La Specola Museum of Zoology and Natural History Florence
La Specola Museum of Zoology and Natural History is located right near the Pitti Palace. It is the oldest natural history museum in Europe. Inside there is a huge collection acquired by several generations of the Medici family. They collected many natural treasures like fossils, animals, minerals, bugs, amphibians and exotic plants.
The winged insect area is interesting and informative. I thought the display of stuffed African mammals (bears, lions and tigers) was awesome. You can also see specimens of birds, for example Carolina Parakeet driven to extinction by humans.
I enjoyed seeing the stuffed Thylacine, also known as Tasmanian tiger (it had a striped back). There was a unique marsupial (pouched mammal), evolved to fill the niche occupied elsewhere by wolves. Tragically the sheep farmers drove the species to extinction. The most famous specimen in the place is the hippopotamus. It was the pet hippo of the Medici family. There is a photo opportunity in the ape room. You will see that there's an empty display case next to the orangutan. It is labeled Homo sapiens. You can stand in for an amusing photo. The animal collection just kept going and going.
The big highlight is the fascinating collection of life-sized wax models of human anatomy in varying states of bad health. It was modeled from dissections of real cadavers by eighteenth century Florentine sculptors. Some of the dates being as early as 1775, when dissection was still very much illegal. They were created to teach medical students. Art students sit and draw them for hours.
Additionally, there's a special exhibition downstairs. It's an extra fee, but well worth it. They have a large display of fascinating crystals. There are a lot gems from many continents. They also provide some educational videos.
I loved seeing all of the exhibits in La Specola Museum of Zoology and Natural History. Please be aware that there are very limited English descriptions of the exhibits. Nonetheless, I feel the museum is worth a visit. It is great for a rainy day or when you need break from the Renaissance artwork. If you love science, don't miss this museum.