The beating heart of Mestre’s social life, it is surrounded by numerous shops, cafés, pubs, bakeries and taverns. It should not be missed by any visit to the city of Mestre and can even be a valid alternative to visiting the historic center of Venice, to know a slice of life typical of the region. If you spend the right time exploring the many alleys that surround it, you will not be disappointed.
The square has an elongated shape with cafes, bars and shops all around, and connects the clock tower to the north with the cathedral of San Lorenzo to the south. In the streets to the left and right of the square there are tunnels, passages and alleys that are also worth a visit.
The structure of the square dates back to the Middle Ages, when it was the heart of the ancient village built around the church and overlooking the archpriest Castelnuovo, serving as a market place (being located outside the walls). The square and the village were then surrounded by the two branches of the river Marzenego, which bounded it with the two bridges of Campana and Erbe (the bridge, still existing, led to Piazza dei Porci, now Piazzetta Matter, and the castle).
On the square, porticoed on both sides according to the Venetian custom, overlook the cathedral of San Lorenzo and the Palazzo Da Re, formerly owned by the wealthy family Da Re, whose porch housed the grain market. At the north-eastern end stands the Clock Tower, the last remaining part of the ancient castle. At the centre stands a flagpole on which the municipal standard was raised on market days to indicate the end of wholesale bargaining and on which the flag-raising ceremony now takes place every Sunday.
In 1900 the square was renamed in honour of King Umberto I of Italy, who was assassinated that same year. Since the end of the Second World War, the square has been named after the partisan Erminio Ferretto, who was killed by the Nazi-Fascists in 1944. The Garibaldi Brigade named after him liberated the city from the Nazi-Fascists and took control of the square.
On 21 April 1985, the square was closed to vehicular traffic. In 1997 the area underwent a controversial renovation in a modern key based on the project of the architect Guido Zordan, who later became City Councillor for Urban Planning. This operation has not received unanimous consensus among the population, creating a substantial division between detractors and admirers (see the description of this square in the entry Mestre). In fact, the ancient architecture that characterizes the square is strongly compromised by an intervention judged by many people “aggressive” and disrespectful of the context. The intervention involved the rebuilding of the old flooring (first in sanpietrino) and the insertion of numerous abstract and geometric additions (marble cubes, ramps of various types, metal handrails, etc..). An imaginative basin fountain with a gilded bronze sculpture by Alberto Viani entitled “Nude” was also installed in the centre, as well as a series of futuristic street lamps. During the interventions, an in-depth archaeological investigation was carried out, which led to the identification of a large common tomb overlooking the cathedral, containing numerous skeletons, probably dating back to the sack of Mestre on the occasion of the war of the League of Cambrai.