On two sides, surrounding the apartment we had rented (in fact, all the windows in the apartment overlooked it), there was Villa Comunale Giuseppe Garibaldi. This small public park area was charming during daylight hours, and it was a nice place to relax. In the evening hours, especially on the weekends, the bar/pizzeria/restaurant in the park turned into quite the popular spot with the young people of Martina Franca, but this was not a problem for us, as the apartment was air-conditioned, and we simply kept the windows closed overnight.
The park even had a small trullo in it. Trulli are old habitations, of which we will speak more when we get to our next destination.
Next to the park, in the Piazzetta Sant’Antonio di Padova, there is the small, but lovely Chiesa di Sant’Antonio di Padova. The church, and the convent to the right of it, date from 1497, but were renovated in the 1800’s.
The plaque, underneath the niche with the statue of the Madonna, commemorates the fact that the church was raised to the level of a parish church in 1959.
Leading into the historical city center, Piazza XX Settembre is a lively square, lined with shops and cafés.
At the end of the piazza, you will find the Porta Santo Stefano, also known as the Arco di Sant’Antonio. This was one of the four main city gates, and dates from the fourteenth century. It was renovated in 1764, in the Baroque style. The equestrian statue you see on top of the gate is of Saint Martin, who, legend has it, protected the city against attacks by mercenaries, in 1529.
Once you pass through the gate, you are in the Old Town, with its charming, narrow streets, and Baroque palaces.
As you enter the heart of the Old City, you find yourself in the lovely Piazza Roma. There are numerous items of beauty in this small square, some of which we will return to, at a later time. On the left side of the piazza, there is Palazzo Martucci. Today, the palazzo is still a residence, but now belongs to the De Bernardis family.
It took me three attempts, before I was able to find the Museo della Basilica di San Martino, which is housed in the Palazzo Stabile. I am still not certain what I did wrong. I must have made wrong turns somewhere, as I thought I was following the directions my phone was giving me, which should have been a five-minute walk, but turned into a twenty-minute search through small, but lovely streets. When I did finally find it, I still had no idea where I had gone wrong. Regardless, I decided not to question it, and to just go in, and explore.
The Palazzo Stabile is located in one of the tiny streets behind the Basilica di San Martino, which is the main church of Martina Franca. This had been the home of the Stabile family, of which Francesco Savino Stabile, bishop of Venafro, was a member. The palazzo has been the home of the museum since 2001. The museum displays a collection of treasures, reliquaries, paintings, and vestments, as well as scrolls, papal bulls, and illustrated manuscripts.
Next up: Exploring more of the Historical Center of Martina Franca!
Note: This blog is written in English and Spanish, and the author takes no responsibility for the quality of any other translations that may appear. If you have enjoyed this post, please, check out our archives for more posts from Martina Franca, as well as other Italian destinations. Grazie!