Walking with Galileo in Medici Florence

There is another Florence besides the known one all over the world for its works of art and its magnificence, capable of attracting visitors from everywhere. There is another city within the city and it is the Florence of science: dark, visionary, powerful. A Florence that deserves to be visited, perhaps discovering it by retracing the steps in the life of Galileo Galilei, the scientist – sponsored by Cosimo II de’ Medici – who truly associated this city with science, defining it as an “indivisible” combination.

Inside Florence, a route winds like an electric cable that intercepts various sites of interest but which with its terminal connects to a place that can be considered the beginning and end of the journey: the Galileo Museum. It is located near the Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio, in Piazza dei Giudici, inside a medieval palace, where alongside unique pieces there is a lot of technology and multimedia, capable of amplifying the conservation skills of the experts and the consultation by the visitors, in person but also online.

At the Galileo Museum the telescopes with which the scientist made his astronomical observations and which were epochal are kept. In fact, with instruments, such as the telescope, the concept of “experimental verification” of conceived scientific theories was introduced. Inside the exhibition rooms it is possible to find the “objective lens” of the telescope with which Galileo made numerous observations between 1609 and 1610, as well as the sculpture of the bust of the same scientist (which dates back to 1674) commissioned by Cosimo III to artist Carlo Marcellini.

Inside the museum, however, there is also the whole history of pre-Galilean astronomy. At that time the sky was interpreted differently, through complex machines, such as astrolabes. These “magic” golden discs (which together somehow made up spheres), enriched with the engraving of numbers and symbols, represented the idea of ​​the Universe of the time. With astrolabes it was possible, even with a certain precision, to establish date and time, latitude and longitude and the position of stars and planets. They were also used as currency converters, and only extremely educated people like Galileo were capable of using these tools. These objects were also decorated in an incredibly refined way.

Obviously a large room of the museum is dedicated to Galileo, in particular to his main intuition, namely the telescope. The important aspect was the idea that an object conceived for recreation in the courts of the time could become an instrument capable of amplifying scientific research and the experimental verification of the conjectures made.

In the rooms that permanently host the Lorraine collections it is possible to find all sorts of artefacts, objects created by other scientists and scholars, who with their discoveries have characterized the history of humanity. From chemical bench, once belonging to Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine, up to Newtonian telescopes, passing through all sorts of machinery invented and built to conduct experiments on electricity, gravity, sound and vacuum.

In the museum, he explains Roberto Ferrrari executive director of “Galileo”, there are not only “objects on display to the public, but also study and experimentation laboratories and multiple teaching and educational initiatives. An original approach that still lives in our Institute today, whose scholars measure themselves with the philology of machines, also through 3D modeling and mechanical reconstruction, historical investigation, the production of knowledge tools in a digital environment, thought of as valid supports for scholars and for dissemination to a wide audience, including non-experts”.

The “grand tour” inside scientific and Galilean Florence is punctuated by places where knowledge and memory come together, giving the “traveler” a greater understanding of the progress of humanity. Galileo arrived in the city in 1610 as a mathematician and philosopher at the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and dedicated himself to star observation and study. In Galileo’s Tribune at the Specola (where the scientist observed the sky) there is a carved phrase: “Provando e provando”, the motto of the Accademia del Cimento, the first “Italian” scientific society founded in 1657 in Florence by a group of scientists, many of whom were students of Galileo, and based precisely on the use of the Galilean method. Galileo’s traces lead to the Basilica of Santa Croce where he is buried. Just outside the centre, towards the hills, in via Pian dei Giullari, Villa Il Gioiello instead reveals a more private Galileo. In this house he lived until his death, surrounded by his students and loved ones. Not far away is the Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory, as if in ideal continuity with the Galilean past. Villa Gioiello in Florence it has become one of the city’s melting pots where contemporary art, science and philosophy come together to provide new and fascinating points of view in the observation of humanity’s great journey, from the earth to the stars. This is the case of the last exhibition staged there: “Inner Worlds, Outer Spaces” by Daniela De Paulis and curated by Valeria D’Ambrosio.

Indeed, many places from Galileo’s life are preserved in Florence: from his two houses, in Costa San Giorgio and in via Pian dei Giullari, to the Museum – inspired and dedicated to him, which preserves his telescopes and personal instruments -, to the Tribune of Galileo, near the astronomical tower of the Museo della Specola, up to the tomb which is located, like other Italian glories, in the basilica of Santa Croce.

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