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The Liston pathway? An open-air museum of fossils

Liston Verona

To a close gaze, the pavements in the Liston pathway includes a extraordinary collection of marine creatures dating back to the Jurassic period. They are entirely paved with Prun stone and many extraordinary specimens of ammonites are recognizable inside the plates.
Our journey inside the secrets and the highlights of an “hidden” Verona starts from Piazza Bra (The Arena square)to discover its “dark” side, such as the pavement of the Liston pathway with the ammonites. After the interior of the world-famous Arena di Verona and the masterpieces in Palazzo Barbieri, we are going together to discover real fossil beds
Where? In piazza Bra, of course, but also along many other streets located in the city-centre. We literally step on the fossils, almost without any awareness. Under our feet there are remarkable naturalistic masterpieces which date back to the Jurassic period, meaning 175 million years ago, when everything was nothing but a large sea. The pavements of the historical centre in Prun stone have been built between the end of the Eighteenth Century and the first half of the Nineteenth Century. They have inside invaluable pieces of ammonites, or better the cephalopods fossils which have disappeared at the end of the Cretaceous. Once dead, the shells solidified on the bottom and became fossils.
Verona is a truly geological open-air museum: the most beautiful slabs with ammonites are on the Liston pathway, precisely under the porticoes and along the second stretch that goes from alley behind Liston up to the entrance of Via Mazzini. Furthermore, from Palazzo degli Honorij (today called Guastaverza-Malfatti) to Palazzo Rubiani, which nowadays is housing the Literary Society, large beautiful stone plates of two meters by one are waiting for being discovered. The first part goes from Via Roma up to the alley behind the Liston pathway; it is not in Prun stone, but in marble of Chiampo, which was trimmed in a special way to look old but clearer than the replaced one. It has been restored in 1998: the recent restoration has placed small slabs of 40 up to 80 centimetres. Originally, the first portion of the Liston pavements was in small plates, as a lithograph by Peter Bertotti shows.
Our first walk inside the Verona hidden marvellous secrets gazing at our foot in piazza Bra is full of exciting, unexpected jewels. The piazza preserves the beauty throughout the centuries. The toponym comes from the German "Braida (i.e. “wide”) and Piazza Bra developed in a proper square in the early Sixteenth century, when Michele Sanmicheli traced the perimeter toward the west, while building the Palazzo degli Honorij. In 1750 John Rubiani, owner of the palace today housing of the Literary Society, asked to pave with river pebbles the ground in front of the five workshops he rented from one side of Piazza Bra, but the Municipal authority ordered the suspension of the works, while worried about a possible abuse of stallage. It was only in 1770, thanks to the personal generosity of the Venetian Podestà Alvise Mocenigo that the Liston pathway was paved between via Rome and the alleyway Liston: the Municipal Council merely decide to level better Piazza Bra, creating the appropriate slopes for the rainwater. The people in Verona were totally amazed with the great width of the pavement; however it remained unfinished until March 13 1872, when Francis Menegatti presented to the City Council a proposal to complete the Liston up to Via Nuova (today via Mazzini), at the expense of a group of citizens through self-taxation. The Council approved, adding their own contribution. It was therefore that the great pavement became the favourite place for the promenade in Verona. This particular pavement was also described by the great German poet Wolfgang Goethe in his famous book "Journey in Italy".
The Liston pathway was again modified several times together with the square's level: in 1808, the figure of 20 thousand lire was approved for its total makeover. In 1820, two years before the congress of the Holy Alliance on the river Adige, was brought to light the footing of the Arena, which was buried about two meters under, and it has been lowered the level of Piazza Bra of about 70 centimetres. On our feet, therefore, we have pavements and sidewalks coming from the eighteenth-nineteenth century, but within they store the remains of living beings dating back 175 million years ago. The prehistory era is closer to us more than you can imagine.

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