Beyond the tourist-swarmed Ponte Vecchio, a flight of unassuming stone stairs leads up into the oldest European science museum and the first public wunderkammer of the 18th century.
Overshadowed by the popularity of the nearby Pitti Palace, La Specola is a hidden gem. While best known for its anatomical wax collection, the museum also has an incredible taxidermied menagerie of more than 3 million animals (some 5,000 of which are on display).
A maze of 24 rooms are lined with beautiful floor-to-ceiling wood and glass cabinets, containing a vast collection of animals from around the world, much of which dates back to generations of the Medici family.
Many of the pieces are notably newer, while others are charming reminders of how far the art of taxidermy has come. One example being the Medici’s preserved pet hippopotamus, which was quaintly taxidermied in such a way that many suspect the artist had never seen one alive. The museum also houses a rare mount of the legendary thylacine (or Tasmanian tiger), which was pronounced extinct in 1936.
La Specola opened to the public in 1775 and continues to serve as a dynamic curiosity cabinet for students, scientists, and appreciators of natural history.
Know Before You Go
Open 9:30 am to 4:30 pm (Closed on Mondays)