Like many towns in Puglia’s idyllic countryside, Martina Franca is a mish-mash of winding alleyways and decorative archways. Arguably already one of the prettiest locations in the region during the daytime, at golden hour it takes on subtle glow, with soft light bouncing off its whitewashed houses, baroque buildings and rococo palaces. One of a trio of intriguing towns within 15km of each other - the others being Alberobello and Locorotondo - this is a fantastic one to use as a base for exploring the surrounding areas.
As stunning on the outside as it is on the inside, the Basilica di San Martino might be a little grand for such a small town, but it’s undeniably beautiful and incredibly peaceful. Look out for the gold statue of San Martino, the patron saint of Martina Franca, on the high altar.
The imposing Palazzo Ducale, which was built in the 1660s and for years was used as a noble residence; today, it houses local government offices and a museum that explains the history of the building and the area. The Palazzo’s intricately painted walls are particularly notable.
Olive oil is one of the defining exports of this region, and this will be as fresh and tasty as you will find anywhere. L'Acropoli di Puglia, which has been run by the same family since 1889, provides a particularly personal tour.
Try some very local wine at the I Pastini vineyard - just 2km outside town, it’s the perfect place to take a tour, do some sampling and eat some nibbles.
Locorotondo - When people think of Italy, they often think of scooters whizzing through cobbled streets, elderly men catching up in the late afternoon sun, colourful flowers spilling from window boxes. Of course, in the country’s major cities this kind of lifestyle is long gone, but over in the tiny town of Locorotondo it’s very much alive and well. Although there is not much in the way of ‘attractions’ here, it deserves a day trip for the gloriously nostalgic simplicity of it.
Alberobello - If Locorotondo is exactly what you expect of Italy, then Alberobello is the polar opposite. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s most famous for its trulli - bright, whitewashed houses with pointy cone roofs that look a little like inhabitable molehills. With over 1500 of them lining the streets, the oldest of which are believed to date from the mid-14th century, Alberobello boasts the highest concentration and best preserved trulli anywhere in Italy.
Every summer Martina Franca holds the Festival della Valle d'Itria, an opera festival with performances taking place on a stage inside the courtyard of the Palazzo Ducale.
Brindisi is the nearest airport and is well served by budget airlines from throughout Europe. Martina Franca also has train services to Alberobello, Bari, Taranto and Lecce.