Martina Franca

Destination Weddings in  Marina Franca

Martina Franca, in the province of Taranto, is in the hills east of Murgia, at an equal distance from Jonio and the Adriatic. The town’s origins are fairly recent. The first settlement on the hill was in the 10th century, when refugees escaped from the plundering Saracens at Taranto.

Martina Franca Church
Local shepherds and nomads then joined the refugees. For two centuries, Martina Franca was quite likely a military outpost protecting Taranto, at least until 1300 when it was declared a municipality by Philip I of Angiò, a Taranto Prince. The Prince later donated the town to Pietro del Tocco, including a castle, surrounding rural land and several rural settlements.

The town was named in honour of San Martino, who reputedly protected the town on several occasions from Saracen invasions, while the adjective “Franca” was because Philip I of Angiò would offer his people rights and immunity when they paid their taxes. The historical centre, of particular interest, comprising for the most part tall narrow houses painted in the classic colour, white, with a flat roof and originally a well also used to keep food cool and that collected rainwater. The roads at the centre are extremely narrow, with sharp bends and with many dead ends or hidden exits, to surprise the enemy or prepare ambushes.

The most handsome buildings are in baroque style, such as the Palazzo Ducale, built above the Castello degli Orsini, of the 17th century, now the town hall, and the Museo delle Pianelle. The Palazzo Stabile is also very impressive, with a tall facade and stunning entrance. Piazza XX settembre, still in the town centre, is also a must see; originally called Piazza del Mercato, it overlooks the town through the Arch of Santo Stefano.

One of the finest building in Martina Franca is, of course, the Baroque Church of San Martino. It was built between 1747 and 1763, in the historical centre of the town, by the archpriest Isidoro Chirulli, over an earlier romanesque church whose only visible remains are the bell tower. It has a single nave with delicate side chapels. The sculpture group “ Saint Martin Donates Half his Cloak to the Poor” on the façade is the work of local artists. The church interior is decorated with multi-coloured marble inlay. The high altar contains the statue of Saint Martin – probably the 16th century work of Stefano da Putignano – as well as two marble statues of Abbondanza e Carità (Abundance and Charity), attributed to Giuseppe Sammartino. The inlayed pulpit, done by Domenico Semeraro in 1850, is of exceptional craftsmanship. Outside of the centre, places definitely to be seen are the Trulli of Itria valley, built during farmers’ expansion outside of the town, an example of the dry-stone technique and perfectly preserved.

Traditional feast-days include the unmissable San Martino Patron Saint Summer Festival in the first week of July, when the statues of San Martino and Santa Comasia are carried in a procession. According to tradition, the statue of Santa Comasia should always proceed first, otherwise the statue of San Martino will become too heavy to carry. Two local products are also worth a mention: the wine Martina Franca DOC and “capocollo”, made from the meat of wild boars farmed in the woods surrounding Martina Franca.