Martina Franca is a city of about 50K inhabitants in the province of Taranto. It’s located on a hill in the Southern part of the Murgia and overlooks the green Itria Valley. It is a must-see and perfect stop for a day trip if you are taking a tour of Puglia and Itria Valley.
The city was founded in the 10th century, and the name Martin comes from people’s devotion to St. Martin, the first human settlement was in fact right on the St. Martin Mountain. The name Franca, was assigned in 1310 as a result of various privileges that were given to the city. The most important was surely the taxes exemption and it was during that period that splendid buildings were built in the city.
The area surrounding the city is characterized by numerous caves and forests typical of the Mediterranean. The city is very elegant and cozy having its center closed to traffic, only small three-wheeled ape make their appearance now and then. Very charming and well cared is the old town entirely constructed in an extravagant Baroque style and made up of small winding alleys and whitewashed houses. Its streets have a particular depression right in the middle that funnels rainwater in the middle of the street and prevents it from reaching the cellars located in the basement of the houses by the street. Highest expression of this picturesque old town is the neighborhood Lama.
The city has impressive buildings and Churches of great architectural importance. St. Stefano Gateway (Porta Santo Stefano) is the main entrance to the historic center and leads to Rome Square which is dominated by the Ducal Palace (Palazzo Ducale) that was built in 1668 by order of the Caracciolo family. A huge and expensive project which drew those of the luxurious Roman palaces; it consists of 300 rooms, chapels, stables, court, theater and guesthouse. Today it houses the town hall, a library and the tourist office.
The porches, built in 1854, it’s a splendid neo-classical portico. Once a meeting point for trade, it is today the meeting point of Performing Artists. St. Martino Basilica (Basilica of San Martino) which sits in the main square (Plebiscito Square) and it is dedicated to the patron Saint Martino, it was built in 1743 and with its 42 meter high facade is the main church in the city. San Domenico Church was built in 1746 has also a large and rich Baroque facade consisting of fancy decoration.
The city is also known for the international music festival of Itria Valley that attracts artists from all over the world and takes place in August.