Golden Day Ninety-Eight: Martina Franca with Catherine Faris of Nuovastoria
It’s a pleasure to connect with Catherine Faris, who turned a dream of living in Italy into a reality. Eighteen years ago she visited Puglia with her husband Brian and three children and they fell in love with it. Today the children have grown, Catherine and Brian have quit their jobs, moved to Italy, and immersed themselves into life in Martina Franca. Catherine beautifully chronicles their experiences on her Nuovastoria blog, bringing us an insider’s experience of the place, with posts such as a recent one about making a traditional Pugliese condiment: Plic e Plac.
In 2013, Catherine and Brian delved deeper into joining in with Puglia’s traditions, launching the Pascarosa company, that exports a prized product of the region–extra virgin olive oil, produced by small farms that use traditional harvesting methods. Their company also offers one day culinary tours, olive harvest and culinary weeks, for travelers to have an authentic and delicious experience of Puglia.
I’m so grateful Catherine is joining in to give her advice for
a Golden Day in Martina Franca:
Martina Franca is a jewel in Puglia’s Valle d’Itria, 30 kilometers from the Adriactic, set on a hill with stunning Baroque architecture. Stop by the tourist office to pick up a walking tour map so that you can discover Martina’s treasures, keeping in mind that many close for a long afternoon lunch break.
Stay at Villaggio In, which offers beautifully furnished self-catering apartments in the historic center=centro storico.
Or if you prefer a more rural experience, close by is Masseria Fumarola, a family farm complete with trulli=cone-shaped roof dwellings for which the Valle d’Itria is famous.
Plan to arrive on Wednesday so you can visit the outdoor market in Piazza d’Anjou and its surrounding streets. Walk to the market through the old town, stopping for a morning cappuccino and bocconotto at Caffe Tripoli, Puglia’s historic cafe famous for its ethereal bocconotti, a breakfast pastry filled with sweetened ricotta and pear marmalade (Via Garibaldi, 35; 080-4805260).
After the market, stop in at l’Acropoli di Puglia (Via Votano, 5; 080-4303302) the only olive mill in the city center. There you can learn how olives become olive oil, a centuries-old tradition for which Puglia is famous. You can taste many varieties available and purchase some to take with you.
Martina Franca is also famous for its delicious capocollo, a salume made from dry-cured whole pork shoulder or neck. Stop by Romanelli Macelleria (Via Valle d’Itria, 8/12; 080-4805385) and ask Nino for a taste—you’ll be treated to great food and exceptional hospitality—and will leave having made new friends.
To learn more about Martina Franca’s storied wine industry and its D.O.C. (Denominazione Origine Controllata) zones, visit Cantine Miali, a fourth generation winery now making some of the best wine in the region (Via Madonnina, 11; 080-4303222). Call ahead for a visit and tasting, which are also conducted in English.
For lunch, there is La Tavernetta, a small, subterranean trattoria that gets the classics just right–including orecchiette al ragu (handmade ear-shaped pasta with tomato sauce; fave e cicoria, pureed fava beans with sautéed chicory; and braciole, thinly sliced veal stuffed with parsley, cheese and garlic then long-cooked in fresh tomato sauce). Trust yourself to waiter Cesare, along with the husband and wife chef team of Pino and Daniela. (Via Vittorio Emmanuele, 30; 0804306323).
Another great option is La Tana di Nicola, located in a corner of Martina Franca’s Ducal Palace (Via Mascagni, 2/6; 080-4805320), where classics are reinterpreted with sophistication and the wine list is exceptional.
When you finish your espresso and perhaps a thimbleful of liquore d’alloro (bay leaf liquor), explore Martina Franca’s historic center. Must-see highlights include: the Basilica di San Martino (Via Masaniello, 1; 080-4306536), a Unesco World Heritage site and a breathtaking example of Baroque and Rococò architecture;
the Palazzo Ducale (Piazza Roma), built in the second half of the 17th century and home to the 18th century tempera wall paintings of Domenico Carella; and the site of the first Martina Franca settlement dating from the 13th century, Montedoro (Vico Montedoro).
After your walk, you might feel like you’re falling in love with Martina Franca, so stop by the studio of Vincenzo Milazzo (Via Garibaldi, 13; 080-4831330), a naïf artist who captures Martinese life in his paintings with whimsy and heart. The painter is often on hand to talk with you about his inspiration.
along the meandering Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, and into Piazza Santa Maria Immocolata, which looks like an opera stage set. The passeggiata offers superb people watching, so stop for an aperitivo at Super Bar in Piazza Roma, that’s famous for its panzerotti, heavenly little pockets of fresh mozzarella and tomatoes encased in fluffy pizza dough and deep-fried in olive oil.
For dinner, experience Martina Franca’s justifiably famous meat by dining at a fornello pronto establishment. Many of Martina’s butcher shops operate as restaurants in the evening, roasting local meat in wood-burning ovens and serving you inside or outside, weather permitting. Traditional specialties include bombette (thin slices of veal stuffed with provolone, caciocavallo or gorgonzola), local sausages and tiny lamb chops. The best is Macelleria Granaldi (Via Bellini, 108; 328-3218371) located just on the edge of the old town center. In the summer, you can eat outside, but call ahead to reserve, because Granaldi is very popular with the locals.
For something lighter, try Convivum, a wine bar that features small plates, salads and samples of local meats and cheeses (Via Pietro Barnaba, 7; 368-561630). Located on a little alleyway just off Piazza XX Settembre in the ground floor of the Ducal Palace, this is the place to be during the summer when you can eat outside—the people watching is unparalleled here since the clientele tends to be young and chic Martina residents.
End your golden day in Martina Franca with a leisurely stroll or short drive back to your hotel, reveling in the luminous nighttime glow of Martina’s limestone-paved streets and stately, Baroque palaces.
Grazie mille Catherine–you have me looking forward to my next visit to Martina Franca…
AND I’ll check out that EVO from Puglia for wonderful holiday gifts: www.pascarosa.com…