La Specola

(39) 055- 228 8251

Founded in 1771, this little-known museum near the Pitti Palace houses one of Florence’s most bizarre collections. It was originally conceived to display natural-science curiosities gathered by generations of Medicis. Today, visitors can still view some of these royal collections in the twenty-four rooms, in which turn-of-the-century glass cases display zoological specimens. The exhibits may be slightly dated, but coming across a life-size rhinoceros displayed in the middle of Florence still evokes the same wonder that nineteenth-century visitors must have felt when first seeing these displays. The last ten rooms are filled with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century wax anatomical models, which were commissioned by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo as a method of teaching anatomy. If you visit with children who may be afraid of the life-size bodies made of wax (they are truly works of art but also somewhat disturbing) it’s best to skip these rooms. That said, my children consider it their favorite place in Florence and love to bring friends here for the first time. Open every day except Wednesday, 9 A.M. to 1 P.M.

Written by Elizabeth Harvey

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