things to do in martina franca

Martina Franca, or simply Martina, is one of the most beautiful ‘white towns’ in the region of Puglia in southern Italy. Nestled in the heart of the Itria Valley (Val D’Itria) in central Puglia, Martina Franca has a lovely old town filled with whitewashed houses, resplendent Baroque architecture and picturesque lanes. It’s a town with plenty of local charm. Wander around its age-old alleys and you’ll hear lively chatter emanating from one of the wine bars, see laundry hanging from the balconies and kids playing football in a little square fronted by an impressive Baroque church. There are lots of things to see in Martina Franca and the best way to experience this town is to simply walk around its maze of streets, alleys and piazzas.

things to see in martina franca
Martina Franca

Exploring Martina Franca – a walking route

Founded in the 10th century, Martina Franca is one of the ‘white towns’ of Puglia. It’s not as well-known as other towns in Puglia such as Alberobello, Ostuni and Lecce, but that’s no reason to skip it. Martina Franca is absolutely worth a visit, if you ask me. It’s less touristy than some other places in the Itria Valley, has a wonderful local vibe and it’s a delight to explore. In fact, I would say that it’s one of my top places in Puglia to visit! Furthermore, being in the centre of the Itria Valley, it’s the perfect base from which to see the rest of the valley.

Things to see in Martina Franca

Martina Franca’s old town can easily be seen in a few hours on foot as it’s very compact. If you’re visiting Martina Franca by car, I recommend parking at the public parking lot at Piazza Francesco Crispi. From here, it’s a short walk along Villa Garibaldi park to Porta di Santo Stefano, one of the town’s four historic gates.

Palazzo Ducale

As you pass through Porta di Santo Stefano, you’ll see the imposing 17th century Palazzo Ducale (the city hall) and the Piazza Roma. If it’s open, I recommend visiting the Palazzo (free entrance) to see its ornate rooms, frescoes and stunning chandeliers.

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Ceiling frescoes in the Palazzo Ducale (image courtesy of N.Porretiello/Wikimedia Commons)

From Piazza Roma, I recommend walking along Via Vittorio Emanuele. Notice the lovely Baroque façades of the buildings and townhouses, and the gorgeous iron-lace balconies.

what to see in martina franca
A street in Martina Franca
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Via Vittorio Emanuele
Look out for architectural gems in the side streets.

Piazza Plebiscito

You’ll soon arrive at one of the grandest piazzas in Martina Franca: Piazza Plebiscito. Fronting the square is the Basilica di San Martino, and next to it stands Palazzo dell’Università, with its 18th century clock tower.

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Piazza Plebiscito

Basilica di San Martino

The Basilica di San Martino (locals often refer to it as the Duomo or Cathedral) is arguably Martina Franca’s most iconic monument. This 18th century basilica features an elegant, sand-coloured façade in the Baroque style that’s especially beautiful in the soft light of the late-afternoon sun.

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Basilica di San Martino

Step inside to admire the paintings, altar and side chapels.

Martina Franca Cathedral
Inside the Basilica di San Martino

Piazza Maria Immacolata

A short distance from Piazza Plebiscito lies, in my opinion, the most beautiful piazza of Martina Franca: Piazza Maria Immacolata. Also called Piazza dei Portici, this square is lined by grand buildings in a semi-circular form. An arcade of graceful arches hugs the square and provides shade for the various cafés and restaurants. It’s a wonderful place to sit back, have a drink or meal and watch the world go by.

Martina Franca piazza
Piazza Maria Immacolata

La Lama

Just south of the main squares lies the La Lama neighbourhood. Once the poorest part of the town, La Lama is these days a charming area with gleaming white houses and cobbled lanes. Martina Franca is one of the citta bianche (white towns) of Puglia, a distinction owed largely to this whitewashed neighbourhood.

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La Lama

It’s the perfect place to get lost for an hour or so. My advice is to simply follow your instincts in La Lama’s winding alleys and soak up the wonderful atmosphere. Or you can follow my suggested Martina Franca walking route in the map above. 🙂

beautiful street in martina franca
Get lost in the old town of Martina Franca and discover gorgeous lanes like this.
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Loved this green door!

Church of St. Dominic

One more point of interest in Martina Franca is the Church of St. Dominic. Located in a quiet street, this church, with its imposing Baroque exterior, is just stunning.

Martina Franca baroque churches
Church of St. Dominic

Where to eat in Martina Franca

Martina Franca is famous for its cuisine and there’s a big variety of restaurants and trattorias that serve local specialties. One of my favourites is Garibaldi Bistrot at Piazza Plebiscito. Another lunch spot I can recommend is Caseificio Gentile at Piazza Maria Immacolata.

where to eat in martina franca
Delicious food at Garibaldi Bistrot

For a more higher-end experience, check out Ristorante Four Seasons (Via Giuseppe Garibaldi 17/18). In the La Lama neighbourhood, my favourite eatery is Osteria del Coco Pazzo (Via Arco Mastrovito 18). Ask for the local specialty ‘capocollo’, a cured pork salami.

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Osteria del Coco Pazzo

Where to stay in Martina Franca

Martina Franca can easily be visited as a (half) day trip. However, there are quite a few things to see in Martina Franca and it has a magnetic local vibe that grows on you with time. Furthermore, its central location makes it the perfect base to explore the rest of Val D’Itria.

I made Martina Franca my base each time I visited Val D’Itria. Accommodations I can recommend include Terrazze Sulla Valle, a guesthouse just outside the old town, La Dimora di Nonna Dora, an apartment in the old town and Casa Adele, a lovely 3-star hotel. Search for hotels in Martina Franca (

Read more about Puglia on Velvet Escape.

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