Museo Galileo - Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza
Piazza dei Giudici 1, 50122 Firenze
The Museo Galileo today
The Institute and Museum for the History of Science greatly expanded in recent decades. The visibility of the museum soared thanks to its numerous activities and to the temporary exhibitions it organized, many of them highly successful on an international level. The museum has thus come to the forefront in the public eye, overshadowing the activities of research and documentation. The museum itself and its contents have been radically changed in recent years. And, thanks to the massive investment over the last twenty years in information and communication technology, the Institute has created digital archives of vital importance to research in the history of science. .
It is only fitting that these changes prompted a new name: Museo Galileo. The subtitle, Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza (Institute and Museum for the History of Science), provides a link to its earlier history and shows that the activities of documentation and research have always been, are now, and will continue to be, the focus of highest attention.
The Institute and Museum for the History of Science is heir to a tradition of five centuries of scientific collecting, which has its origins in the central importance assigned by the Medici and Lorraine families to scientists and scientific instruments.
The Medici: A Dynasty of Collectors
1562 - The Medici Wardrobe
The Medicean collection of scientific instruments was begun by Cosimo I (1519-1574), who housed it in the “Wardrobe” of the Palazzo Vecchio, known today as the "sala delle carte geografiche" (Map Room). The room was decorated between 1563 and 1581 by Egnazio Danti and Stefano Buonsignori, who painted the geography of the known world on the 57 doors of the wardrobe. Against the end wall was the planetary clock by Lorenzo della Volpaia. According to the original project, two large globes, one terrestrial, the other celestial, were to hang from the ceiling.
1600 - Mathematics Room
In 1600, Ferdinand I (1549-1609) transferred the collection to a small room in the Uffizi Gallery which became known as the "stanzino delle matematiche". Giulio Parigi depicted the instruments in the collection on the ceiling. Here and on the adjoining terrace (which once housed the great armillary sphere built by Antonio Santucci in 1593) the instruments bequeathed by Robert Dudley and those purchased in Germany by Mattias de\' Medici were displayed.
1657 - The Accademia del Cimento
With the foundation of the Accademia del Cimento (1657), inaugurated by Ferdinand II (1610-1670) and Leopold de\' Medici (1617-1675) for the purpose of conducting the experimental investigation of nature, the collection was enriched with new instruments designed mainly for thermometric, barometric, and pneumatic research. The Accademia was located in the Pitti Palace where all the instruments in the Medici collection were subsequently moved.
The Lorraine Collections
1775 - The Museum of Physics
In 1775 the instruments were moved from the Pitti Palace to the Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History in Palazzo Torrigiani on Via Romana, where the Specola Museum is located today. Grand Duke Peter Leopold Habsburg-Lorraine (1747-1792) appointed as director of the museum Abbot Felice Fontana, who built an observatory and upgraded the collection with new mathematics, physics, meteorology, an electricity instruments, many of which were constructed in the Museum workshops.
1829 - The Museum Workshops
After their decline during the Napoleonic occupation (1799-1814), the museum and its workshops were reorganized upon the return to power of the Lorraine Family. Under the direction of Vincenzo Antinori, outstanding astronomers and physicists such as Giovanni Battista Amici, constructor of microscopes, telescopes, micrometers, and spectroscopes, and Leopoldo Nobili, inventor of electromagnetic and galvanometric instruments and thermo-electric piles, contributed to the development of the Museum workshops.
1841 - The Tribune of Galileo
The Tribune was built in 1841 in the Museum of Physics, upon the initiative of Leopold II (1797-1870). The architect Giuseppe Martelli planned it to include a statue of Galileo, surrounded by frescoes and bas-reliefs illustrating the discoveries and the most important instruments of the great scientist: the geometric and military compass, an armed loadstone, two telescopes, and the objective lens of the telescope with which Galileo discovered the Jupiter satellites. The Renaissance instruments and those of the Accademia del Cimento were also displayed in the Tribune.
1927 - The Institute of the History of Science
After the Unification of Italy, the collections were dispersed among several university departments. In 1922, thanks to the promoters of the "Group for the Preservation of National Scientific Heritage," the collections were rescued from abandonment. In 1927, thanks to their commitment, the Istituto di Storia delle Scienze (The Institute of the History of Science) was founded, with the goal of "collecting, cataloging, and restoring" the scientific collections.
1929 - The National Exhibition
In 1929, the newborn Institute organized the First National Exhibition of the History of Science in Florence. Numerous Italian institutions participated in the show, which brought attention to the vast Italian scientific heritage, promoted its nationwide diffusion, and drew attention to the poor state of preservation. In 1930, following the show, the University of Florence opened the permanent exhibition of the Istituto di Storia della Scienza at Palazzo Castellani to the public. It included the Medici-Lorraine collection of instruments.
1966 - The Flood
After the damage caused by the bombings that destroyed the bridges of the Lungarno at the end of the Second World War (1944-45), another hard blow was dealt to the collection by the flood of 1966. The instruments that were stored in the basement and ground floor of the Museo were seriously damaged. Thanks to international solidarity and the efforts of Maria Luisa Righini Bonelli, then-director of the Museum, it was possible to quickly carry out recovery of the instruments, reopen the exhibition rooms to the public, and focus again on library collecting and research activities.
Before You Book
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IMPORTANT NOTE: The time you select on the order form is your preferred time. The closest available time, which can be anytime during opening hours on the selected date, will be automatically confirmed if your preferred time is no longer available.
9.30 am - 6:00 pm, Tuesdays 9:30 am - 1:00 pm
Closed on teh following national or religious holidays: January 1 and 6, Easter Sunday, May 1, June 24, August 15, November 1, December 8, 25 and 26.
Reservations must be made with a minimum of 1 day notice.
Reservations are limited to 30 persons maximum.
Access for visitors with disabilities
Access for visitors with disabilities
Visitors with reduced mobility can use the entrance in Lungarno Anna Maria de’ Medici, where they can call for assistance if required. The museum is entirely barrier-free.
Visits for the visually impaired
A docent presents to the visually impaired visitors a selection of objects on display in the museum. It is possible to touch some of the original instruments and handle replicas to gain a full understanding of their context in the historic evolution of science. This experience, as well as the museum entrance, is free of charge and is available in Italian and English. Advanced reservations are requested.
Once a confirmation code has been assigned to your reservation, we can refund the cost of unused tickets, also for no-shows, minus a service fee (reservation fee and online booking fee).
How to get there
- By train
You should stop at Florence Central Station, Santa Maria Novella. The Museum can be reached on foot in about 20 minutes. On foot from Santa Maria Novella Station: Take via Panzani and walk, through via Cerretani, up to the Cathedral. When you are in front of it, take Via dei Calzaioli, the first street on the right, and walk up to Piazza della Signoria. Cross the yard of the Uffizi Gallery and, once you reach the Arno, turn left. The Museo Galileo faces the river, beside the Uffizi Gallery. Its main entrance is in Piazza dei Giudici.
- By car
Exit the A1 motorway at “Firenze Sud”. As the historic city centre of Florence is a "restricted traffic zone" we would advise you to leave your car in the parking lot near the Santa Maria Novella train station and to proceed by bus or on foot.
- By plane
- Landing at Amerigo Vespucci Airport in Florence
There is a shuttle service called VOLA IN BUS, which will take you up to the main station Santa Maria Novella, where you can either take a bus or walk to the museum. Otherwise you can reach us by taxi: the service from the airport to downtown costs about € 20.
- Landing at Galileo Galilei Airport in Pisa
You should take either a train or a coach to Florence. They both stop directly at the airport and will take you to the Santa Maria Novella Station.