Prato della Valle in PaduaHistorical Curiosities
Prato della Valle in Padua
Probably only the inhabitants of Padua and a few other people know of a particular record their city is boasting about: having the largest square in Europe!
Prato della Valle has in fact an area of 88620 m²: it is characterized by a central elliptical island, called Memmia island (about 20 000 m²), surrounded by a small channel (fed by the Alicorno canal) on whose banks there is a double ring of statues; the outer circumference is 1450 m.
In the Roman and early Middle Ages, the area was known as Campo di Marte or Campo Marzio because it was used as a place for military exercises, among other functions. Subsequently the area was referred to as 'Valle del Mercato', for the markets and seasonal fairs held here, and as 'Prato di Santa Giustina' in relation to the presence of the church of the same name.
In the Middle Ages, the term Pratum was used to indicate a large space intended for commercial uses that, if not paved, often could also be covered with grass; the term Valle means 'bassura' (i.e. low land) and 'marshy place'.
Its current appearance was conceived by the administrator Andrea Memmo in 1775, who designed the creation of a central island surrounded by an artificial elliptical canal surrounded by a double ring of statues. The island was built by transporting 10,000 wagons of earth to fill the central depression of the lawn and prevent the stagnation of water and the swamping that periodically affected the area. The island immediately took the name of Memmia in honor of its creator.
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