Thursday, 2 October 2014

Martina Franca

 Arco di San Antonio

Our visit to Martina Franca started badly as we couldn't find the usual signs to the centro storico and when we did stumble to its outskirts, it took some time to find the way in. However, as veteran tourists we eventually worked it out and were lucky to be able park nearby Martina Franca being particularly traffic-choked.

We set out from the Piazza XX Settembre, collecting a map from the Tourist Office conveniently located in the corner and passed through the Arco di San Antonio of 1764.  Immediately on the right is the massive Palazzo Ducale, built in 1668 on the site of an earlier castle.

 We continued along the main street, the Corso Victor Emanuele, and looked for the Palazzo Stabile. And got lost a maze of small streets. This apparently is a normal experience in Martina Franca.

The Corso brings you into the wonderful Piazzo Plebiscito. On the right is the Palazzo del'Universita, with the lovely Municipal Clock Tower on one side.

When you turn round, the Baroque 18th century Basilica of San Martino, the town's patron saint, dominates the square.

Piazzo Plebiscito flows into Piazza Maria Immacolta with the imposing and beautiful Palazza Fanelli/Torricella facing you.

 Turn around and you are looking at the Portici (porticos), with the Basilica in the background.

We carried in the same direction through smaller and quieter streets, passing the only plain church in Martina Franca, the 14th century San Nicolo. The interior is reassuringly Baroque however.

More tiny winding streets led us emerge from the old town to see another Baroque gem, the 18th century Carmine. We had already seen in our earlier drive around the periphery of the centro storico.

We re-entered the centro storico and continued our meandering path to reach the San Nicola gate, through which we could see another external church which we had encountered on our wanderings: San Francesco.

Our final gate was the Porta San Pietro, outside which was the best-preserved of the towers which once guarded the many gates. The walls and towers were built by the Angevins in the 14th and 15th centuries.

We headed back to the central piazzas and on the way we were surprised to turn a corner and be confronted by the fine facade of the Palazzo Casavola/Marinosci in the narrow street.

Conditions: warm and mostly sunny.

Distance: about 2 miles.

Rating: four stars.

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