Prato della Valle is the largest square in Italy and the second largest in Europe after the Red Square in Moscow is located in Padua. Its area is almost 89,000 sq.m. Its name is a combination of the words “pratum” and “valle”. The term “pratum” was used in the past to refer to large spaces intended for trade, while the term “valle” means “lowland”, “marshy area”.
In 589, as a result of numerous floods, the place where the park is located today became a swamp full of mosquitoes. In the following centuries, the flooding continued and the problem of swamping deepened. The solution was found only in 1767. by Andrea Memo. His government program for Padua set two main tasks: revitalizing commerce in the city of Padua and raising the level of healthcare. He found a perfect synthesis of these two goals in his project for the swampy Prato della Valle. Thus, a central elliptical island surrounded by an elliptical canal was created. It took several thousand chariots of earth to create the island. The canal built around the island solves the problem of flooding, as it serves to collect the drainage and rainwater from the area and subsequently to take it away. In this way, the former swamp was transformed into a beautiful square.
There are two rows of statues around the canal. A third row was also conceived, but it was never built. All 78 sculptures are of famous people associated with Padua – scientists and artists from the city’s university, as well as people who played an important role in its development. In the center of the island, which was given the name Memia /in honor of Andrea Memo/, there is an elliptical fountain. The center can be reached by one of the four bridges over the canal.
And so the square became a preferred place for holding fairs and sports competitions, and during the rest of the time it was a place for the population to rest and walk. Pope John Paul II celebrated mass in the square in 1982. Every Saturday the traditional market of Padua is held with over 160 stalls and every third Sunday of the month there is an antiques market. Several times a year Prato hosts concerts with tens of thousands of spectators. During major sporting events such as the World Cup, large screens are set up. The square is also the place for the traditional celebrations in case of successes of the Italian football teams.
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