This was a total surprise. I went to visit Venice Natural History Museum, I admit it, only because I had the Museum Pass: 1) The Museum pass includes a free visit to this Museum 2) without the pass I wouldn’t have had any idea of its existence in the first place. I’m honest, I thought to go and take a look and I was sure it’d be like other Natural History Museums in Italy, i.e. old fashioned, static and boring. Well, I was wrong, or at least, I was partially wrong.
First of all, the location is wonderful. The Venice Natural History Museum is in fact in the Fondaco dei Turchi, a historic palace facing the Grand Canal. This Palace was once a representative seat of the Serenissima. In 1621 Venice granted it to the Turkish (hence the name) merchants for their commercial seat (they traded wax, oil, wool, leather and tobacco). After a complete rebuilding, the Fondaco dei Turchi was chosen as the seat of the Correr Museum (now in St. Mark’s Square). Since 1923 it houses Venice Natural History Museum (renovated in 2011).
The entrance conquered my heart immediately: a little garden hidden between two Venetian palaces, a courtyard with a well, places to sit, a drinkable water fountain (I filled my bottle). During spring it must be enchanting.
Venice Natural History Museum – My visit
As I entered, there I found a school class (4th grade I think) so I hurried up to enjoy the Museum in peace. I climbed the stairs, which walls were adorned by dinosaurs and other animals pictures (but there is a lift for those who want to avoid the stairs).
First hall, dedicated to the Ligabue – Taquet Expedition in the Teneré desert, Niger (1973). The Tuareg narrated legends regarding huge stone serpents emerging from the golden sands of the desert together with ancient treasures. The expedition was indeed successful. The main findings were 2 skeletons: 1) Ouranosaurus (Ourane means courageous but also lizard in the Tuareg language) nigeriensis dinosaur and 2) Sarcosuchus imperator, the biggest crocodile ever found (not entire).
The hall is covered in wood and made as if you were in a desert. On 2 walls you can see the 2 animals (dinosaur and crocodile) depicted in their actual size. An the on the side you can see the dinosaur skeleton: it’s not enormous but it is important because it is quite rare and almost complete. You may not immediately notice it (I did only because I asked), but on the floor right below the dinosaur skeleton you can see the crocodile or, at least, some part of it (the remaining parts have been completed with a drawing, but it is very effective, I reckon).
On the trail of life
In this section, through 5 rooms you can follow see fossils and even walk over them (protected by glass, of course).
Then begins another section dedicated to Venetian explorers or collectors who donated their collections to their city:
- Giovanni Miani who organized an expedition to find the source of the river Nile. In 1860 he reached the furthest point (by then) but he didn’t manage to reach the source (discovered 2 years later by Speke and Grant). In this huge room you can see all the objects he collected during his expedition.
- Giuseppe Reali, a safari aficionado who collected several hunting trophies. Its collection was important at that time for people to learn more about Africa. But now… it is creepy: heads of monkeys, gazelles, even a rhino, a hippo and an elephant.
- Giancarlo Ligabue (the same of the dinosaur)
Then you enter the Wunderkammer, a little room displaying a strange collection of objects. Some of them are fascinating, some are odd and some are absolutely horrifying, like some two-headed animals or the Mummified Cat catching a mouse, known as the Doge’s cat cause it was the cat of Doge Francesco Morosini (in 1600).
After that there’s a sort of corridor dedicated to the Enlightenment Museology (I crossed it quickly cause it displayed anatomical parts or something like that).
The path of life
It is little multimedia room in which you can see images of many different organisms divided in categories introduces us to the next part of the Natural History Museum, a series of rooms, each dedicated to a different habitat. I liked particularly the room where kids can understand the point of view of different species while they move slithering, hopping, running and walking. In these rooms there are other stuffed animals, so you’re warned.
At the end of these rooms, you have to go down the stairs. Then enter a little room where you can see the Acquario delle Tegnue, an aquarium recreating the Adriatic sea habitat. The aquarium was not so great to be honest. But I had fun seeing a crab while eating with a claw and protecting his food with another claw.
Then you proceed (toilet- a bit rusty- on the left) and arrive at the last room. It is a sort of corridor with a side open to the courtyard. In this area you can see a whale skeleton and hear (thanks to some headphones) the sound of different water animals. Thumbs up for the big whales. Their sound is pleasant and plus I thought immediately about adorable Dory speaking whale in Finding Nemo. But beware of dolphins. Their call is soooo loud I had to take off the headphones immediately!
Plus and Minus
- The first, renovated rooms are pleasant and interesting.
- Many interesting objects displayed, mostly the dinosaur.
- Beautiful garden where to stop after the visit during sunny days.
- Explanatory sheets, tags etc only in Italian (at least for the first half of the Museum). You have to ask at the Ticket Office for a sheet in your language to use during the visit.
- Too few interactive tools.
- Creepy stuffed animals and other objects in some rooms (like in many other Natural History Museums).
I really liked the Venice Natural History Museum. I think this Museum can be perfect for Natural History enthusiasts, for people who have already visited the main Venice attractions and for curious kids. Since I suffer from a severe case of Peter Pan syndrome that was perfect even for me!
Santa Croce 1730, Venice
From June 1st to October 31st
10 am – 6 pm (ticket office 10am – 5 pm)
From November 1st to May 31st
From Tuesdays to Fridays: 9 am – 5 pm (ticket office 9 am – 4 pm)
Saturday and Sundays: 10 am – 6 pm (ticket office 10 am – 5 pm)
Closed on Mondays, December 25th, January 1st, May 1st
MUSEUM PASS full 24€, reduced 18€ (includes: Doge’s Palace, Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico, Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Ca’ Rezzonico, Palazzo Mocenigo, Carlo Goldoni’s House, Ca’ Pesaro + Oriental Art Museum, Glass Museum – Murano, Lace Museum – Burano, Natural History Museum Museum)