Laid out on ground that once belonged to the Benedictine monks of Santa Giustina, the ancient Botanical Garden was set up thanks to the university professor Francesco Bonafede, who obtained a special concession to do so from the Venetian Republic: his goal was to create an Horto Mediciniale where he could study and experiment with ‘simples’, that is plants with natural therapeutic effects.
Over the centuries, the Botanical Garden’s collections would acquire plants from different parts of the world – especially those in which the Republic of Venice had territory or with which it had trading relations. Padua would, therefore, play a key role in introducing a number of exotic plants into Italy. The Garden’s Prefetto (Director) lived in a large building near the entrance. Now that structure houses exhibitions, the Herbarium and the Historical Archive and Library that contain various precious botanical manuscripts and illustrated books.
The building also contains the “Botanical Theatre” which, like an Anatomical Theatre, is a lecture hall of raised semi-circular benches; this one can hold around a hundred students and is still in use.
The Garden of Biodiversity opened in 2014 and has four large greenhouses in which advanced technology makes it possible to simulate climate conditions in a range of different environments. They contain a total of around 1,3000 species that reflect the plant life of our planet’s tropical, sub-tropical, temperate and arid zones.