In the low hills of Puglia, Martina Franca is a gleaming jewel. Established by coastal dwellers who fled the Saracen attacks, it was enriched and expanded in the 1600s when the powerful nobility built the Castello degli Orsini, and the town crowded in around it. The white-washed town is characterized by Baroque architecture and gives off an air of elegance. Enter the historic center through the ancient gateway where you'll find affluent-looking homes that line the pretty narrow streets that lead to various piazzas. Balconies and archways intersperse with flower boxes. Shops, boutiques and cafes beckon. In the old Lama district you'll find little homes huddled up sporting pointy roofs, a peculiar architectural style here.
The Palazzo Ducale is the grand civic building housing the town hall, library and tourist office. The one-time noble palace was inhabited by dukes of the Carraciolo family who presided over the entire territory. The Basilica of San Martino is dedicated to the town's patron saint and namesake, decked out in grandiose Baroque splendor of the 17th century.
The surrounding countryside is dotted with interesting Puglian structures known as masserie and trulli. Masserie were fortified farmhouses, similar to Spanish hacienda with an interior courtyard all walled in. Trulli are conical-roofed homes found only in this area. The landscape is covered in olive groves and wineries.
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