Specola Museum
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Church of San Felice in Piazza
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Romana Gate


Tourist informations
Entrance from: Via Romana 17. Phone: 055-2288251, e-mail: specola@specola.unifi.it.
Opening hours: Working days and holydaysi: 9AM-1PM. Closed on Wednesday.
Admission ticket: 5 Euro.

The Specola Museum takes its name from the «Specola», its astronomical observatory, and includes several important zoologic and natural history collections.
The most famous one is the collection of anatomical wax models: over 600 unique pieces from the 18th Century.

History - In the spotlight


The Specola museum was established in 1771, when Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine reordered the Medici's collections in the Uffizi and in Pitti Palace, transferring all science-related collections to this new museum.
The first director of the Specola, the physiologist Felice Fontana, founded an highly specialized wax modelling laboratory, where the sculptor Clemente Susini and other artisans realized in the years between 1775 and 1814 over 600 anatomical models. The laboratory was closed in 1895 and reopened in 1947, but only for the restoration of the models exposed in the museum.

Click to enlarge pictures.

In the Specola were originally exposed the astronomical instruments used by Galileo Galilei; after the death of the great scientist (1642) they were collected by cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici, who founded the science academy Accademia del Cimento: in 1847 a congress of Italian scientists was held in Florence, and Grand Duke Leopoldo II built in the Specola a monumental room where these instruments should be exposed, the so-called Tribuna di Galileo. After a few years the instruments were transferred to the Historical Museum of Science, near the Uffizi, where they are still today.

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 In the spotlight

Naturalistic collections: in the museum are various collections showing animals in accurate reconstructions of their habitat; even a hippopotamus is exposed: it lived in the Gardens of Boboli during the reign of Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo. In the Specola are also many collections which are not exposed in the rooms but are available for scientists and researchers, such as the vast insects collection (over 2,000,000 pieces);
The anatomical wax models: they reproduce with high precision all details of the human body. This collection includes sculptures from 18th Century (works by Clemente Susini, Francesco and Carlo Lorenzuoli and Luigi Calamai) and from 19th Century (1848-95) by Enrico Tortoli. In the museum are also exposed Allegorical Scenes by Gaetano Zumbo (end of 18th Century), realized with wax figures with philosophical and religious meaning;
The Tribuna di Galileo: at the first floor is the monumental room realized by architect Giuseppe Martelli in honour of Galileo Galilei. It is orned by frescoes and mosaics by Giuseppe Bezzuoli, Nicola Cianfanelli and Luigi Sabatelli; the statue of Galileo is by Aristodemo Costoli.

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