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
vote from the previous year, passed under the Reign of Italy
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
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.