While I was in Italy the second half of last month, I made a point of going to Museo di Storia Naturale, or “La Specola” in Florence.  It’s known as “La Specola” because of the presence in the building of a small tower used as an astronomical observatory.

La Specola is considered the first European scientific museum opened to the public, inaugurated in 1775.  The collection contains over three million specimens.  The hippopotamus is the oldest specimen preserved in La Specola, appearing in the first inventory of the collections of 1763.  “The live animal was donated by the Viceroy of Egypt to the Grand Duke of Tuscany in the 1700s and was probably kept in a pool in Boboli Gardens; the mark of the rope with which it was tied up can still be seen on the skin of the neck.”

Perhaps the coolest part of La Specola is the wax model collection, the largest collection of anatomical wax works in the world, made mostly by Clemente Susini between 1770 and 1850. A few of the rooms were closed for renovation, but what was open to the public was incredible (I still wish I’d been able to see the animal specimens, though!).

All photos are taken by me and the information above comes from the museum guide I bought at the gift shop.  I would love to go back to this place one day!

Source: Flickr