MARTINA FRANCA

A Southern city of the Murge plateau, situated 431 metres above sea level in the province of Taranto. Martina Franca was founded by refugees from Taranto who were escaping due to the continuous Saracen invasions during the 10th Century.
The City faces the Itria valley which is scattered with Trulli and dry walls.

With the arrival of the Angioini, Martina Franca was amplified through unification of the rural homes of Montedoro, S. Martino, S. Teresa and S. Pietro of the Greeks and became a commune in 1300 through the wishes of Filippo of Angiò, Prince of Taranto. Filippo also gave some fiscal exemptions to help economic expansion of the habitation. From this comes the name Franca, in memory of the fiscal exemptions it enjoyed.
During the same historical period, Martina Franca had city walls constructed with defence towers.
It became a feudatory firstly under the Angioini and then the Aragonese (15th Century). The City was a Dukedom of the Caracciolo Family (16th Century), who during the subsequent century built Palazzo Ducale.
In 1646, the echoes of the popular revolts of Masaniello to Naples arrived here, causing the inhabitants, led by a blacksmith who went by the name of Capo di Ferro (Iron Head), to protest.
The subsequent century saw Martina Franca as protagonist of an economic development aimed towards agriculture and farming.
With the decline of Bonaparte, Republican ideals waned in Italy (1799), but the enthusiastic inhabitants welcomed these ideals in the hope of stamping out feudatory domination by the Caracciolo Family.
They, however, had to await the feudal rights abolition laws of 1806, the subsequent Carbonari (An association which promoted independent ideas) motions and the Renaissance period to truly see these privileges disappear. In 1861, Martina Franca, after a plebiscitary
vote from the previous year, passed under the Reign of Italy territory.
The present day look of the City was developed during the era of major economic development (700), where it received a strong Baroque style as unveiled in the noble buildings which interlace through the alleys and streets of the historical centre.
The centre can be accessed through one of the preserved doorways: Porta S. Stefano, S. Nicola, S. Maria or S. Pietro (15th Century), or through the curious Posterla; more of a slit than a doorway, which only allows one person at a time to pass through.
The towers of Martina Franca are very characteristic, but are now absorbed by the City’s profile: Torre delle Seti, Torre del Forno, Torre dei Mulini and Torre dell’Annunziata.
Among the churches worth visiting: the Baroque Basilica of San Martino, built on a previous Romanesque building, S. Domenico and the Carmine Church (1727-1758).
Among the civil buildings worth visiting: Palazzo Ducale, seat of the Naturalistic Museum of Pianelle, Palazzo dell’Università (1478) and the beautiful Palazzo Stabile.
The City’s territory produces a good DOC wine, that is, Martina Franca.

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