Puglia, the less hectic, unpolished alternative to its more crowded and trendier postal codes up north, is just brimming with hidden gems waiting to be discovered, like Martina Franca.
Orna O’Reilly and I spent another Sunday under the Pugliese sun exploring and eating our way through the centro storico (historical center) of this laid-back, whitewashed city.
With roots dating back to the 10th century, Martina Franca, host to an annual summer opera festival, sits higher than all the other ten municipalities that dot the Valle d’Itria, an undulating region of olive groves, vineyards and superlative kitchens tucked away in southeastern Italy.
Filled with a labyrinth of narrow alleyways that wind underneath intimate archways, bright-white residences adorned with wrought-iron balustrades, colorful shutters and hanging flower pots, elegant baroque monuments and churches, airy piazzas, outdoor cafes and mouthwatering eateries, Martina Franca is the perfect place to while away a Sunday afternoon, or any other day of the week for that matter.
An aperitivo of local Chardonnay frizzante (bubbly) at the Gran Caffè in Piazza XX Settembre kicks off our day along the travertine, followed by a tasty lunch at Stefano Colucci’s Osteria Coco Pazzo — the tortelli pasta filled with ricotta cheese and pumpkin and smothered in a truffle butter sauce are to die for — and ends with a long, leisurely stroll around town in the company of some of Martina Franca’s nearly 50,000 inhabitants.
Only a 20-min. drive from our humble abode on the other side of the Valle d’Itria, we plan to visit Martina Franca frequently to enjoy more of her slow pace and savor more of her delicious slow food.