Martina Franca

At 14 kms. from the house, well visible on the horizon beyond the swimming pool, lies Martina Franca, another of the pearls in the crown of the Valle d'Itria. The term "Franca" indicates the status of a free township Philip of Anjou awarded it in 1310. Renowned for its baroque architecture and the music Festival of the Valled'Itria whose operas and concerts are organized in the courtyard of the former ducal palace (now town hall) and other historical locations. Its history goes back to the Middle Ages. Martina Franca has been involved in many historical events, such as the war between the Swabes and the Angevin empire. From the fifteenth century the town included a jewish community; the "giudecca" was located in what today are Via degli Orfanelli, via Capelletti and Vico Montedoro.

One can visit the many churches and admire the palazzi of the local rich past and present while taking a walk in the winding streets of the old center. The building style is “vertical:” shops on the ground level, kitchens on the first floor, sleeping quarters on the higher floors that are often connected by balconies. On top of the houses Greek-style terraces that may extend for several buildings and that are, or were, used for drying tomatoes, figs and other fruits and vegetables. The rainwater was collected in cisterns excavated in the rock. In the course of the centuries the various social classes gathered in the religious confraternities, eight of which are still active today. More recently, in the period of the Mazzini-inspired upheavals during the first half of the 19th century, two political confraternities were founded. Martina is also the home of donkey and stud farms (the Murgia horse variety). From a more prosperous industrial past some clothing manufactures have survived. Local produce includes white Martina DOC wine, capocollo (rolled pork shoulder from animals that range freely in the Macedonian-oak woods marinated in wine or concentrated must and smoked with almond or beech wood), “bombette” (skewered stuffed meat rolls) and bocconotti (local cream-filled pastry). The weekly market on Wednesday morning is particularly lively and varied.