The historical origins of Martina Franca go back to the X century, when refugees from the Saracen devastation of Taranto built a village on Monte Saint Martin. In 1300, the village was extended by Philip of Anjoum the Prince of Taranto, who offered privileges and "franchigie" (tax exemption) to whoever chose to live here: from the latter is derived the original name of the town, "Franca".
Situated on a highlying slope of the Trulli Murgia, in a favourable position, Martina Franca is famous above all for its old town which is dominated by masterly Baroque buildings. Of particular interest is the Collegiata of S. Martino (1747-75) whose facade is overpowering and contains a portal decorated by a high-relief sculpture of St. Martin and the poor.
The interior houses some rich multi.coloured marble altars, a "pulpi" carved by Domenico Semeraro and a precious 1804 " Last Supper" by Carella, The church of San Domenico, contains the lovely"Madonna of the Rosary", also by Domenico Cazrella (1776).
Otherr churches of note include: S. Antonio, a XV century Gothic building with a Baroque superstructure; the XV century S. Vito dei Greci, with a rusticated facade; the Del Carmine Church (1739), topped off by a cupola; and the 1685 church of St. Francis of Assisi.
One should also visit the many BAroque buildings (the Palazzo Fanelli, Blasi and Motolese), all enhanced by loggias decorates in wrought iron.
In the triangular Piazza Roma, brought alive by its gardens and Dolphin Fountain, stands the Ducal Palace. This structure was built by Petraccone V Caracciolo in 1669 on the site of the ancient castle constructed in 1338 by Raimondello Orsini. Today, the Palazzo houses the town Council and the technologically equipped "Isidoro Chirulli", town library.
The most Outstanding of the magnificent internal chambers is the "Sala dell'Arcadia", in which one can admire the fabolous paintings of Domenico Carella.
Outside the town, on the road for Locorotondo stands the Capuchin Church (1590-1690), containing some superb carvings and inland work, maybe by Semeraro.
Moving south, past picturesque villas and lowlying vineyards, whose architectural richness and intense green create a vivid contrast with the redness of the earth, one reaches the Orimini crossroads (443m) and the southern limit of the Murgua. Here one can visit the church of the Madonna del Pozzo and the San Paolo Health Resort.