The Prato della Valle is one of the most distinctive public spaces in all of Europe, notable not only for its vast size but also for the large number of statues that occupy it. With 78 stone figures dotted around the square and many elegant historic buildings lining the streets, this is a wonderful place to get an insight into Padova’s long history as a cultural and architectural hub. Come here on a sunny afternoon to watch locals strolling around the square and relaxing on the grassy island in the middle. Allow time to stop at one of the cafés surrounding the Prato della Valle and to study the beautiful and fascinating marble statues.
The square has been an important public space since at least the Roman period, but it took on its current elegant appearance only in the 18th century. In 1775, Venetian aristocrat Andrea Memmo commenced work on turning his vision for the space into a reality. It was his idea to erect numerous statues of great thinkers, turning the space into a public sculpture gallery. Come today and you will find 78 statues here, many of which were finally completed long after Memmo’s death.
Find the statue of Andrea Memmo himself, added to the square after he died. See how many of the other famous marble men you have heard of. Renowned Renaissance figures depicted include astronomer Galileo Galilei, poet Francesco Petrarca, philosopher Pietro d’Abano and several popes and politicians.
Walk around the edges of the square to view the many handsome and interesting buildings located here. Look for historic structures including Sisters of Mercy College. Step into the shops that are scattered around or gain an insight into the beginnings of film at the fascinating Museum of Precinema.
The Prato della Valle is delightful in any weather, but try to come when it is sunny so you can enjoy lounging on the grass with a book. Get here by walking south from the main station for about 30 minutes, cutting straight through Padova’s scenic Old Town.