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Florence Science at Palazzo Medici and La Specola

Wondering what to do in Florence on a Monday (when many museums are closed)? Palazzo Medici Riccardi is always open on Mondays (it’s closing day is Wednesday). Now through May 9, 2010, you get to see a bonus exhibition alongside the building’s regular things to visit. Florence Science (www.firenzescienza.it) is a grouping of four small exhibits that chronicle the places, people, and collections of 19th-century Florence. The part at Palazzo Medici, “1829: Art, Science and Society”, presents some aspects of Restoration society under Grand Duke Leopold, a moment of peace and prosperity particularly favourable to scientific research. Tuscany at the time was principally agriculturally-based, so much of the interest was in the relationship between man and nature. There was a sense of trust and happiness that resulted in people wanting to surround themselves with “natural” knick-knacks of nature under control; that’s how you get things like butterflies and beetles under glass, or fake flowers in bell-jars.

One of the major aspects explored is the influence of Galileo, of whom there was a veritable cult at the time. At La Specola they created the Tribune of Galileo, a special room that opened in 1841. A section of the show illustrates this room while another is dedicated to Galileo objects, portraits, etc. Recalling Galileo this year is especially appropriate as it is the 400th anniversary of his telescope in 2009 and the region of Tuscany has marked this with a number of exhibits and events. La Specola, “The Tribune of Galileo and the Florentine Specola” If you go see the exhibit related to Florence Science at La Specola, “The Tribune of Galileo and the Florentine Specola”, you can in fact visit this Tribune of Galileo and also the newly restored Torrino, the astronomical observatory. Within these spaces are set up a selection of botanical and anatomical waxes, nature specimens, telescopes, short films and functioning models of instruments. Other things at Palazzo Medici-Riccardi

virtual gazzoli

While at Palazzo Medici, other than the two famous courtyards that the 15th-century architect Michelozzo designed (one more external and formal, the internal one a beautiful garden now covered in snow!), you can of course see Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes of the Procession of the Magi in the Medici-Riccardi Chapel. Either before or after seeing the real thing, go try out the virtual visit (in a room off the courtyard). Feel very “Matrix” as you stand under a kind of think-cap/ speaker thingie and point at a big screen, which responds by zooming in on areas of the painting and talking to you about what you’re looking at. It’s like having an art historian standing on your shoulder... only lighter! Speaking of art history, if you’re interested in exploring the chronology, art, architecture and music of Palazzo Medici in greater depth, the Mediateca is a wonderful online resource that collects documents related to the palazzo. Firenze Scienza (Florence Science) is on until May 2010. A cumulative ticket is available for 10 euros (reductions available).