Martina Franca: A Gateway to Apulia’s Natural and Architectural Majesty
The forest contrasts with tufts of Mediterranean scrub, which carry the distinct aroma of wild fennel and the sleeping sound of cicadas in the warm breeze. The centuries-old olive trees, with their silvery leaves and twisted bodies, survive alongside the vineyards that produce wonderful wine. The nectar of the gods is known by a variety of names, including Verdeca, Bianco d’Alessano, and Primitivo Tarantino. Martina Franca, an Apulian city of about 50,000 people located between the provinces of Taranto, Brindisi, and Bari, embodies these ideas.
Martina Franca, located in the hinterland on the Murgia’s south-eastern slopes, offers magnificent panoramic views of the Itria Valley from its 431-meter elevation above sea level. From above, it is difficult to appreciate all of the beauty that the Apulian countryside has to offer, but while wandering through the scrub, it is not uncommon to observe some running hares, some lazy hedgehogs, or a fox, while hawks and robins maintain watch from high in the area. near this harsh and sun-baked environment, remarkable natural caves emerge from time to time: near the hamlet of Monte Fellone, for example, the Grotta Cuoco and the Grotta Monte Fellone are significant archaeological sites.
What must-see sights in Martina Franca?
But the most valuable pearls are found in the center of Martina Franca, among the old streets and squares, where baroque or rococo architecture adds a touch of flawless elegance. The city streets have a distinct depression in the center that directs precipitation into a trickle and keeps the sides dry, preventing beneath cellars from flooding.
The main roadways connecting the city gates were made of black lava stone, while the minor streets were made of white stone, demonstrating the old difference of materials in specific sections of the road.
Basilica of San Martino
Walking through Martina Franca, you will come across various churches, the most notable of which is the Basilica of San Martino, which dates back to the second half of the eighteenth century and was built at the request of archpriest Isidoro Chirulli on the site of an existing Romanesque college church. The Basilica of San Martino, a magnificent jewel of the Martinese Baroque, has a towering façade with the central picture of the patron saint and a marble altar from 1773 of the Neapolitan style inside.
San Domenico and Carmine are two more interesting churches. San Domenico was built between 1746 and 1750 on the foundation of a previous Romanesque structure dedicated to San Pietro. It is distinguished today by exquisite baroque lines. Carmine, on the other hand, is a Baroque-style church from the middle of the eighteenth century. It houses a beautiful polychrome sculpture of Santa Maria della Misericordia, most likely made by Stefano da Putignano.
The church of Sant’Antonio
The church of Sant’Antonio, with its exquisite frescoed cloister; and finally, the church of San Francesco da Paola, which was built in the early seventeenth century on a sixteenth-century chapel of the Madonna of Constantinople. Next to the cathedral stands the ‘Paolotti’ convent, where Father Bonaventura Gaona lived in the early 17th century.
The Palazzo Ducale, erected in the second part of the 17th century, combines Renaissance elements with Baroque influences, Lecce style, and local taste. The Caracciolo family’s ancient villa now houses the town hall, and the chambers of Arcadia, Myth, and the Bible include magnificent frescoes. Don’t miss Martina’s many majestic buildings.
Palazzo Barnaba, built in 1719, is distinguished by the presence of two wooden balconies on its façade; Palazzo Delfini, built in the late eighteenth century, displays the family’s heraldic coat of arms with the image of a dolphin on its portal; Palazzo Ancona, known for its lateral caryatids and central apotropaic mask, is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city; and Palazzo Magli, built in 1759, has an elegant rococo portal.
Museums abound, serving as invaluable witnesses to history, territorial traits, and local traditions. The Pianelle Forest Museum, housed in the Palazzo Ducale, highlights the region’s fauna and plants and includes a section on peasant life. In addition, the same building houses the Philip I of Anjou Museum, which exhibits a variety of current pictorial works inspired by the location.
Events, festivals, and fun things to do
Martina Franca’s cultural activities and typical foods reflect local customs. Martina Franca produces the local wine known as Martina Franca DOC, and one of its signature meals is ‘capocollo’, a cured meat seasoned with wine and Mediterranean aromatic herbs. The people smoke it by burning the wood and bark of a Balkan-native frango tree, which is only found in Puglia. Pigs bred for meat in frango woodlands eat the same plants’ acorns. Orecchiette is very wonderful, especially when paired with meatball sauce, cacioricotta, or turnips.
Among the must-see events are the San Martino Fair on November 11 and the Chocolate Festival that same month. The Valle d’Itria Festival, which stages operas and musical compositions never previously performed in the modern era, as well as the International Cabaret Festival and the Candlemas Fair on February 2, are also noteworthy. Finally, the summer patronal feast of San Martino and Santa Comasia occurs the first weekend following July 4th. Santa Claus’ Village is a must-see during Advent. Finally, the Martina Franca Antiques Market is held on the third Sunday of the month.
Martina Franca is accessible via a variety of modes of transportation. The nearest airports are at Bari and Brindisi, from where you can travel by train, bus, or rental vehicle. Driving from Bari, drive the S16 for about fifty kilometers to Monopoli, then the S172 south to Martina Franca.
However, from Brindisi, you continue on the S16 for 3 kilometers until you reach Ostuni, where you join the S172 and continue north-west to your destination. Those who choose to arrive by boat can land at the ports of Bari, Dubrovnik, and Durazzo, as well as Brindisi, which is also connected to Greece.
When is the Best Time to Visit Martina Franca?
Martina Franca’s Mediterranean environment welcomes you with warm winter temperatures, sunny summers that are cooled by the breeze, and pleasant winters. The coldest month is January, with average temperatures ranging from 6°C to 12°C, while July and August have temperatures ranging from 22°C to 30°C. Precipitation, which is scarce during the summer, peaks in December, when it rains for an average of nine days.