Museum of Natural History,
Section of Mineralogy

FLORENCE

The first group of the Florentine mineralogical collections dates back to the Medici collections, that were kept in the “Galleria” (the Uffizi); these specimens, as well as all the natural history finds, were reunited in the palace of Via Romana owing to the foundation of the Museum of Physics and Natural History by Peter Leopold in 1775.

In about a century (1880), the success of the single disciplines and an increase in the collections provoked a division of the museum into “private collections and museums”of various disciplines which later gave rise to the various university institutes. It took another century (1984) for the Museum of Natural History to be formally, even if not physically, reunified, bringing the natural history collections back to their original concept.

So today there exists a Museum of Natural History at the University, organized into six sections: Anthropology and Ethnology in via del Proconsolo; Botany, Geology and Paleontology, Mineralogy and Lithology in via La Pira, the Botanical Garden in via Micheli and Zoology, which has remained in its original seat, La Specola, in via Romana.

The mineralogical collections currently amount to about 50,000 specimens, but already at the end of the 1700’s there were more than 12,000 pieces. A notable source of information on the eighteenth century collections are the catalogs of the time (8 volumes), chronologically followed by a series of appendices and new editions of the catalogs that permit to study the evolution of the collections over the centuries.

Essentially, the specimens are gathered into three collections: “general”, “Italian regional” and “dressed stones of the Medici”, but only a very small part of them can be seen because of a lack of space: just think that the area for the exposition space is less than 200 square meters and there are less than 2,000 pieces on display!

The Targioni Tozzetti collection is part of the historical core. This was the personal collection of Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti (1712-1783), an illustrious Florentine naturalist who compiled the first catalog of “ the natural productions” lying in the Uffizi which gave rise to the Museum. The collection currently consisting of about 5,000 samples, was originally made up of almost 10,000 specimens and supplied with a 12-volume handwritten catalog.

The general collection includes samples from all over the world and, over the last few years, has been enlarged with the acquisition of large collections. Among the various specimens which stand out are: a 151-kg yellow topaz crystal, amethyst geodes weighing dozens of kilos (up to 400 kg), a 98-kg aquamarine beryl, as well as multicolor tourmalines, typical of the Brazilian pegmatite environment. Also a group of meteorites forms part of the collection,ranging from one which fell in 1794 to those more recently found, and a collection of cut and uncut precious stones, including an eye-catching 20-carat diamond.

The regional Italian collection gathers specimens from all over Italy. Samples of sulfur, aragonite and celestine from Sicily, specimens of azurite., foliated covelline and phosgenite from Sardinia and a complete collection of Tuscan minerals are to be pointed out.

Of great interest and importance, the real jewel of the museum, is its Elban collection, essentially formed by the merger of the collections of Captain R. Foresi and Prof. G. Roster, acquired around 1880. Made up of more than 6,000 samples today, its historical nucleus lies in “The 5,000 Elbans”, as Millosevich called them in his 1914 catalogue raisonné. Truly exceptional samples are the tourmalines and the beryls from the S. Piero in Campo area as well as the iron minerals (ilvaites, hematites and limonites) from Rio Marina.

Among the oldest collections, both special and unusual for a Natural History Museum, is the Medici collection of dressed stones, consisting of more than 500 specimens of cups, vases, snuffboxes, bowls (some of which finely chiseled or with inscriptions) once belonging to the Medici family’s personal collections. These objects originally came from the Galleria degli Uffizi, and were then assigned to the Museum of Physics and Natural History. Some of them had been made in the Galleria workshops.

Short Bibliography

“Tesori Nascosti”. Curiosità del Museo di Storia Naturale dell’Università di Firenze. AA.VV., Firenze, Editore: Ed. Polistampa, 2002, note: catalogo della mostra. La Natura del Colore, il Colore della Natura. AA.VV., Firenze, Editore: Ed. Polistampa, 2000, note: catalogo della mostra.

Museum of Mineralogy and Lithology. Mazzetti G., Poggi L., Firenze, Editore: Ed. Polistampa, 1994. Museo di Mineralogia e Litologia. Mazzetti G., Poggi L., Firenze, Editore: Ed. Polistampa, 1994.

Guida geo-mineralogica delle Alpi Apuane: cenni geologici e minerogenetici ed esemplari conservati nel Museo di Mineralogia e Litologia di Firenze. Costagliola P., Firenze, Editore: Ed. Polistampa, 1994. Museum – Il Museo di Storia Naturale dell’Università di Firenze. AA.VV., Firenze, Editore: F. & F. Parretti Grafiche, 1987.

Guida alla visita della collezione elbana del Museo di Mineralogia e Litologia dell’Università di Firenze, e percorsi consigliati per una visita geo-mineralogica dell’Isola d’Elba. Costagliola P., Firenze, Editore: Giunti, 1993.

1-aragonite

Aragonite

Provenance: unknown
Specie: aragonite
General Collection

Arborescent aggregate crystals.

4-cianite

Kyanite

Provenance: Brazil
Type: kyanite
General Collection

Fascicular aggregate crystals.

7-coppa-conchiglia

Shell-shaped cup

Provenance: from the Uffizi Tribuna, it was entrusted to the Private Royal Secretary in 1782 and then to the Imperial Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History
Type: lapis lazuli
Medici Collection

Shell-shaped cup fastened by a sea monster with a turtle-shaped pedestal. Mentioned by Vasari in 1568, it was created by Gasparo Miseroni.

10-diamante

Diamond

Provenance: unknown
Type: diamond
General Collection

Uncut octahedral crystal weighing 20.14 metric carats.

13-quarzo

Hyaline quartz

Provenance: Dauphine, France
Type: hyaline quartz
General Collection

Aggregate of transparent crystals.

16-testina-cane

Dog’s Head

Provenance: from the Uffizi Tribuna, where it was preserved in the cabinet of Ferdinand I
Type: amethyst quartz
Medici Collection

Dog’s head with metal and horn eye, attributable to Aztec realism (1430-1520).

19-tormalina-2

Tourmaline

Provenance: Grotta d’Oggi, S.Piero in Campo, Elba Island
Type: Tourmaline
Elba Collection

Group of 132 dark green-colored crystals with 9 transparent colorless beryls on orthoclase.

22-zolfo

Sulphur

Provenance: Sicily
Type: sulphur
Regional Collection

Druse of transparent crystals on aragonite.

2-azzurrite

Azurrite

Provenance : Calabona Mine, Alghero (SS)
Type: azurite
Regional Collection

Groups of flattened crystals on a matrix.

5-cinabro

Cinnabar

Provenance: Guizhou, China
Type: cinnabar
General Collection

Group of red crystals on dolomite.

9-covellina

Covellina

Provenance: Calabona Mine, Alghero (SS)
Type: covellina
Regional Collection

Aggregate of hexagonal laminar crystals, covered with pyrite.

11-limonite

Limonite

Provenance: Rio, Elba Island
Type: limonite
Elba Collection

Iridescent sinter block.

15-tabacchiera

Snuff Box with gold frame

Provenance: perhaps a gift for Pietro Leopoldo who married the daughter of Carlo III of Spain in 1765
Type: malachite
Medici Collection

Snuff box rimmed in gold and engraved with “Chevalier du Roy orf.ve Madrid”.

17-topazio

Topaz

Provenance: Fazenda do Funil, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Type: topaz
General Collection

Single-terminated semitransparent crystal with inclusions and fractures, weighing 151 kg.

20-tormalina-3

Tourmaline

Provenance: S. Piero in Campo, Elba Island
Type: tourmaline
Elba Collection

Group of multiple pink-colored crystals on orthoclase.

3-berillio

Beryl

Provenance: Grotta d’Oggi, S.Piero in Campo, Elba Island
Specie: beryl
Elba Collection

Colorless beryl crystal with tourmaline and quartz (part.).

6-cofanetto-oro

Casket with gold frame

Provenance: entrusted to His Royal Highness in 1787 and then to the Imperial Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History
Type: lapis lazuli
Medici Collection

Casket with gold frame, described in the old inventories “stuccetto o sia pennarolo da denti”.

8-coppa-fioreloto

Cup in the shape of a lotus flower

Provenance: given to Cosimo III by Prince Galitzine
Type: tremolite jade
Medici Collection

Cup in the shape of a lotus flower, Ming Dynasty (16th-17th c.).

12-oro-lamine

Gold layers

Provenance: Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico
Type: gold
General Collection

Thin layers between quartz crystals.

14-stibina

Stibnite

Provenance: Kremnitz, Slovak Republic
Type: stibnite
General Collection

Elongated aggregate crystals.

18-tormalina

Tourmaline

Provenance: Novo Cruzeiro, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Type: tourmaline
General Collection

Group of green crystals with pink lepidolite mica.

21-vivianite

Vivianite

Provenance: Bolivia
Type: vivianite
General Collection

Transparent blue-green crystal color on a matrix.

Address

Museum of Natural History, Mineralogy Section (Florence)
Via G. La Pira, 4 Firenze
Phone: 055 2346760
Fax: 055 2346760
Website | E-mail

How to get there:
By car: When you arrive in Florence, follow the signs to the Viali di Circonvallazione (boulevards), then to Piazza della Libertà. Park in Viale Matteotti.

Opening hours

Winter hours (October 1 to May 31)
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday and holidays: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Summer hours (June 1 to September 30)
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday and holidays: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Closed: Wednesday

Holidays.
Opened: 6 January, 21 April, 25 April, 2 June, 24 June, 1 November, 8 December, and 26 December.
Closed: 1 January, Easter, 1 May, 15 August, and 25 December.

Tickets

Full price: € 6.00
Reduced price: € 3.00
Family (1-2 adults with up to 4 children): € 13.00

Combined ticket valid for 3 months to Anthropology and Ethnology, Geology and Mineralogy, Botanical Garden:
Full price: € 10.00
Reduced: € 5.00
Family (1-2 adults with up to 4 children): € 23,00

Reductions and complimentary: http://www.msn.unifi.it/upload/sub/pdf/orario.pdf

Useful links