Franca , la città del
festival della Valle D'itria
In the tenth century the coastal
town of Taranto suffered attacks by the Saracens, and a number
of its citizens fled the city to found a new town on the hill
of San Martino.
1300 a prince of Taranto Filippo (Philip of Anjou) granted
the town rights and franchises to those who lived or moved
there and the name Martina Franca was born from the fiscal
immunities the town now enjoyed. The town was fortified with
defensive walls and a castle.
in the sixteenth century it bacame a duchy of Caracciolo,
a Napolitan family, but a century and a half later in 1646
a feud between the town and its masters started, which was
to last two hundred years until the extinction of the Caracciolo
family line in 1827.
Martina is the most elegant town of central Puglia, with many
graceful Baroque and Rococo buildings inside the walls of
the centro storico.
outside the walls is the 15th century gothic church of S.
Antonio, and across the Piazza XX Septembre stands the tall
Porta S. Antonio, the principal gateway to the old town centre.
the gate is the green Piazza Roma, dominated by the Palazzo
Ducale, built for the Caracciolo family in 1668, designed
by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and occupying the site of the earlier
castle. The building now serves as the town hall, but parts
of the elegant interior are open to the public including magnificent
rooms painted by the artist Domenico Carella, and it serves
as an indoor venue for the prestigious summer classical music
narrow street winds down past charming 17th and 18th century
townhouses to the Collegiata or collegiate church, the baroque
Basilica of S. Martino, the patron saint of the town. Built
in the mid 18th century this is the most imposing building
in the town, with a fine frontage, dominated by a sculptural
group of Saint Martin and a beggar, overlooking the Piazza
this square it is possible to explore the narrow alleyways
and streets of the town, the Palazzos giving way to whitewashed
houses of humbler origin. Near the Basilica is the church
of San Domenico and Domenican convent, and outside the walls
to the north-west is the large carmelite church Chiesa del
Carmine, with panoramic views from to the Itria Valley, with
its trulli, neat stone walls and vineyards.
Itria Valley gives its name to a festival of music in July,
which has an international reputation, and specialises in
promoting the neglected works of forgotten, lesser-known or
local classical composers.
of Martina's claims to fames is its white wine, which is available
from local cantinas. Apart from vineyards, the local landscape
contains many reminders of the thick oak forest which once
covered the area, including the beautiful regional park of