Liston, the pedestrian street of Padua
In Padua, the pedestrian streets from the city centre are known as Liston, an area extending from Piazza Garibaldi all along to Prato della Valle.
Liston is the walk of almost 1km crossing the city’s heart from Piazza Garibaldi, going through Via Cavour, Via VIII Febbraio, Via Roma, and Via Umberto I, finishing in the spectacular Prato della Valle.
Liston is a word from a Venetian expression meaning "to walk around the square". It is a term used in various cities of Veneto for the pedestrian route usually spanning into paved streets or squares bordered by historical buildings.
Historically, in Padua, the Liston was the west side of Prato della Valle, opposite the Loggia Amulea, which had been paved with trachyte in the nineteenth century by the architect Giuseppe Jappelli. In more recent times, it has been used to identify the pedestrian promenade that cuts through the centre of Padua from north to south, ever since the pedestrianisation of the area between the mid-1980s.
Piazza Garibaldi is the begging of the Liston and, at the same time, the southern end of the road leading from the railway station along Corso del Popolo and passing by the Arena Gardens.
The square was once known as Piazza dei Noli, a transit area of the city where the rental carriages and post riders were stationed. The coachmen were known as nolesini or noli, a moniker derived from the Italian word for “renting”. In 1756, a statue of the Virgin Mary was placed in the centre of the square by the will of the coachmen and parishioners of the nearby church.
After Giuseppe Garibaldi visited Padua in 1867, the square was renamed after him, and a monument in his honour was erected in the centre of the square, replacing the statue of Madonna. On 8 December 1954, the Garibaldi statue was moved to the entrance of the Arena Gardens, and the ancient statue of the Madonna dei Noli, a valuable work attributed to the Paduan artist Antonio Bonazza, was repositioned in the centre of the square on a tall roman column. Thus it returned to being the protector of taxi drivers, the modern version of the ancient noli. The event is celebrated every year in a ceremony held on 8 December when the Paduan taxi drivers place a wreath of flowers at the foot of the statue as a tribute to the Madonna.
After the Second World War, the square was radically overturned with a series of demolitions leading to the loss of many medieval buildings and the baroque Palazzo Zaborra, replaced by the department store La Rinascente. Piazza Garibaldi hosts renowned high fashion brands, the shops extending into the elegant Via San Fermo, the shopping Mecca in Padua.
Shortly after leaving Piazza Garibaldi through Via Cavour, another square opens up, the elegant Piazza Cavour. In the past, it was known as Piazza delle Biade or Piazza delle Legne, names owned to the trading of grains and wood that happened in the square. Nowadays, Piazza Cavour is dominated by the monument to the Count of Cavour, one of the leading figures in the movement towards Italian unification alongside Garibaldi and the first Prime Minister of Italy. It was built in 1888 by the sculptor Enrico Chiaradia, the author of the remarkable bronze equestrian statue of Victor Emmanuel II, the first King of a unified Italy, located in the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument in Rome.
The square’s main attraction is the underground Civic Gallery Cavour, a modern venue and beautiful art gallery that hosts exhibitions, themed conferences, and cultural events managed by the Department of Culture of the Municipality of Padua.
The renowned Caffè Cavour overlooks the square, a very popular café with an excellent selection of warm dishes, sandwiches, and snacks, as well as desserts from the renowned Luigi Biasetto's laboratory.
A little further on, in Via VIII Febbraio, is the splendid Caffè Pedrocchi, one of the symbols of modern Padua, built by Giuseppe Jappelli in the first half of the nineteenth century. The palazzi from Via VIII Febbraio are just as famous, including Palazzo Bo, the historic seat of the University of Padua and the Palazzo Moroni, which houses the Padua Town Hall and behind which the area of the squares unfolds, beginning with Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta.
Via VIII Febbraio ends at the intersection with Via San Francesco and the famous building Canton del Gallo. This palazzo owns its name to a tavern from the thirteenth century called Osteria del Gallo.
The Liston continues into Via Roma, a street with elegant shops and cafes. Between the lively terraces, the portico of the Church of Santa Maria dei Servi comes into sight, consisting of elegant arches resting on columns of red Verona marble, which were first used in the Chapel of the Ark from Basilica of Saint Anthony. The church is renowned for its marvellous wooden crucifix, which has been officially attributed to Donatello after a careful restoration.
The church was built in the fourteenth century, a peculiar commission from a female personality, Fina Buzzaccarini, wife of Francesco I da Carrara, Lord of Padua. Later, she had the Cathedral Baptistery completely restored and frescoed by the Florentine painter Giusto de' Menabuoi, a masterwork now part of the Padova Urbs Picta – UNESCO World Heritage.
The route takes the name of Via Umberto I after the intersection with the Ponte delle Torricelle, a bridge that crosses the Santa Chiara Canal and one of the most beautiful scenic points in Padua. Here, the opulent facade of Casa Olzignani stands out, a palazzo built in 1446 by Pietro Lombardo and one of the best examples of the Paduan architecture of the fifteenth century.
Under a portico on the right is the entrance to Via Rogati, the street where one of the most influential architects of the Renaissance was born, Andrea Palladio. On the same street is the elegant Palazzo Genova, with an ashlar facade designed by Annibale Maggi and the seat of the Barbarigo Institute school.
A little further on the Via Umberto I is the Palazzo Capodilista, rare testimony of medieval residential architecture and one of the few thirteenth-century palaces left in Padua. The medieval palace is equipped with battlements and a high medieval tower, while the Romanesque facade is adorned with mullioned windows. In the atrium of the building is the commemorative monument for Titus Livius, who died in Padua in AD 17.
Shortly before the end of the Via Umberto I is the Church of Saint Daniel, one of the patrons of Padua. The church founded by the Bishop of Padua Olderico in 1076 has been modified many times, concluding with a nineteenth-century restoration. It houses the remains of the Paduan playwright Angelo Beolco, known as Ruzzante.
Via Umberto I finally ends in the grand open space of Prato della Valle, a place of striking beauty and one of the largest squares in Europe.
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Caffè Pedrocchi, one of the symbols of modern Padua, a café with historical prominence recognized for its coffee and good food
The church, partially destroyed in 1944, preserves the remains of the splendid frescoes painted by Guariento and Andrea Mantegna
Part of the Eremitani Civic Museums complex, the palazzo houses the Museum of Applied and Decorative Arts and the Bottacin Museum in its rooms.
Palazzo Moroni, the usual name for the Municipal Buildings, is a complex of buildings in the city’s heart that house the offices of the Municipality of Padua.
The most important Paduan complex of museums features the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Medieval and Modern Art in a charming former convent.