Puglia is famous for its Caribbean beaches and pristine sea, but there is something special about the hinterland that fascinates many.
Martina Franca is a baroque-style town in the Valle d'Itria, with about 47,000 inhabitants in the province of Taranto. Its territory occupies a part of the Valle d'Itria, about 400 meters above the sea, on the hills on the border between the provinces of Bari and Brindisi.
Martina Franca is located in one of the most fascinating places in Puglia, the Valle d'Itria, a short distance from Locorotondo, Fasano and the Trulli of Alberobello. These are territories rich in history and ancient traditions, located in a strategic position halfway between the Adriatic and Ionian seas.
Indeed, it is here that it is possible to find the cultural, archaeological and food and wine roots that have made the "heel of Italy" famous all over the world.
Martina Franca what to see
The city of Martina Franca is a real pearl for art and history lovers, and offers many things to see. Its charming streets and historic buildings offer a fascinating insight into the city's ancient past.
Martina Franca fascinates with its Martinese Baroque architecture and the presence of historic churches of great artistic and spiritual value.
The best things to see in Martina Franca are:
- Basilica of San Martino
- Palazzo Ducale
- Church of the Beata Vergine del Carmine
- Church of Sant'Antonio da Padova
- Church of San Vito
- Palazzo Turnone
- Pianelle Park Museum
- Museum of the Basilica of San Martino - MuBa
- Philip I of Anjou Museum
- Cave of Monte Fellone
- Municipal Villa
Basilica of San Martino
The Basilica of San Martino is the sublime expression of the wonderful Baroque style that characterizes Martina Franca.
This extraordinary building was erected in the second half of the 18th century on the will of the archpriest Isidoro Chirulli. Walking through the picturesque narrow streets of the centre, one inevitably finds oneself enraptured by the grandeur of this church.
The facade, adorned with the statue of the patron saint, fascinates with its grandeur and suggestiveness. White marbles lend a distinctive touch, while a scene depicting piety and brotherhood unfolds: the saint shares his cloak with a beggar.
The interior of the church is a true treasure chest of artistic treasures, enriched by the works of talented local artists. The paintings by Carella and the crib created by Stefano da Putignano are just some of the splendid masterpieces that you can admire.
Furthermore, there is no shortage of precious relics of the martyr Santa Comasia, which give this church a reputation for unparalleled beauty in the south. In addition to the Basilica of San Martino, there are numerous other churches that are worth a visit.
However, among the most significant, Sant'Antonio ai Cappuccini and the Church of the Beata Vergine del Carmine stand out.
Continuing the cultural journey through the history of the city, you will come across Piazza Roma, where the famous Palazzo Ducale stands out.
Inside this splendid building you can admire the fascinating tempera paintings distributed in the three thematic rooms: Arcadia, myth and the Bible.
The Palazzo Ducale is an imposing structure dating back to the second half of the 17th century, which was commissioned by the eighth Duke of Martina, Petracone V Caracciolo, and was built on the remains of the ancient castle of Raimondello del Balzo Orsini, dating back to 1338.
The facade of the Doge's Palace is an example of refined Baroque style, while the interior is enriched by a large staircase that leads to a Baroque portal, which leads to the precious halls of the Palazzo
Among these, the suggestive Chapel of the Dukes, the Arcadia Room, the Myth Room and the Bible Room stand out, each with its own atmosphere and works of art of great value.
Church of the Beata Vergine del Carmine
The Church of the Beata Vergine del Carmine houses an unmissable masterpiece: the polychrome statue of Santa Maria della Misericordia, created by the renowned Apulian artist Stefano da Putignano.
This work of art is truly extraordinary and deserves special consideration. The Church of Sant'Antonio, on the other hand, dating back to the 16th century, is a treasure trove of spectacular cabinet-making altars.
Inside there is a fresco of the Madonna Odegitria, from which the name of the Valle d'Itria derives. In reality, exploring this church is like immersing yourself in an art gallery, given the extraordinary wealth of canvases on display.
Church of Sant'Antonio da Padova
The Church of Sant'Antonio da Padova, originally dedicated to Santo Stefano, was built in the 15th century by the Observant Franciscans. Over the centuries, it has undergone several changes, including the reconstruction of the facade in a neoclassical style in 1835.
Inside the church, there are two precious sculptures created by Stefano da Putignano: one dedicated to Santo Stefano and the other dedicated to Sant'Antonio. These works of art represent an important example of Stefano da Putignano's artistry and add significant value to the church's heritage.
In the suggestive cloister of the Church of Sant'Antonio da Padova, it is also possible to admire some eighteenth-century frescoes which further enrich the atmosphere of this sacred place.
Church of San Vito
The Church of San Vito, located in the historic center between via Ignazio Ciaia and via Mazzini, is one of the oldest structures in Martina Franca. Despite the lack of a precise date, it is believed to have been built between the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th century.
The imposing Church of San Vito stands out for its ashlar facade and the suggestive bell gable. Inside, one can admire a single nave that exudes an atmosphere of great spirituality.
During the 18th century, the interiors of the church were beautifully decorated in the Baroque style, giving them a sumptuous and glamorous look.
The Church of San Vito represents one of the oldest testimonies of Martina Franca, located in the heart of the historic center.
With its imposing ashlar facade, bell gable and Baroque-decorated interior, the church offers a spiritual and artistic experience of great value.
In addition to the Palazzo Ducale, the historic center of Martina Franca offers a wide choice of sumptuous noble palaces.
One of the buildings in the historic center of Martina Franca that attracts the attention of visitors is undoubtedly Palazzo Turnone, which currently houses the Conservatory of Santa Maria della Misericordia.
This is one of the oldest buildings in the city, dating back to the Angevin period, its majesty is an expression of the power that the homonymous Martinese family exercised over the city.
Pianelle Park Museum
The Museo del Parco delle Pianelle in Martina Franca is housed in the suggestive 18th century Palazzo Ducale. Inside this fascinating building, it is possible to admire evidence of the rich environmental heritage of the Pianelle Natural Park. This unique park, located between Massafra, Cristiano and Martina Franca, represents a special ecosystem characterized by a typically Mediterranean flora.
The Museo delle Pianelle was established in 1999 with the aim of creating a scientific-didactic structure that would allow the public to fully appreciate and understand the wonders of the Natural Park. The museum is an important introduction to visiting the nature reserve, offering an informative and educational context for exploring the protected area.
The Museo del Parco delle Pianelle, located in the suggestive Palazzo Ducale of Martina Franca, represents a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural heritage of the Pianelle Natural Park. Thanks to this scientific-educational museum, visitors can appreciate and understand the exceptional nature of this Mediterranean ecosystem.
On the second floor of the Palazzo, a modern multifunctional structure of the Museum offers an illustration of the landscape and cultural riches of the Pianelle Reserve. This exhibition space has been designed to provide a comprehensive overview of the natural and cultural wonders present in the reserve.
Museum of the Basilica of San Martino - MuBa
The Muba-Museum of the Basilica of San Martino, located in the heart of the historic center of Martina Franca, is an authentic treasure trove of art.
Inside this historic museum, housed in the evocative 18th-century Palazzo Stabile, visitors can admire an extraordinary collection of high-quality liturgical furnishings and precious documents that tell the story of over five hundred years of Martina Franca and its Collegiate Church.
The museum, inserted in the cultural insula of the Basilica, represents an essential point of reference for those who want to immerse themselves in the history and art of this fascinating city.
Philip I of Anjou Museum
The Ducal Palace of Martina Franca houses the second museum of the city, dedicated to Philip I of Anjou. This museum is an unmissable stop for lovers of contemporary art inspired by the Martinese area.
The Museum of Philip I of Anjou, located inside the suggestive Palazzo Ducale, offers an extraordinary exhibition of contemporary works of art.
These works have been created by artists who have drawn inspiration from the Martina Franca area, making the museum a place for the discovery and appreciation of contemporary art linked to the local culture and landscape.
Cave of Monte Fellone
The municipality of Martina Franca and the surrounding area have very ancient historical origins. The territory of Martina Franca hosts the suggestive Grotta Fellone, whose historical importance is testified by the finds discovered during excavation campaigns in the 60s. This cave was inhabited by man in the Middle Neolithic and sporadically in the Bronze Age.
Excavations have revealed that the ancient inhabitants of Grotta Fellone were involved in horse breeding, a rather unusual aspect in southern Italy and practically unique in Puglia.
Another important element in the area are the mirrors, among which the famous Specchia Tarantina stands out. These mirrors, present in the area, were used in the past to delimit and protect the borders between the Messapian and Taranto peoples.
Especially in the summer period it is very pleasant to cross the municipal park of Martina Franca, getting lost along the shaded paths embellished by the marble fountains.
The indisputable neoclassical taste of the constraints gives the villa an idyllic atmosphere and offers the visitor a pleasant sensation of detachment from the more chaotic and busy streets of the centre.
What to see in Martina Franca
The city of Martina Franca is practically an open-air museum, with excavations and artistic testimonies starting from the Palaeolithic, through the Middle Ages to the present day.
The most beautiful things to see in Martina Franca are:
- Old Town
- Basilica of San Martino
- Ducal Palace
- Stately buildings
- Municipal Villa
- visit the Pianelle Wood Museum
- visit the Museum of Philip I of Anjou
- visit to the Museum of the Basilica of San Martino (MuBa)
What to do in Martina Franca
A walk through the historic center of Martina Franca will allow you to appreciate the ancient splendor of the city, gained thanks to the rich trafficking of farms and agricultural productions to which the production of ceramics and sculptures of local limestone have been added.
Among the things to do in Martina Franca there are:
- stroll through the historic cente
- stroll through the "Bosco delle Pianelle" Nature Reserve
- visit the artisan pottery workshops
- visit the local limestone sculptors
- visit the Trulli in the Itria Valley
- participate in Music Festivals
- participate in festivals
Events in Martina Franca
Many events are held in Martina Franca during the year, some of international importance that take place every year.
Among the types of events organized in Martina Franca it is possible to participate in cultural events, religious events, traditional and folk festivals.
Fairs, festivals or markets are also periodically held to enliven the streets of Martina Franca with visitors from all over the world.
The most important events held in Martina Franca are:
- Itria Valley Festival
- Fair of San Martino
- The Nine Lamps
- Weekly market
- Sao Paulo Fair
- Christmas in Martina Franca
Itria Valley Festival
The Valle d'Itria Festival is held every year in Martina Franca from July to August and is dedicated to opera, chamber music and ballet. The festival presents high-level shows with international artists in the evocative setting of the Palazzo Ducale or in the countryside farmhouses in the Itria Valley.
The Itria Valley Festival, established in 1774 thanks to the contribution of Paolo Grassi, founder of the small theater in Milan, superintendent of the staircase and president of Rai, had the aim of creating an original musical event in his hometown.
Since its first edition, the Festival has been distinctly characterized by the search for new ways in the expression of Italian melodrama in its bel canto style, recalling the period from Monteverdi to the early nineteenth century.
Fair of San Martino
San Martino, patron saint of Martina Franca, is celebrated every year with a religious event of great importance which is accompanied by the grandiose Fiera di San Martino.
During this fiesta, the city comes alive with processions, cultural events, musical performances and fireworks, creating an atmosphere of joy and fun.
The Fiera di San Martino, established in 1609 by the duke of Martina Giambattista II di Caracciolo on the occasion of his first official visit to the city, originally extended for nine days, from 11 to 19 November.
Over time, it has become the most important fair in the Murgia area and, although it is now limited to just one day, it continues to be a highly anticipated and attended event.
The Nine Lamps
The Nine Lamps event is an important celebration in Martina Franca, which takes place from December 16th to 24th, offering an enchanting and engaging atmosphere.
At dawn, while the city is immersed in sleep, the devotees set out on their way to the church of San Domenico in the charming historic center, despite the rain or snow, to participate in the solemn mass in honor of the Child Jesus. Each day during this nine-day period, a new lamp was lit, leading up to Christmas Eve.
Even today, just like in the past, the faithful gather in the same church at six in the morning for nine consecutive days, preserving this ancient tradition. Through Christmas carols, they recall the joyful birth of Jesus, keeping alive the magical atmosphere of this festivity.
"A Quaranten" is a characteristic puppet dressed as an old woman who carries on a long-standing tradition during Lent in Martina Franca.
In the past, during this period of penance, the residents of Martina Franca used to hang a puppet called "a quaranten" along each street. This puppet, dressed as an old woman, was accompanied by an orange, six cutters (typical round dry bread) and a bottle of wine. This setup served as a constant reminder of the withdrawal period one was going through.
The "quarantine" puppet remained hung until ten o'clock on Holy Saturday, when it was shot down by some men and then burned. This ceremony marks the end of the bond of abstinence.
The tradition is still perpetuated today, with the burning of the "quarantine" which takes place in a small square in the historic center. It is a significant moment that allows us to preserve the legacy of this ancient practice and pay homage to local traditions.
Every Wednesday, the town hosts a lively weekly market. It is an opportunity to shop for local products, such as fruit, vegetables, cheese, clothing and handicrafts. The market is also a meeting place for locals and visitors.
Sao Paulo Fair
On June 29, the fair of San Paolo is held, in honor of the patron saint of shoemakers. During this fair, handcrafted footwear exhibitions, traditional music and dance performances, stalls and visitor attractions take place.
Christmas in Martina Franca
During the Christmas season, the city lights up with festive lights and a Christmas market is organised. There are plays, concerts, live nativity scenes and other Christmas-related activities.
For more specific information on past events, I suggest you consult local sources or websites dedicated to promoting tourism in the city.
Itria Valley Festival in Martina Franca
The Valle d'Itria festival is the most important Opera and classical music event in the Puglia region. Every summer, in Martina Franca, a series of spectacular concerts takes place for more than a month. The enchanting places of the city or the suggestive palaces, as well as the characteristic surrounding countryside and farms, are the setting for this extraordinary festival.
In 1974, the festival came to life as a laboratory, but today it is much more. An immersive experience that combines audience, content and environment. To fully understand it, one must experience the whole event and listen to the music in buildings full of history and meaning.
Appointments 2023 Itria Valley Festival in Martina Franca:
|Tuesday 18 July||21||IL TURCO IN ITALIA||Palazzo Ducale|
|Wednesday 19 July||21||L’ADORABLE BEL-BOUL||Chiostro San Domenico|
|Thursday 20 July||21||L’ADORABLE BEL-BOUL||Chiostro San Domenico|
|Friday 21 July||21||OPERA AL CINEMA||Teatro Verdi|
|Friday 21 July||21||IL CANTO DEGLI ULIVI||Masseria Palesi (Martina Franca)|
|Saturday 22 July||17||CONCERTI DEL SORBETTO||Chiostro San Domenico|
|Saturday 22 July||21||L’ORAZIO||Teatro Verdi|
|Sunday 23 July||21||IL CANTO DEGLI ULIVI||Leonardo Trulli Resort (Locorotondo)|
|Monday 24 July||21||CONCERTO PER LO SPIRITO (FREE!)||Basilica San Martino|
|Tuesday 25 July||21||L’ORAZIO||Teatro Verdi|
|Wednesday 26 July||21||IL PAESE DEI CAMPANELLI||Palazzo Ducale|
|Thursday 27 July||21||RECITAL||Palazzo Ducale|
|Thursday 27 July||21||IL CANTO DEGLI ULIVI||Masseria Casavola (Martina Franca)|
|Friday 28 July||21||IL PAESE DEI CAMPANELLI||Palazzo Ducale|
|Saturday 29 July||17||CONCERTI DEL SORBETTO||Chiostro San Domenico|
|Saturday 29 July||21||CONCERTO SINFONICO||Palazzo Ducale|
|Sunday 30 July||-||Annual conference of Europäische Musiktheater-Akademie (EMA)||Martina Franca|
|Sunday 30 July||21||IL PAESE DEI CAMPANELLI||Palazzo Ducale|
|Monday 31 July||-||Annual conference of Europäische Musiktheater Akademie (EMA)||Martina Franca|
|Monday 31 July||21||IL CANTO DEGLI ULIVI||Masseria Capece (Cisternino)|
|Tuesday 1 August||21||IL TURCO IN ITALIA||Palazzo Ducale|
|Wednesday 2 August||21||GLI UCCELLATORI||Teatro Verdi|
|Thursday 3 August||21||MUSICAL BAND OF THE AIR FORCE||Palazzo Ducale|
|Friday 4 August||21||IL TURCO IN ITALIA||Palazzo Ducale|
|Saturday 5 August||17||CONCERTI DEL SORBETTO||Chiostro San Domenico|
|Saturday 5 August||21||GLI UCCELLATORI||Teatro Verdi|
|Sunday 6 August||21||IL TURCO IN ITALIA||Palazzo Ducale|
Where the Valle d'Itria Festival takes place
At the Valle d'Itria Festival, the historic buildings of Martina Franca are transformed into fascinating outdoor spaces, rather than showing off their sumptuous halls. This choice, together with the start time of the performances, usually after 21:00, is motivated by the high summer temperatures, often over 30 degrees Celsius.
The heart of the Festival is the vast courtyard of the Palazzo Ducale, currently used as the town hall. Seating nearly a thousand, it offers a wide and tall stage, though not particularly deep. This is where the big productions come to life, while during the intermission the public hastily makes their way to the bars of the square, challenging the late tourists and locals strolling the streets. The busiest hours are after ten.
For some representations evocative 18th century country villas, Masserie, located a short distance from the town are used. These locations proved to be the ideal setting for the Opera, thanks to the ancient walls and large courtyards steeped in history.
From the center of Martina Franca, in a few minutes you are immersed in a singularly disordered agricultural landscape, with its ancient olive groves enclosed by characteristic dry-stone walls and the fascinating stone shelters called Trulli (many of which have been transformed into picturesque, although sometimes uncomfortable, dwellings ). The multiple conical domes of the Trulli evoke the image of a community that gathers within them.
The anticipation for opera festivals in Italy is often associated with grandeur: big egos, famous names, jeweled audiences and settings worthy of a Visconti film, perhaps with a Roman amphitheater in a tourist area. However, the Valle d'Itria Festival does not try to meet these expectations.
Repertoire of the Valle d'Itria Festival
The festival's repertoire focuses on rare works from the bel canto period, ranging from Monteverdi to Bellini. Over the years, more and more importance has been attached to authentic period performance, especially from a musical point of view.
In the production, the directors bring a touch of freshness to the works by involving the most daring Italian theater teams. This is due to the fact that many of the plays performed have not been staged for a long time and deserve a revival that makes them exciting and enthralling.
The Opera's renewal experiment also involves the singers who participate in it. Among them we find experienced professionals, such as Carmela Remigio, an established protagonist of Italian opera houses for over a quarter of a century, but also many young emerging talents who take advantage of the opportunity to gain experience in the field.
In Martina Franca, an Accademia del Bel Canto is held parallel to the festival, which is responsible for providing numerous minor and substitute roles. Participants of the academy also offer a series of evening concerts, known as "sorbet concerts", during which the audience is treated to a free sorbet at the end of the performance.