Once upon a time in the busy market of Piazza della Frutta you could buy: fish and wild game; poultry and eggs; roast meats, including porchetta and even stewed ox feet. You could also find erbe (that is, vegetables) and even such prized birds as falcons. The two staircases leading up either side of the Palazzo della Ragione take their name from the goods that were sold near them: one is Scala delle Erbe [The Vegetable Steps] and the others is Scala degli Osei [The Bird Steps]. Since the end of the 12th century Piazza della Frutta has been home to a popular fruit and vegetable market, with wooden-wheeled market stalls. In the square there is a column which was once known the Colonna del Peronio: around its base were stalls selling clogs and boots (known in Latin as perones).
Standing at the entrance to Via Breda, this Romanesque column is surmounted by a capital whose corners depict a pumpkin, a palm tree, a quince tree and a pear tree. Above the capital is a block of Istrian stone with the crest of the city of Padua: a shield bearing a cross and a depiction of St. Prosdocimus, who tradition has it was the city’s first bishop.
On the first Thursday in May, known as the day of zobia masa [1 May], the Fraglia degli Strazzaroli – the Guild of Ragmen and Second-hand Dealers – used to put on a show here as each tried to climb to the top of the Albero della Cuccagna [Tree of the Land of Cockaigne]. The winner was awarded a first prize of a bag and a pair of gloves; this is why the occasion was known as the Festa della Borsa [Bag Feast]. This tradition is commemorated by the bag carved in marble on the facade of the building at the corner of Via Marsilio da Padova and Via Gorizia.