‘For the great desire I had to see fair Padua, nursery of arts, I am arrived…and am to Padua come as he that leaves a shallow plash to plunge him in the deep and with satiety seeks to quench his thirst’ William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew (I, i)
A ‘prato’ is a meadow…The meadow in question is where they breed statues, not the ordinary cattle!
The Prato is in fact a square which is circled by a canal and surrounded by 78 statues of the most important men from Padua, among them Galileo Galilei, Livy and various Popes placed on the pillars of one of the bridges.
One of the statues represents the thinker and architect behind the Prato della Valle, Andrea Memmo. The ‘island’ inside the square is called Memmia, after its creator.
And Antonio Diedo, another famous architect who lived at the same time as Andrea Memmo and who worked in the Veneto, and more particularly in Padua.
This square is the most famous in Padua. It is also one of the largest squares in Europe. Before it became landscaped properly, it large green meadow (hence the name). Nevertheless, it was not romantic as it sounds. It was infested with diseases and the most horrible place in the city. In order to get rid of the infectious environment of the square, it was decided at the end of the 18th century to arrange it properly. They made a fabulous job out of it! It is an enchanting place both in a sunny or foggy climate. It is such an original structure that it will not let you indifferent. Go around it, pay attention to the light and you will discover something new every time! You need to do the WHOLE tour!
I cannot get enough of this place. Each time I get off the bus and see this wonder, I feel attracted to it. I am certainly not the only one: everyone feels the same about it. It is the meeting point of numerous people from Padua, it is the place where family reunites, where colleagues eat during lunchtime or where lonely souls go the seek the quietness of a book. The Prato della Valle is one of the most important symbols of Padua. Who could contradict that?
The big orange building in the middle is called La Loggia Amulea which holds nowadays the administration offices of the city. If you catch it with the sunlight, it is absolutely magical!
Here are a few statues to give you a hint of the style. A few statues have been renovated. You can see they are whiter than others. Some poses look quite grand and dramatic. I love the way each statue gives a different character to the person it represents.
And my favourite, because well…look at this gesture. I do not know this guy, but he must be the inventor of disco:
As for its location, you will find it conveniently situated opposite Santa Giustina and a street away from Sant’Antonio. It also has a direct access to the city centre and its shops. You have excellent access to transport there since several buses and the tramway stop around the Prato very frequently. You cannot miss it!
Enjoy your visit.
I M Gullivering.