The Itria Valley of Puglia holds many treasures worth exploring, not the least of which is the town of Martina Franca.
First settled in the 10th century, compared to many of the neighboring towns, Martina Franca is rather “young”! Originally more or less an outpost to protect the province of Taranto, in the 13th century it was declared a municipality by Taranto Prince, Philip I.
Entering the historical center via the Piazza XX September and through the stunning Porta di Santo Stefano/Arco di Sant’Antonio, we are greeted by the first of many photo-worthy stops, Piazza Roma. Surrounded by a splendid collection of civic buildings and palazzos resplendent in the Baroque style found here, we are already charmed by Martina Franca!
Continuing your stroll on Via Vittorio Emanuele, you will frequently encounter the image of St. Martin, for whom the town is named. In Piazza Plebiscito the Basilica di San Martino is a superb tribute to his saintly deeds. He is said to have saved the town on several occasions and we are certainly glad he did!
This Piazza also opens up into what was once a market and offers sidewalk cafes, local shops and the promise of much more to explore in which ever direction we go. While the narrow and winding streets once foiled enemies with its dead ends and hidden exits, today they invite us to wander, meander, explore and enjoy the whitewashed houses with their extravagant Baroque details and colorful balconies as well as its many historical gems.
There is one thing I can guarantee about Martina Franca…make that two things: you will wish you had more time here and you will want to return!