Sun, Sea, Salento! Yes this is the part of Puglia that is sun-kissed all year long. You will find people on the beach at Christmas, no jokes! Accompanied by excellent Mediterranean cuisine, genuine hospitality, an amazing landscape and breathtaking stretches of beaches it is no wonder Salento is the ideal spot for Gay travelers and a select number of celebrities.

A green peninsula fringed by two seas, this is a magical stretch of land where quaint fishing villages and beautiful towns are hidden amongst the olive trees and vineyards that dominate the ladscapse. Ancient Masserie (manor farms) have been transformed into sophisticated hotels or agriturismo and wine tasting estates. Take a hike and discover Early Christian churches or visit the many ancient olive pressing mills. Marvel at natural wonders this area offers including sea caves at Castro and Santa Maria di Leuca.

Lecce, the largest Baroque city in the South is a must for any itinerary to Puglia. Churches and palazzos are embroidered in Tuffo (Lecce stone), and courtyards, secret gardens and a surprising Roman amphitheater await you in the heart of the city.

Historically many parts of Salento were fishing villages and the traditions and customs are still upheld today. Visit places like Porto Cesareo, Portoselvaggio and Gallipoli where you will still see the fishermen at work and fresh markets and restaurants serving up local dishes of fresh fish. In this area craft objects out of papier-mâché and local stone, these are used to create masks for the festivals (not quite Rio but equally impressive). Don’t leave Salento without trying at least one ‘Pasticciotto’, a pasrty from this area which has a crème filling.

1 Beautiful Baroque in Lecce Aptly named ‘the Florence of the South,’ Lecce is a stunning Baroque City only 12 km (7.5 miles) away from the Adriatic Sea. Marvel at the architecture with palaces and churches that line the streets inside the city’s three ancient gates: Porta Rudiae, Porta San Biagio and Porta Napoli. Visit the castle built by Charles V and designed by Gian Giacomo dell’Acaya. The Roman Amphitheatre, adjacent to the central Piazza Sant’Oronzo, offers an intriguing insight into the city’s history.
2 Gay Gallipoli, Italy’s fastest growing gay destination Gallipoli, meaning the Beautiful City, is fast becoming the gay hotspot of Italy. Who can blame them, with beautiful beaches and incredible views, coupled with cafes, restaurants, beach bars and clubs, it is no wonder people flock here in their thousands over the summer. Just 40 km (25 miles) from Lecce, the old town sits perched on a limestone island.

The walls, bastions, and towers, which originally defended the town from invaders, now protect it from rough seas, while also preserving the charm of days gone by. If you want authentic charm then stay in the old city but if you are after a beach experience stay in the many apartments or hotels south of Gallipoli, a long stretch of beautiful beach with great beach clubs including Samsara and G Beach (popular with Gay Tourists).

3 Otranto Otranto’s ancient city center (‘Borgo antico di Otranto’) has been recognized by UNESCO as a ‘Culture of Peace Messenger Site.’

Stroll along the Lungomare degli Eroi at the foot of the ancient city center then make your way to the old town. Visit the Aragon Castle and the Cathedral which has a precious mosaic floor and the relics of 800 martyrs killed by the Turks in 1480. If you have time, visit the emerald green lake set amidst coral-colored hills of the Bauxite quarry, just outside the town.

4 Porto Cesareo Porto Cesareo is well known for its golden beaches and wonderful sea.

The small village is surrounded by the beautiful small port, with the fish market and characteristic colored boats setting the mood. Porto Cesareo belongs to the Protected Marine Area and to the Regional Nature Reserve ‘Palude del Conte e Duna Costiera’. It is worth spending some time in this park to experience the unspoiled nature and visit the Research Station of Marine Biology and the Oceanography Museum. Old watchtowers known as ‘Torre’ are dotted along the landscape; among these, Torre Cesarea, Torre Chianca and Torre Lapillo, each with beautiful beaches to enjoy. Here you will also find important archeological evidence including the village of ‘Scalo di Furno’, dating back to the Bronze Age.

5 Regional Nature Park Coast Otranto – Santa Maria di Leuca – Bosco di Tricase 3,227 hectares of unspoiled nature. The park is part of 12 municipalities of Salento and offers incredible panoramic views. Gaze at the crystal clear Adriatic Sea or adventure through the mysterious caves of Castro.

Over many centuries the canals excavated by water, sink into the ground creating these miraculous caves. Try out your Italian and speak to the local fishermen who can recall every legend and origin of these caves. The park is also home to birds of prey which fly over the fields, as well as a spectacular array of flora including sea fennel and glasswort.