Central to the life of the town, this huge, open parade ground and park just west of the Old Fortress is, many say, the most beautiful spianada (esplanade) in Greece. It is bordered on the west by a street lined with Venetian and English Georgian houses and a famous arcaded building called the Liston, built by the French under Napoleon and meant to resemble the Rue du Rivoli in Paris. Cafés spill out onto the passing scene, and Corfiot celebrations, games, and concerts take place here; at night, lovers promenade and children play in this festive public space. Sunday cricket matches, a holdover from British rule, are occasionally played on the northern half of the Esplanade, which was once a Venetian firing range. Standing in the center is an ornate Victorian bandstand and, just south of it, the Maitland Rotunda, a circular Ionic memorial built in honor of Sir Thomas Maitland, the not-much-loved first British lord high commissioner who was appointed in 1814
when the island became a protectorate of Britain. At the southernmost tip of the Esplanade a statue of Ioannis Kapodistrias, a Corfu resident and the first president of modern Greece, looks out over Garitsa bay. Kapodistrias was also, unfortunately, the first Greek president to be assassinated, in 1831.