The Prato Giardino is a large walled villa just outside the city walls of Viterbo. Since the middle of the 19th century this garden near the Porta Fiorentina is open to the public.
Prato Giardino Park Viterbo
History and description
The Prato Giardino has been open to the public since 1843. The entrance gate is situated opposite the Porta Fiorentina. Right at the entrance there is a little lake, where swans swim. Wide avenues with shady trees are framed by statues of important people.
This piece of land has been used as a garden since the 14th century. At the time, it still belonged to the Dogana del Patrimonio. After the construction of the Rocca Albernoz, it was used by the papal soldiers as an exercise ground.
Until the 17th century, there was also a fountain in the middle of the garden.
A number of corridors underneath the garden made it possible fot soldiers to carry out surprise attacks or escape in the event of a siege of the fortress.
When shepherds came to sell their herds in Viterbo, it was also here that the price was negotiated.
When an earthquake hit Viterbo in 1965, large numbers of inhabitants were forced to sleep in the Prato Giardino. The bishop even had an altar erected in the field.
The street that runs along the Prato Giardino used to be called Via dei Pilastri, because of three pillars that stood in front of the Chigi family residence and were meant to keep carriages from entering through the gate. Now this street has been renamed Via del Pilastro.
The garden itself is divided into the Prato Grande (“Large Field”) and the Prato Piccolo. The larger field was owned by the Chigi family, while the smaller one was part of the Villa Bonaparte (now Villa Rattazzi).
The Villa had several owners over the years, beginning with the Monaldeschi in 1451. They were followed by the Gatti (1459), the Baglioni (1551), the Marsciani (1626) and Dionoro Chigi Montoro (1638). In 1734, Ubaldino Renzoli received it in long lease.
Between 1571 and 1612, the Prato Giardino was used for public executions.
After the site became the property of the city, tall trees were planted along the avenues and high walls erected around it. These walls had to prevent what the bishop called “immoral acts which took place in the park at night”.
The fence at the entrance was designed by Virginio Vespignani in 1872. More than 4,000 kilos of iron were used.