On one little page in our City Guide to Florence is an entry with an especially enthusiastic star next to it. The entry is, of course, for the Museum of Zoology and Natural History, aka La Specola.
Down a side street from the Pitti Palace and up three flights of stairs, Craig and I spent a deceptively long time wandering the 34 rooms. It was a must see.
It is, essentially, a museum full of taxidermy and medical wax works. I could think of little better.
With a collection dating back to the Medici Family, and a nickname referencing the observatory that stood there in 1790, this unassuming little museum was just delightful. It’s also the oldest scientific Museum of Europe. At the time of its opening it was the only scientific museum or “wunderkammer” specifically created for the public to view.
Oh. And most of the labels were in untranslated Italian. Adorable.
Yes. As you can see in the reflection next to the lion, I wore leopard print to a zoological museum.
I may have squealed just a little when I saw the room of rays.
There were only a few rooms of anatomical wax works but the detail was amazing.
(those of a sensitive disposition might want to skip the rest of this post)
The art of anatomical waxworks was developed in Florence in the 17th century in order to teach medicine when practicing on corpses was illegal. Anatomical waxworks was slightly more true to life than learning surgery from a book. These waxworks are famous for having been modeled off actual corpses. How that is any worse than letting medical students loose on the deceased is simply beyond me.
It’s just wax. It’s just wax.
IT’S JUST WAX
One of my favourite parts of the whole museum was that, always a few steps behind us, we were shadowed by an Italian family, a mother, father, and a boy of about 6 years old who was just SO DAMN EXCITED to be there. We lost them in the anatomical section, they didn’t stay there long.
I am a little distraught that I didn’t notice the stuffed hippopotamus which was a 17th-century Medici pet that once lived in the Boboli Gardens. I know, I know they are, apparently, vicious killers but seriously? a hippopotamus ambling around your extensive gardens? it sounds pretty amazing.