In a groundbreaking release for LGBTQ+ travellers, the first edition of “The Rough Guide to the Top LGBTQ+ Friendly Places in Europe” has been unveiled. Highlighting Europe’s most “majestic, queer-friendly places”, the 304-page guide is a compendium of queer culture listing 24 destinations chosen as Europe’s best.
The selection of LGBTQ+ friendly places are split seasonally to give a flavour of some of the most exciting times to plan a visit.
Puglia is recognised as one of six summer destinations, alongside Brighton (UK), Madrid (Spain), Manchester (UK), Rotterdam (the Netherlands) and Stockholm (Sweden). Puglia is one of only three Italian destinations that made it onto the coveted Rough Guide list. In addition to Puglia’s summer charm, Bologna and Milan have been recommended for an autumn escape.
The Big Gay Podcast from Puglia (“BGP”) who contributed to the Rough Guide’s Puglia section are acknowledged for their “excellent work in raising awareness of the queer heel of Italy’s boot”.
“We offered up much of the information contained in our online Puglia Guides,” explains Scott Maxwell, founder of “The Puglia Guys” website responsible for publishing BGP.
“Our guides are a leading resource for incoming LGBTQ tourism in Puglia. We have dedicated gay-friendly sections, but most of our guides focus on the usual travel recommendations, from curated food guides, a listing of 50 of Puglia’s best beaches, city guides and other insider information. That’s one of the benefits of having a team based in Puglia. Our guides are local, relevant and up-to-date”.
Puglia | a top foodie destination
During interviews for the Rough Guide, the team behind BGP aimed to emphasise not only Puglia’s LGBTQ+ credentials but also some of its other draws.
“Puglia’s importance as one of Italy’s top three foodie regions is key to drawing visitors to our region and was obviously something to highlight. That’s why, as well as Puglia’s annual Pride celebrations, we referred to sagre festivals. Obviously these are not unique to Puglia, but they are at the heart of our food culture and traditions”.
Maxwell also was keen to reference Puglia’s LGBTQ+ history. “Today Puglia is nationally and internationally recognised as Italy’s top gay summer destination. But it is here in Puglia that Italy experienced one of the darkest moments in its LGBT+ history when, in 1939 under the fascist regime, dozens of gay men were exiled on San Domino in the Tremiti Islands, unwittingly creating Italy’s first openly gay community”. The Rough Guide acknowledges this important historical detail.
“Another change we see is the importance of Ostuni as a base for the growing number of LGBTQ+ visitors, pulling some of the focus of Puglia’s gay summer scene from Gallipoli and Salento”.
Pizzica in Puglia | 2024 and beyond
Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, Maxwell anticipates Ostuni will continue to grow in popularity with gay visitors, due to its cosmopolitan vibe and proximity to Torre Guaceto’s popular gay beach. But that’s not all.
“Pizzica experiences and festivals will be a draw,” Maxwell explains. “One of Puglia’s unique selling points, Salento’s traditional music and dance, is becoming known abroad as much a part of Puglia’s culture and traditions as olive oil, burrata and spaghetti all’assassina”.
The Puglia Guys have already made strides in promoting the region’s appeal to a global audience. They hosted Clive Myrie, a well-known British TV presenter, during his Italian Road Trip featured on the BBC. Myrie participated in olive harvesting, explored Ostuni’s old town in a tuk-tuk, and even had a pizzica lesson from La Scuola di pizzica di San Vito.
“We see a growing interest in Puglia’s other cultural offerings. The UK’s ‘The Guardian’ newspaper recently included an extended feature on Puglia’s pizzica traditions, reporting that it has transcended its roots to go worldwide. We also gave them tips on cooking spaghetti all’assassina at home, a dish that visitors are increasingly hungry for as a must try taste of Puglia.”
And where does Maxwell spend his holiday time? “Taranto’s borgo antico fascinates me. We write about Taranto’s hidden beauty, the ‘beauty underneath’. It is raw and gritty yet incredibly authentic. Then there’s the unforgettable cozze tarantine. The best mussels in Italy. The marble work at the Cattedrale San Cataldo is breathtaking. Having ignored it for five years, Taranto is a special place for me”.
Maxwell continues. “Otherwise the geographical extremes of Gargano, for its amazing beaches and coast, and Santa Maria di Leuca, where there’s an otherworldly sense of being at land’s end”.
Founded in 1982, Rough Guides Ltd is a leading publisher of print and digital guide book, phrasebooks and inspirational travel reference books with global sales of 100 million guidebooks since their inception.