Once a tax-free zone
The demure little town seems to have been drenched in thick cream. You need sunglasses. Only the black wrought-iron balconies with their overhead tracery, billowing candelabra and climbing pink roses have escaped. If Puglia hosted a best-kept town competition, Martina would surely go forward to the national finals and perhaps win. Among numerous masterworks of Baroque art and architecture the façade of the Martino collegiate church is exceptional. Various palazzi, town houses of old-time gentry, vie with each other in the restrained splendour of their ornate loggias. The handsomest is the ducal palace on Piazza Roma, built for the despotic Caracciolo nobles of Naples. The piazza itself is triangular with flower-beds and a dolphin fountain.
Martina was settled by refugees from the coast in the l0thC. The medieval Angevin lords had to bribe people to come and live there – hence ‘Franca’ or freedom from taxes. The place is all the more attractive for being set above the Valle d’ltria’s red earth, white trulli and vast green market-gardens striped with black poly thene.