Prato della Valle – Padua, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Prato della Valle

One of the largest squares in Europe contains an entire artificial island. 

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In the southern part of the city of Padua, the area where the 90,000-square-meter (1 million square foot) elliptical square Prato della Valle was a swampy terrain for many centuries.

In the late 18th century, Venetian politician Andrea Memmo decided to completely restructure the area. The project was ambitious, and was not realized in every aspect. An artificial elliptical canal surrounds an island, named Isola Memmia in honor of its creator. On the banks of this canal, a total of 78 statues (40 on the internal bank, 38 on the external one) represent famous figures linked to Padua, such as artists, scholars, warriors, and former leaders of the city. The original plan had included 88 statues, but some were destroyed.

Many buildings built between the 14th and 18th centuries surround Prato della Valle. On the southeastern corner of the square there is the Benedectine Abbey of Santa Giustina, established in the 10th century and attached to the Basilica of Santa Giustina, which was built in the 6th century. The excavations made in the 18th century to built the canal brought to light the remains of a long-forgotten roman theater.