Martina Franca is a picturesque town that sits on the lush Itria Valley, right in the center of Puglia, southern Italy. The town was founded by refugees who fled from Taranto to avoid an Arab invasion during the 10th-century. The town prospered during the 14th-century when it was granted tax exemptions or franchigie (where the name ‘Franca’ came from) by Philip of Anjou. The town became so rich that it built its own castle and walls for defense with 24 solid bastions.
This charming town is known for its stark white painted houses, amazing winding alleys, and century’s old rococo and baroque buildings that stand gracefully until today. The jewel of the town is its historic town center that greets you the moment you enter thru the historic arch of Porto Santo Stefano. There are a lot of interesting activities and sites to see in Martina Franca. Get your cameras ready as you journey thru this picture-perfect town.
1. Valle d'Itria or Itria Valley
The Itria Valley is an area found in the Apulia region of Southern Italy. It spreads over the provinces of Bari, Brindisi and Taranto where Martina Franca belongs. Martina Franca is one of the towns that overlook this valley. Itria Valley is not the typical valley formed in a mountainous area. This awesome landscape is a Karstic depression meaning it was formed by the dissolution of the soluble rocks like limestone, which is plentiful in this area.
These phenomena also created the amazing underground caves called Castellana Grotte. It stretches for around 3 km (1.8 mi) underneath the valley’s north-eastern edge. It is an important national attraction and natural heritage of Italy. The caves feature various formations like stalactites, canyons, fossils, stalagmites and others.
The valley is also known for its rich soil where you will find lots of lush greenery and olive trees, and the breathtaking views of trullis. Trullis are small, round white limestone Apulian houses with cone shaped roofs.
Address: Piazzle Anelli 70013, Castellan Grotte BA, Italia
Website: Castellana Caves
2. Basilica di San Martino
Eccoci nel cuore della Valle d'Itria, a Martina Franca. Pedalate con noi e scoprite la Puglia anche attraverso i suoi...Posted by Taste&Go on Monday, 13 June 2016
St. Martin is Martina Franca’s patron saint. He is popularly represented by statues of him riding a horse sharing his cloak with a poor man. The basilica was made in his honor and it is an impressive Baroque style edifice built during the 18th-century. However, it only received its status as a basilica during 1998.
It is the most picturesque and most important church in town. It is found right in the town center in Piazza Plebiscito. The facade of the basilica is lavishly ornamented. Its interiors are equally impressive with fake marble altars, dancing cherubs and painted ceilings and walls.
Basilica di San Martino
Address: Via Masaniello, 1, 74015 Martina Franca TA, Italy
Facebook: Basilica di San Martino
3. L’Acropoli di Puglia
If you are in town for a tour, don’t forget to include L’Acropoli di Puglia as one of the sights to visit. It is a company that is one of the major producers of top quality olive oil and is owned and managed by the Lucarella Family. When you visit their facility you will be given a personal tour of the cellars by one of the owners.
Vincenzo will show you how olive oil is extracted and manufactured using the same equipment and traditional techniques they used since they opened in 1889. You will get to taste test the different kinds of olive oil. With this short educational tour, you will have a different perspective in how to choose quality olive oil next time you go out to buy one.
L’Acropoli di Puglia
Address: Via Trento, 180, 74015 Martina Franca TA, Italy
Website: L’Acropoli di Puglia (in Italian)
4. Palazzo Ducale
The Palazzo Ducale was constructed in 1668 and used to be the palatial residence of the Caracciolo family, the dukes who formerly reigned during the glorious days of Martina Franca. Today, the massive baroque palace serves as the office of the civic government and town hall. It also houses a library and the tourist information office. There is a small museum inside that is dedicated to the Bosco delle Pianelle national park. You can tour the Palazzo Ducale. You can enter thru the doors made with panels of worn silk. Admire the frescos adorning the walls that are still under restoration. View their impressive exhibits of modern art.
Address: Piazza Roma, 28, 74015 Martina Franca TA, Italy
Website: Palazzo Ducale
5. Centro Storico
#Locorotondo The old town is a melting-pot of streets and death-ends where it is still possible to perceive the smells of hand-made food prepared by the locals. #weareinpugliaPosted by Taste&Go on Thursday, 24 April 2014
The Porto Santo Stefano is the grand ancient entryway to the Centro Storico or the old town center. Just outside the town wall is the park and piazza where all the old people gather and mingle. Inside the porto is the Piazza Roma, with the Palazzo Ducale on one side. The Centro Storico has an old world charm which you would want to explore for several hours while taking numerous pictures. Lama, the oldest part of the town, is where you will see the traditional buildings with pointed roofs. The town is filled with winding narrow lanes and alleys where you can wander around and marvel at the humble dwellings.
Though the buildings are aging, they have retained the beauty of their baroque styled windows, elegant archways and ornate balconies with the omnipresent baby angels. The centro has that lively lived-in vibe. The streets are pretty narrow built just right for pedestrians, but occasionally 3 wheeled ape trucks will pass you by.
Address: 74015 Martina Franca, Italy
6. Bosco delle Pianelle Natural Reserve
The Bosco delle Pianelle is an exciting treat for nature lovers. This rich natural reserve is found on the hills of Murge stretching to the slopes of Gravina delle Pianelle, Specchia Taranto and Monte Fellone. The lush woodland is home to a vast variety of flora and fauna along with several caves waiting to be explored. There are many ways you can enjoy your visit to this park. Cycling is a common activity in Martina Franca. You can walk or hike on the trails or do cycle-hiking while you traverse this amazing forest.
Bosco delle Pianelle Natural Reserve
Address: Strada Statale 581 km 14+900, 74015 Martina Franca TA, Italy
7. Chiesa di Sant’Antonio dei Cappuccini (Church of Sant Antonio dei Cappucine)
The church, aside from being a national attraction, is a significant reminder of the town’s history. It is found right in the center of Itria Valley between Locorontondo and Martina. The church was built on the land originally inhabited by Basilian monks. During the settlement of the Basilian monks, large farmhouses were built and agricultural activities were the focus of their community. They also built an underground crypt with a painting of Madonna dell’Odegitria marking the spread of the cult dedicated to the blessed virgin.
The Capuchin monks took over the land and religious influences in the 16th-century. The Capuchins, a spin off from the Franciscan religious order, were known for their simplicity and talent in the arts. They built a church over the settlement and the underground crypt was almost forgotten. The façade of the church is very low-key but once inside you will marvel at the expert wooden cabinetry of its altars. Along with the spread of their religion, the Capuchins taught the arts and remain one of the great influences in Martina Franca.
You will also view amazing frescos on the ceilings and walls of the church dedicated to Mother Mary and significant events in the life of Jesus Christ. The underground crypt was accidentally rediscovered in 1988 and the mural of the Madonna was restored. The Capuchin church, underground burial chambers and its fascinating influence in the history of religion and the arts continues to attract tourists in this part of town every year.
Chiesa di Sant’Antonio dei Cappuccini
Address: 74015 Commune Martina Franca, Piazza Roma N.32
8. I Pastini
This is not a simple winery. It is where the art of wine making is expressed. I Pastini is located 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) away from Martina Franca and Locoronto in the center of Itria Valley. There are guided tours of the facility where you will witness the process of traditional wine making with the use of modern machinery. The family owned vineyard is a wide stretch of land from north to south exposed to sunny warm temperatures with a constant northern breeze. The land is very suitable to grow the best variety of white grapes that are used in producing this world-class wine. You get to taste a sample of their wine while you enjoy the awesome scenery.
Address: Strada Cupa Rampone Zona A - 74015 Martina Franca (TA)
Website: I Pastini
9. Festival della Valle d’Itria
The Festival della Valle d’Itria is a unique attraction of this town. Locals and foreign tourists gather in Martina Franca just to watch this summer opera festival. It is held in the open areas near the Palazzo Ducale and Basilica of San Martino. This happens every year starting towards the latter part of July and early August. The festival is a spectacular performance of original versions of the rare and unknown standard operas that were neglected in the past.
Festival della Valle d’Itria
Address: Centro Artistico Musicale Paolo Grassi, Palazzo Ducale, 74015 Martina Franca, Italy
10. Piazza Maria Immacolata
Piazza Maria Immacolata is the stylish main public square of Martina Franca. It is also called Piazza dei Portici. It is where you can observe the daily life of Italians and it is the usual venue of meet ups and their special events. The piazza is surrounded by curved old buildings that are decorated with porticoes. It entices people to stay at an outdoor café, have a cup of coffee and just relax while they enjoy the scenery. You will see baroque style buildings with lovely wrought iron balconies. There are flowers everywhere making the piazza colorful and vibrant.
Piazza Maria Immacolata
Address: Piazza Maria Immacolata, Martina Franca, Italy
Website: Piazza Maria Immacolata
The good life awaits you in Martina Franca
Martina Franca lives up to its reputation being “Acropolis of Puglia”. This part of Italy seems to be untouched by the changes in time with its lush, colorful landscape and rich history of being the center of the arts, tradition, culture and opulence. People looking for peace, solitude, lots of sun and greenery travel to Martina Franca. This quaint little town offers you the taste of the good life that most Italians enjoy.
Get Trip101 in your inbox