PIAZZA PRETORIA (THE SHAME SQUARE)

At the end of a narrow passage, the spectacular Piazza Pretoria with its fountain and the numerous gleaming white statues is captivating.

Rearranged in the Sixteenth century, it is a marvellous example of urban planning, which has achieved a perfect balance between space and volume.

The space forms a trapeze, defined between the sides of the churches of Saint Catherine and Saint Joseph dei Teatini. The domes of the two churches, which stand opposite each other, dominate the piazza, enclosing it within a series of prestigious palaces and buildings, including the Palazzo Senatorio the Town Hall, also called "Palace of the Eagles".

What is really striking about the square, however, is the Pretoria Fountain, which, as well as being one of the most beautiful fountains in Italy, takes up the entire centre of the Piazza. Restored in 2003, it is as admirable today as it has ever been.

The fountain was created at the end of the Fifteen Hundreds for the father in Law of Cosimo Ist of the Medici family, to embellish his Florentine villa. However, upon his death his son decided to sell the edifice, which was bought by the Senate of Palermo. It was then dismantled, transported to Sicily and reassembled by the son of a sculptor who had assumed ownership and direction of the work.

However, installing a fountain of such proportions, proved difficult. In the end, nearby buildings were demolished to make space for it. Having been initially made by private commission for a private garden, the fountain caused something of a stir, when it was installed in a public space. The numerous nude figures were considered somewhat bold, and for some time it was labelled "the fountain of shame". Even Giorgio Vasari's ringing endorsement of it as "very stupendous" did not save it from public condemnation.

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