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 The Zoological Museum of "Specola" 


Address: Via Romana, 17
Like most Florentine museums "La Specola" has its origins in the Medici period, even though it was founded in 1775. The Medici collected natural treasures like fossils, animals, minerals and exotic plants with the same passion they applied to great works of art. It was the enlightened Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine who decided on the creation of a Museum of Natural history complete with library which would be open to the public. With this in mind he bought in 1771 the group of buildings near the Pitti Palace in which "La Specola" is still situated, even though with major modifications.
 
The collection's history is complex, with donations, partitions and transfers of the contests between other scientific institutes. At the moment only part of the collection is on show to the public (on the second floor) while most of the collection is spread out on five floors and is used in general for research purposes. Connected with the collection of animals are laboratories for taxidermy and research. The public may visit twenty-five rooms where recent acquisitions and old examples of taxidermy are on show, including the hippopotamus which appears to have been given to the Grand Duke in the second half of the eighteenth century who lived for several years in the Boboli Gardens.
 
The museum is very proud of its collection of anatomical waxes, an art introduced to Florence by Lodovico Cigoli (1559-1613) an artist of some importance in Florence of that period. Such waxes enjoyed their greatest perfection in the eighteenth century. The best representative of wax sculpture in Florence was Clemente Susini (1754-1814) who produced the best works in the collection in the laboratory founded for that purpose next to the museum.
 
Here it is worth drawing attention to a unique room, the so-called Tribune of Galileo designed and constructed in 1841 by the architect Giuseppe Martelli in honour of the great Tuscan scientist. It is decorated with frescoes and sculpted and inlaid marbles illustrating some of the scientific discoveries of the Italian Renaissance.


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