Santa Croce (Via Umberto I, 1) has one of the finest and most intricate Baroque facades in Italy, taking over 200 years to complete, its detail exquisite. Remnants of Lecce’s Roman history are still on display. A theatre and an amphitheatre are testament to its importance as a flourishing Roman city.

The old town, a Baroque maze within the city’s defensive walls, is packed full of good restaurants, busy bars and some of our favourite boutiques (there is no concept of “high street” here). Lecce is a university town with a thriving art school, keeping the city young, queer and progressive. Lecce currently hosts Salento Pride in July – one of our favorite Pride parades in Puglia.

2.1. Where to stay:

Lecce offers an array of accommodations that cater to all preferences and budgets. Whether you prefer luxurious hotels, boutique guesthouses, or cozy B&Bs, there is something for everyone.

Arryvo | Via Adua 24 (Porta Napoli) Arryvo is a progressive, inclusive modern hotel with 25 bedrooms. A play to work, stay and party. The service was extremely friendly and with a great breakfast included, great value for money. The location on the city wall is perfect and parking is available. Highly recommended.

Arryvo Hotel Lecce, inclusive modern and functional hotel in the heart of Lecce, LGBTQIA+ friendly | photo the Puglia Guys for the Big Gay Podcast from Puglia, guides to Puglia, Italy’s top gay summer destination for LGBT+ travel.

2.2. Discovering Lecce’s culture:

Immerse yourself in Lecce’s rich history by exploring its landmarks. Visit the Piazza del Duomo, dominated by the bell tower and Lecce Cathedral, and admire the breathtaking Basilica di Santa Croce, a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. Don’t miss the Roman Amphitheatre, an impressive relic from ancient times.

2.3. Embracing the culinary delights:

Puglia is renowned for its world-recognised cuisine, and Lecce is no exception. Savour the local specialties, with world-class restaurants to family run osteria (often authentic local cuisine is the best). The food in Lecce typifies la cucina povera. Traditionally “peasant food”, it now symbolises simple but inventive dishes using seasonal, locally produced and fresh – always fresh – ingredients. Lecce’s lively markets (try the daily morning Mercato Giornaliero by Porta Rudiae) are perfect for experiencing authentic flavors and meeting friendly locals.

The Leccese relish their tasty street food, especially over un aperitivo. They especially adore long drawn out feasts outside in the shade on hot summer weekends, when lunch often slips seamlessly into dinner. How else would Saint Oronzo, the patron saint who saved the city from the plague, be honoured if not by a dish in his name; melanzanata di Sant’ Oronzo – an aubergine (eggplant) bake with veal meatballs, hard-boiled eggs and ham alternately layered between fried aubergine, tomato sauce and mozzarella and baked au gratin.

00 Doppiozero | Via Guglielmo Paladini, 2 | +39 (0)832 521052 | not just Italian cuisine | €€

3 Rane | Via Camillo Benso conte di Cavour, 7 | +39 375 504 0165 | creative cuisine with tasting menu in an intimate setting | 3 Rane – Ristoro | €-€€

400 Gradi | Viale Porta d’Europa 65 | +39 391 331 8359 | a trendy award winning pizzeria famous for its pizze bianche without the tomato sauce | located just outside Lecce’s centro storico but so very worth it | pizzeria400gradi.it/ | €-€€

L’Angolino di Via Matteotti | Via Giacomo Matteotti, 31 | +39 (0)832 159 5957 | for the best puccia in town – street food at its finest (and cheapest)| €

Bar Moro | Via degli Ammirati, 10 | +39 (0)832 303244 | traditional trattoria when craving pasta and lasagna | don’t miss their warming ciceri e tria (chickpeas with served up with a mix of deep fried and al dente tria pasta) a speciality of Lecce | €-€€

Bros’ | Via degli Acaya, 2 | info@pellegrinobrothers.it | Michelin starred gourmet gastronomic experience | 8-course tasting menu €120 pp | 13-course tasting menu €180 pp | Ristorante Bros’ | €€€€-€€€€€

La Cucina di Mama Elvia | Via Ludovico Maremonti, 33 | +39 331 579 5127 | regional dishes celebrating seasonality | La Cucina di Mamma Elvira | €-€€€

Primo | Via 47 Reggimenton Fanteria 7 | +39 0832 24 3802 | fine dining and tasting menu | Primo | €€€€ – €€€€€

Tabisca | Via Dietro Ospedale dei Pellegrini, 29 (in an alley near Piazzatta Santa Chiara) | +39 380 634 4345 | cold cuts and pies – though not in the AngloAmerican sense – and meat, much meat | don’t miss the caponata di melanzane – chopped fried aubergine/eggplant and other vegetables, seasoned with olive oil, tomato sauce, celery, olives, and capers, in an agrodolce sauce | Tabisca | €€-€€€

Le Zie Trattoria Casereccia | Via Colonnello Archimede Costadura, 19 |+39 083 224 5178 | traditional home cooking | €-€€

2.4. Nightlife and entertainment:

As the sun sets, Lecce comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene. Enjoy cocktails in chic bars or unwind in cozy lounges. Lecce’s LGBTQ+ community often gathers in various venues throughout the city, offering a chance to make new friends and unforgettable memories. Lecce’s old town is packed full of amazing restaurants, busy bars and some of our favorite boutiques.

Caffè Letterario di Lecce | Via Guglielmo Paladini, 46 | a bookshop cum bar, with small plates is open in the evenings from 7pm for a pre-dinner aperitivo or post-dinner drink. DJ sets and live music are some of the events offered. caffeletterariolecce.it/

Zei Spazio Sociale | Corte dei Chiaramonte, 2, | a trendy and popular LGBTQ+ friendly bar and social space popular with Lecce’s student population.Run by the Associazione Circolo Arci Zei | Zei Spazio Sociale Facebook and spaziosocialezei.org/it.

Late night 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.

2.5. San Cataldo gay beach

San Cataldo gay beach | San Cataldo is 15km from the center of Lecce, but it is one of the closest beaches to the city, so this is a popular cruising beach. Take the SP364 (exit 7A/B) from the Lecce Tangenziale to San Cataldo. At the lighthouse turn left towards “Darsena”. Take the 2nd right off Via Palinuro to the head of a small fishing lake. Park there then head to the beach. The nudist area is located about 1.5km north (turn left when you reach the beach), the gay section a little further on. Busiest during the summer months, peaking in July and August.

3. Taranto

Taranto is Puglia’s second largest city with a population of just over 200,000. It has a thriving, if not well known, LGBTQ+ community. But the city is much neglected, including when it comes to tourism, and has an awkward reputation due to the ILVA steelworks that dominate the skyline as you approach the city. Yet it has a beauty underneath. Taranto’s borgo antico, the historic old town is located on a small island between the Mar Grande, a bay in the Gulf of Taranto, and the Mar Piccolo, famous for its mussel cultivation. It is connected to the mainland by a road bridge on each of its northern and southern ends.The piers of Taranto’s porto vecchio are lined with fishing boats. It is no surprise that the old town restaurants serve up some of the best seafood in Puglia.

Taranto’s historic centre is a maze of small shops and restaurants, where whole houses can be bought for 1€. Raw and gritty, yet breathtakingly authentic.

3.1. Where to stay:

Hotel L’Arcangelo | Culture is coming, and the old town is at the center of Taranto’s revival. An independently owned boutique hotel, is a perfect example of the right kind of regeneration. Ideally located on Piazza Fontana at the northern end of Taranto’s borgo antico, the hotel is stylish, clean and bright with spacious rooms. At Hotel L’Arcangelo, Taranto we had one of the friendliest welcomes we have experienced in Puglia, with cake and a glass of sweet wine, a symptom of a hotel bursting with pride. Pride in their city and in the service they provide to their guests. hotelarcangelotaranto.it/it/home/

3.2. Take me to your gay beach:

La Concetta queer beach | Via del Faro, San Vito, Taranto | Park on one of the side streets off Via del Faro (at via Spigole for example), head across the road and take one of the many small paths that lead to the cliffs. Keep to the right, heading towards the military marina, and you will find a small beach, hard to reach beach hidden by pine and scrub, with crystal clear water. A popular nudist beach from early afternoon and a popular cruising spot after 6 pm.

Cancello Rosso | a popular local naturist beach with a dedicated gay section south of the Cancello Rosso point. The old military fort (Fortino Militare di Lama “Saint Bon”) provides a popular cruising area off the beach.

3.3. Discovering Taranto’s Culture:

Castello Aragonese | A medieval fortress built in the 15th century by the Aragonese, a powerful maritime kingdom that controlled much of southern Italy and Sicily at the time.

Cattedrale San Cataldo | The Cathedral of Saint Cataldo is dedicated to Saint Cataldo, an Irish bishop who is said to have died in Taranto during the 7th century. An example of Neapolitan Baroque, the interior seems plain until you step into the Cappellone di San Cataldo, built to the left of the presbytery. The marble inlay is exquisite.

MArTa – National Archaeological Museum of Taranto | A world class museum, considered one of the most important archaeological museums in Italy, particularly in the study of the ancient Magna Graecia (Southern Italy and Sicily colonised by Greeks) civilisation.

3.4. Embracing the Culinary Delights:

Taranto mussels (cozze tarantine) are famed for being the best in Italy, benefitting from the unique conditions of the bay in which they are cultivated. Oxygen rich underwater springs flush into an inner basin which already has a higher salinity, puckering up the plankton and plumping up the mussels, giving them their distinctive taste.

Fichi & Barbera Wine Bar | trendy wine bar down an alley, with an enclosed outside seating area under a low arch – watch your head – and leading to a “hidden” courtyard with some street art. Via Arco Madonna del Pozzo, 4.

Gente di Mare Trattoria | Cucina di Pesce a Taranto – fish and seafood restaurant. What can we say. Excellent, and popular with locals. It was full for Sunday lunch, always a good sign. Via Garibaldi, 254. (They also have a restaurant at the other end of the borgo antico which we haven’t tried).

La ringhiera pizzeria Di Michele Ruggiero | opposite Ristò Fratelli Pesce. We walked in when we couldn’t get a table at Fratelli Pesce, and were pleased we did. Recommended for raw and cooked plates of seafood. Piazza Sant’Eligio, 12 (+39 320 710 6301).

Ristò Fratelli Pesce | a busy fish and seafood restaurant at the northwestern end of the old town island, not too far from the Porta Napoli bridge. Seafood pasta dishes are highly recommended, as is booking. Via Porto, 18 (+39 339 818 2010).

Ristorante Al Canale | fish and seafood restaurant popular with the business community. Bright and airy, overlooking the channel between la Città Vecchia and downtown Taranto. A flawless lemon scented insalata di mare served hot in a lemon brodo impressed us.

3.5. Nightlife and Entertainment:

Sound Department | instagram.com/sound_department | Techno and House music dance club, draws a mixed crowd but is a popular draw for Taranto’s LGBTQ+ club kids. Sound Department Taranto on Facebook.

Cruising | away from the beach Taranto has two popular cruising areas at their busiest from early evening. At Buffoluto (nearby the parco di rembranze). Cruising takes place in cars with some venturing into the abandoned building, opposite the Q8 filling station (on the other side of the highway). Off the SS7 onto Str. Citrezze Monteiasi. Tricky to find, but well worth it! (40.4944196, 17.2676211). Alternatively try the areas in the larger wooded area and adjacent beachfront around Sound Department off Viale Jionio. (40.4259788, 17.2387736)

4. Ostuni

With two of Puglia’s most popular local gay cruising spots and one of Puglia’s best known main gay and nudist (optional) beach all within easy reach, what’s not to like about Ostuni? An ever more popular destination for LGBTQ+ travellers, with the Valle d’Itria on its doorstep – Ostuni straddles Alto Salento and the Valle d’Itria making it the perfect base for exploring Puglia – and a vibrant nightlife.

4.1. Where to stay:

Relax in style the best gay and gay friendly accommodation in Puglia. Ostuni is Puglia’s gay urban destination gay travel gay Puglia gay Italy. Apartment q/40 is our top gay rental apartment accommodation Ostuni.
Relax in style the best gay and gay friendly accommodation in Puglia. Ostuni is Puglia’s gay urban destination gay travel gay Puglia gay Italy. Apartment q/40 is our top gay rental apartment accommodation Ostuni.

Q40, Ostuni | downtown gay owned private rental apartment, with stunning terrace views over the old town and across the olive groves to the Adriatic. Booking (subject to availability) on Booking .com.

4.2 Take me to Torre Guaceto gay beach

Torre Guaceto | Torre Guaceto is a huge nature reserve lying to the north of Brindisi, not far from Ostuni. It is home to one of Puglia’s big 3 gay and naturist beaches, extremely popular with locals and visitors. A secluded location means that it takes a little time to get there. But you won’t be disappointed.

5. Campomarino di Maruggio

5.1 Take me to D’Ayala gay beach

boyfriends on D’Ayala Beach, Campomarino di Maruggio one of Puglia’s top 3 big gay beaches. Photo copyright the Puglia Guys.
D’Ayala beach

Spiaggia d’Ayala | another of Puglia’s big 3 gay beaches, D’Ayala beach is the Puglia Guys favourite gay naturist (clothing optional) beach in Puglia. Easy to access, it’s usually a 5-minute walk from parking your car to hitting the gay section (the most extensive part of D’Ayala’s naturist beach). Frequented by committed naturists and dripping with good looking men searching for sun, sea and salty, sweaty fun else. A must visit if you want to experience Puglia’s finest. Sandy beach with warm, blue water.

6. Pride in Puglia 2024

6.1 Taranto Pride 2024 | 1 June 2024

Taranto Pride 2022 | © The Big Gay Podcast from Puglia gay lgbtq and inclusive guides to Puglia, Italy’s top gay summer destination for LGBT travel

Taranto’s 2024 Pride will take place in Taranto on 1 June 2024.

Taranto Pride on social: Facebook | Instagram

6.2 Salento Pride 2024 | 6 July, Lecce

Salento Pride, Lecce 2022 photo The Big Gay Podcast from Puglia gay guide to Puglia
Salento Pride 2024 will be held in Lecce.

Salento Pride is a fun celebration. It returns to Lecce once again in 2024.

For updates and information on the parade and related Salento Pride events, follow Salento Pride on social:

Instagram@salentopride

FacebookSalento Pride

6.3 Puglia Pride 2024 | tbc

Gay Puglia - the Big Gay Podcast from Puglia. Serving up Puglia’s finest food and destination recommendations. Puglia Pride. Salento Pride.
Celebrating Puglia Pride in Gallipoli, Puglia 2019.

Puglia Pride 2023 took place in Foggia. 2024 plans are to be announced.

Puglia Pride on social: Facebook | Instagram

6.4 Bari Pride 2024 | tbc

Bari Pride 2022, gay Puglia, gay Italy, gay Puglia podcast
Bari Pride 2022, gay Puglia, gay Italy, gay Puglia podcast

2024 plans are to be announced.

Bari Pride on social: Facebook | Instagram

6.5 Matera Pride 2024 | tbc

Matera Pride 2022 photo copyright © The Big Gay Podcast from Puglia, city guides to gay Puglia, gay Italy
Matera Pride 2022 photo copyright © The Big Gay Podcast from Puglia, city guides to gay Puglia, gay Italy

Matera is in the neighbouring region of Basilicata. Matera is 60km from Bari and easily accessible – and Matera Pride is one of our favourite pride celebrations.

Matera Pride on social: Facebook | Instagram

6.6 Manduria Pride 2024 | tbc

More Puglia:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *