Martina Franca, in the province of Taranto, is in the hills east of Murgia, at an equal distance from Jonio and the Adriatic. The town’s origins are fairly recent. The first settlement on the hill was in the 10th century, when refugees escaped from the plundering Saracens at Taranto. Local shepherds and nomads then joined the refugees. For two centuries, Martina Franca was quite likely a military outpost protecting Taranto, at least until 1300 when it was declared a municipality by Philip I of Angiò, a Taranto Prince. The Prince later donated the town to Pietro del Tocco, including a castle, surrounding rural land and several rural settlements.
The town was named in honour of San Martino, who reputedly protected the town on several occasions from Saracen invasions, while the adjective “Franca” was because Philip I of Angiò would offer his people rights and immunity when they paid their taxes.
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