It's the end of June, a Sunday morning. For many people it had to be the moment to permit themselves a day on the beach, at last. But, in spite of many prayers, the sun didn't even show for a moment. Big thick grey-marbled clouds loom over the historic centre of Martina Franca. It's eleven. In XX settemvre Square, the "stradone", tourists walk under the trees, near to the benches of retired people: they fix a spoiled trip on the beach. There's a group of children, all with the same hat guided by six adults: a summer camp, surely. Either they have the hybrid outfit of the tourist betrayed by bad weather: flip flops, Bermuda shorts and jacket. They look up in the air and observe the Saint Martin on a horse that is above the arch of the 18th century from which you enter the town. It starts raining. Entering a covered place is a need.
Passed the arch, that in defiance of the statue is entitled to Saint Stephan, there is Roma Square. It's a trapezoid coasted by the elegant façades of the aristocratic builings; in the centre, among palm trees and cedars from Libanon, a big fountain beats down endlessly. A whole side of the square is occupied by the Baroque façade of the Palazzo Ducale.
Today, it's the city hall, the seat of the Public Library and the theatre of the Valle d'Itria Festival. Once it was the house of the dukes of Martina, the Caracciolos. Just passing the portal and taking the staircase on the right, you are face to face with the old landlords. In the first room on the main floor of the building, a series of big paintings represents some of the dukes Caracciolo lived in the 17th century. Knights, prelates, high-bridged nosed and upwards moustached men.
Their severe glaze flashes towards the poor visitor just stepped through the threshold. But don't be afraid of those stink eyes. The landlords knew the society and loved enjoying life. If you look at the vault you can realize it. A flock of birds are perching on the painted cornice: woodcocks, hawks, robins, peacocks, parrots and wading birds: a sparkling of colours and cute shapes. And then, here a little monkey that teases a little bird, a butterfly just stops on a shelf, there there's a snake in the beak of a hawk. A corner of forest within the walls of the palace.
But, it's when you enter the following rooms, those painted by Domenico Carella in 1776, that you fully understand the spirit of the place. One for all: the Sala dell'Arcadia. A tribute to the art and the beauty wanted by Duke Francesco III. Here he is in the centre of the wall, with open arms towards the viewers, in his gaudy red and yellow striped suit. Around him there are musicians, lovers, all plunged in a wonderful spring-like country. Here the sun shines.