Martina Franca – The Jewel of Central Puglia

By admin | May 16, 2016 | Posted in: Borgo Egnazia

Martina Franca is a relatively large, historic settlement in the Taranto province of Puglia. Bordering Bari and not far from Brindisi, Martina Franca has a population of approximately 50,000 inhabitants. The town is the third that is situated in the Valle d’ Itria, with relative close proximity to Locorotondo and Alberobello. Visitors of Puglia’s central, alluringly resplendent beauty spots often choose Martina Franco as a climactic end to the historic, listed and protected towns around the ‘Valle d’ Itria’ area.

Under forty minutes away from the stunningly chic, sympathetically-built Borgo Egnazia resort, the municipality of Martina Franca is a must-see for the Apulian roamer of reconnaissance. Second only in size to Taranto itself, both travel guides and history books of the past are overwhelmed with wonder and admiration of this startlingly ornate old town.

The moniker, Martina Franca, represents the town’s patron saint, St. Martin, and images of his legend are found on many of the town’s churches. The light stone buildings, winding alleys and extravagant, ornate decoration makes Martina Franca an essential stop-off for Puglian exploration. Photographers, both amateur and professional, unite in the ancient town centre where the undeniably photogenic, baroque culminations of historic buildings stand tall and decadently proud.

Regardless of personal taste, the ‘old town’ centre or, the ‘centro storico’ cannot be described as understated, nor fail to impress the most modern of minimalists. Visitors enter the ‘centro storico’ open-mouthed, sun-kissed and blessed by the saints, strutting through the town’s grand archway, named the ‘Arco di Sant’ or the ‘Porto Santo Stefano’. These ostentatious gates lead to an open piazza area dominated by the stately, beautiful civic town hall building, the ‘Palazzo Ducale’. The grand building has stood since 1668, once home to the dukes and noble men of golden years and a flourishing past. It is now used daily by the people and admirers of Martina Franca as a rather sublime library and tourist office.

Wandering around Wonderland –  The Historic ‘Lama’

The ‘Lama’ area forms the oldest part of Martina Franca, and many visitors choose to roam without a guide book or a map. It would be wise to keep looking around, both up and ahead to fully ingest and consume the southern Italian warmth and romantic atmosphere of the ancestral town. With a classical mix of pale stone buildings, the sheer spectrum of colonial and religious embellishment upon each doorway, path and corner is truly prodigious. Alongside the grand baroque town houses and palaces, are the many regionally-authentic pointed ‘cummerse’ and ‘trulli’, recognised respectively by their pointed and cone shaped rafters and spires. The Lama seems to squash every inch of stone and gable available with chaotic perfection. Beyond the greenery and endless balconies with billowing laundry and chattering, is a conflicting backdrop of fading palaces, statues, with saintly images and omnipresent stone cherubs cherishing your every move.

Clearly suited to the romantic, whimsical visitor, Martina Franca also holds an annual classical opera festival, or the ‘Festival della Valle d’Itria’, each July. This unmissable event runs through to August, and further orchestral concerts are held in St Martin’s Church as well as the Palazzo Ducale. For the serious opera enthusiast, this yearly celebration will transfix the starry-eyed music lover and Italian dreamer in us all.

Excursions to Martina Franca are offered conveniently by the Borgo Egnazia resort, upon request and organised offers at the resort’s main reception, or alternatively the town can be easily reached by rail or hire car, depending on how much one might wish to pack in to one day of exploration in and around the Valle d’Itria’s towns and villages. There are many travel guides that also feature the chance to visit the outskirts of town, many leading to the famous grand farming-estates known as ‘Masserie’. Considering the wealth of sights, sounds and cuisine available on every corner, guests already sampling the Borgo Egnazia creature comforts may wish to immerse themselves fully in the unforgettable, stunning surroundings of this historically exquisite Apulian town.

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