The Baroque Towns of Puglia: Martina Franca

"Fountain of the Dolphins on Piazza Roma, Martina Franca, Italy"

Fontana dei Delfini (Fountain of the Dolphins) on Piazza Roma

It was a whirlwind of white towns in the Valle d’Itria in Puglia for us in June. First we walked around Locorotondo, then drove across the valley to Cisternino and later strolled the trulli-lined lanes of Alberobello. Another town that captured our interest and imagination along the way was Martina Franca.

"Scenes from Martina Franca, Italy"

Walking around the centro storcio, Martina Franca

Martina Franca is the commercial center of Valle d’Itria and is much larger than those other towns, but similar in ways — the historic center consists of winding lanes and white-washed buildings adorned with flowers and wrought-iron balconies, and of course, there is a beautiful cathedral. To the original name Martina, Franca (derived from franchigie meaning exemptions) was added in 1310 when Prince of Taranto province, Philip of Anjou, granted the town tax-free status.

"Arco di Sant Antonio, Martina Franca, Italy"

Arco di Sant Antonio

A key attraction in Martina Franca is the baroque 17th century Palazzo Ducale in the Piazza Roma just past the Arco di Sant-Antonio at the entrance to the town’s centro storico. Once a castle, it now houses the city hall as well as a museum, but the former royal apartments can still be toured.

"Tempera paintings in the Palazzo Ducale in Martina Franca, Puglia, Italy"

Tempera paintings in the Palazzo Ducale

Characterized by opulence and elegance, the Palazzo Ducale’s walls were adorned with tempera paintings which include scenes from the bible, life in the royal court and mythology.

"Opulent tempera paintings in the Ducal Palace in Martina Franca, Italy"

Opulence of the Palazzo Ducale

"Ceiling in Palazzo Ducale"

Ceiling in Palazzo Ducale

"Chandelier in the Palazzo Ducale"

Chandelier in the Palazzo Ducale

"Chapel and hallway in Palazzo Ducale, Martina Franca, Italy"

Chapel and hallway in Palazzo Ducale

Martina Franca was abuzz with tourists and locals, creating a bit busier scene than in the peaceful settings of Locorotondo and Cisternino, but that didn’t reduce the old world charm for us, and it was easy to find quiet side streets to roam.

"Walking around a piazza in Martina Franca, Italy"

Walking around Martina Franca

"Narrow lane lined with white-washed buildings of Martina Franca, Italy"

Martina Franca’s narrow lanes lined with white-washed buildings

"Arched passageway in Martina Franca centro storico"

Arched passageway in Martina Franca centro storico

"A colorful contrast to the predominate white buildings of Martina Franca, Italy"

A contrast to the predominate white buildings of Martina Franca

Walking further into the centro storico, we came into the Piazza Plebiscito, the main area of the old town where the Basilica of San Martino prominently stands.

"Basilica of San Martino, Martina Franca, Italy"

Basilica of San Martino

The basilica dates back to the 18th century when it replaced the old Romanesque Collegiate Church that as many other structures in Martina Franca had been destroyed by an earthquake in 1743.

"Interior stained glass windows and dome of the Basilican of San Martino in Martina Franca, Italy"

Stained glass windows and domed ceiling inside Basilica of San Martino

Around the piazza and along neighboring streets, are ornate frames that hold many white lights that are lit up for festivals, such as the annual music festival “Festival della Valle d’Itria” in July and August. We would have loved to see them lit at night.

"Piazza Plebiscito, Martina Franca, Italy"

Piazza Plebiscito

Many cities in Puglia have these, too, but none that we saw were as prolific as these. The shops and restaurants looked very inviting and it would have been nice to enjoy the ambiance of Martina Franca while sipping a cold drink at a cafe on this hot summer day. Perhaps on our next trip we’ll get a chance to do that and experience a festival, too.

"Lighting decorations in Martina Franca, Italy"

For more information:
Puglia Tourist Information
The nearest airport is in Brindisi which is about a one hour’s drive from Martina Franca.

Our thanks to Puglia Promozione for hosting our Puglia experience.

37 thoughts on “The Baroque Towns of Puglia: Martina Franca

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Next time you’re in Italy, check out the plane and train schedules. We traveled from Rimini in Emilia-Romagna to Foggia by train — less than 3 hours, we were there. You’ll love Puglia, Penny.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      I’d have to agree with you about Italian towns — at least the ones I’ve been to so far. The small towns have many similarities, but seems that they each have their own distinctive qualities.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Isn’t it great that so many of these wonderful old towns are being maintained so well these days? The people have so much pride in their towns and it shows.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      That’s great to hear, Lisa. I think you’d find much to love about Puglia. It wasn’t on my radar until last year either. Glad that I can share with others now.

  1. Marcia

    Wow, I just love Martina Franca. Picture postcard perfect and tax-free too? Quite a find, Cathy! I can see why it’s popular, especially during the festival.
    Thanks for introducing us to Martina Franca, Cathy. Another picturesque Italian town to add my expanding list.

  2. Jeff Titelius

    What a fabulous tour! I can’t believe the elaborately decorated interiors of the Palazzo Ducale!! Magnficent to say the least. It’s such a shame you couldn’t see the piazzas bathed in light at night, I bet it’s beautiful!! Brilliant photos too!!

  3. Leigh

    It may be busier than the other towns you visited but it still looks beautiful. I always wonder how often they have to whitewash the buildings to keep them looking so good.
    Would love a few weeks biking around Puglia – to wear off all that good food and wine you find in the region.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      A hiking and biking trip around this area would be great. I’d like to do that, too. Lots of nice flat terrain in the valley and hills for a more challenging ride.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Throughout Puglia, we saw so many gorgeous frescoes in the old churches and of course, in this old palace. To me it emphasizes how important it is to maintain these old treasures.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      I don’t suppose I’d decorate my palace quite like the Palazzo Ducale — if I should ever have one. 🙂 Still was quite impressive.

  4. Mike

    I don’t mean to sound like a broken record but once again the streets are so crisp with color and clean, Clathy! Like all of your ventures. I would love to see those royal apartments. As I’ve mentioned in all of my other comments about crowds – I prefer to avoid them. So, I would want steer my visit time there accordingly. Enjoying your posts immensely always! 🙂

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Mike, thanks for following along on my Puglia experience! You’d have plenty of room to stroll and roam in comfort in these towns in Puglia — Martina Franca, Locorotondo and Cisternino, in particular.

  5. Mary {The World Is A Book}

    What a beautiful and charming town. I’ve seen posts of Puglia here and there but these beautiful pictures really make me want to visit. I love all the architecture and history on these towns. I’ve only been to Rome and Venice so I would love to explore little towns like these not overrun with tourists. That Palazzo Ducale is stunning!

  6. Michele {Malaysian Meanders}

    I really like the tempera paintings in the Palazzo’s rooms. I hope the people who lived there properly appreciated them. I also like that one building that broke out of the whitewash mold and added a splash of color to the town. It does seem that you visited one fantastic village after another.

  7. Jennifer

    I love how different the architecture looks from that of the north of Italy where we live. I really hope we can make it south to Puglia this year. Looks like such a beautiful region to visit!

  8. Pingback: From Foggia to Bari: Our 7-Day Puglia Road Trip - Traveling with Sweeney

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