57km (36 miles) NW of Brindisi, 15km (9 miles) SE of Alberobello, 32km (20 miles) NE of Taranto, 524km (326 miles) SE of Rome
This town with its Moorish flavor is still part of the Trulli District. Its earliest settlers fled from the coastal cities to escape Saracen attacks in the 10th century and founded this town, which still retains its ancient squares. Ignore the high-rises around the city and concentrate on its core from the Middle Ages, which makes a trip here worthwhile.
From the train station walk up the Viale della Libertà to Corso Italia, which you follow to the town center. Our favorite square is the Piazza Roma, the center of which is the mammoth Palazzo Ducale, 32 Piazza Roma, from 1688. Today it is the city hall. Sometimes you can go inside, at least in the morning. There are some classical 18th-century Arcadian murals, though it's no great loss if the building is closed. When it's open, there is no admission charge.
The Martina Franca Tourist Office is also in the Palazzo Ducale (tel. 080-4805702) open year-round Monday to Saturday 9am to 1pm. On Tuesday and Thursday it is also open 4 to 7pm.
From here take the narrowing Via Vittorio Emanuele to the heart of the old town and the Piazza Plebiscito, dominated by an 18th-century church Chiesa di San Martino (tel. 080-4306536). A bell tower still survives from a Romanesque church that once stood here. Free admission; the church is open daily 8am to 12:30pm and 4:30 to 8pm.
You can continue your tour to the adjoining Piazza Immacolata, at which point you can go left onto Via Cavour [STST]. This street has a certain charm, filled as it is with baroque palazzi and balconies. From belvedere points in the town, you can take in a view of Valle d'Intria, with its trulli-dotted plains.
There is a rail link from Alberobello, with trains departing from Piazza Stazione in Alberobello and arriving in Martina Franca at Via della Stazione. The trip takes only 15 minutes, costing 1€ ($1.45) one-way. For more information and schedules, call tel. 800-079090.