• Siena

    Natural History Museum – Academy of the Fisiocritici

The Natural History Museum of the Academy of the Fisiocritici of Siena, housed within the former Camaldolese 12th-century monastery of Santa Mustiola, is one of the oldest and most important scientific museums in Tuscany.

The Academcy of the “Fisiocritici”, founded in1691 by Pirro Maria Gabbrielli, a teacher of Medicine and Botany at the University of Siena, brought together numerous scholars who met periodically to discuss scientific matters and search for the truth in natural phenomena by means of experimental practice—hence the term “Fisiocritici”, meaning “judges of nature” or “they who study nature”.

Considered one of the most famous cultural societies in Europe, it counted among its members such scientific luminaries as Carlo Linneo, Joseph-Louis Lagrange, Alessandro Volta, and Louis Pasteur.

The exhibits, the original core collection of which dates back to the mid-1700s, brings together natural and historic finds, period instruments and various curios, organized in four sections.

Of particular importance are the Paolo Mascagni Collection, with its anatomical samples preserved through the technique of injecting metalic mercury into the lymphatic vessels; the Francesco Valenti-Serini Collection including a great number of terracotta models of mushrooms and a herbarium of lichens; the Francesco Spirito Collection, with anatomical samples treated with a process of petrification.

The section dedicated to zoology contains numerous exemplars of “naturalized” vertebrates (i.e., stuffed and mounted in natural positions), skeletons, samples in alcohol, shells and molluscs and display cases of insects, while the geological section gathers together a great many minerals, rocks and fossils.

The museum also has an archaeological section, which includes several Etruscan cinerary urns found in Asciano and in the Val d’Orcia.  They have been placed in a hypogeum that represents an Etruscan tomb.

The Francesco Valenti Serini Room and the mushrooms in terracotta: Doctor Valenti Serini, aware of how many people were dying from eating poisonous mushrooms, dedicated himself to study, ultimately putting together a series of drawings and a collection of terracotta models, designed to teach common people, many of whom were illiterate at the time, how to distinguish between edible and poisonous mushrooms.

Collections of minerals and rocks: within the collection there is a sample of “meteorite of Siena”, which is part of the meteor shower that fell on the Sienese countryside in 1794.

Skeleton of a fin whale: in the inner courtyard of the ancient monastery, visitors may admire the skeleton of a 15-metre-long fin whale, which has become the symbol of the Museum.

The Natural History Museum of the Academy of the Fisiocritici
Piazzetta Silvio Gigli, 2
53100 Siena
Tel. 0577 47002
email: fisiocritici@fisiocritici.it


from November 1st to March 31st

Monday to Friday: 9am – 3pm
Saturday: 1pm – 6pm
Sunday: closed

from April 1st to October 31st
Monday to Thursday: 9am – 4.30pm
Friday: 9am – 7pm
Saturday and Sunday: 2pm – 7pm

Easter: closed
April 25: 11am – 6pm
May 1st: 11am – 6pm
June 2: 11am – 6pm
July 2: closed
August 16: closed

More info: fisiocritici@fisiocritici.it – 0577 47002



admission is subject to a suggested contribution

“In the fiery and concentrated beauty of Siena there is an artificial note that recalls a city perched atop a hill in an old painting. From the fortifications one views the entire city, the white and brown houses, with brown-hued roofs and smooth façades pierced by multiple windows. […] All around reigns the peace of a green world, now sloping down into valleys strewn with red earth and veiled by the gray mist of the olive trees, with cypresses reaching darkly into the sky, now rising into hills”.  (A. Symons, 1907)

In Siena, the flavor, the taste, the view of the city are still the same as those evoked by the words of the English poet who visited and certainly fell in love with the place more than a century ago. Siena sits composedly, perched on its hills.  Move away just a little, and you can take it in all at once, the unmistakable skyline of its elongated silhouette, its walls, the Torre del Mangia and the dome of the Cathedral. And it is not even so different, in certain glimpses, from the way its most beloved painters depicted it in the 1300s and 1400s, from Lorenzetti to Simone Martini, from Sano di Pietro to Vecchietta.

The city’s sensual and harmonious relationship with the landscape that surrounds and protects it is also fundamentally unchanged. The hills, cypresses, red earth and olive trees can be reached on foot by walking out through the ancient gates, or else still inside the city, in the protected and precious green valleys that have remained within the walls.

With its slow, almost dreamlike way of life, Siena should be visited calmly, for it needs to be savoured unhurriedly. Stroll through Siena and let yourself be guided by curiosity.  Slip into the alleys, look for quiet hidden places, explore a museum, a church or a beautiful palazzo.