Dinosaurs on the Grand Canal

Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia

Hidden in the winding streets of Venice is the Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia, which is housed in Fondaco dei Turchi, a Veneto-Gothic palazzo constructed in the 13th century by Giacomo Palmier, who was an exile from Pesaro.


In 1381, the building was purchased by the Venetian Republic for Niccolò d’Este, the Marquess of Ferrara. Its later name (“Turks’ Inn”) comes from its purpose, beginning in 1621, as a residence for Venice’s Ottoman Turkish visitors, serving as a home, warehouse, and market for Turkish traders as they brought wax, crude oils, and wool to the city.

Ouranosaurus nigeriensis

From 1890 to 1923, the building served as home to the Museo Correr (which later moved to the Procuratie Nuove at the Piazza San Marco), and since 1969 it houses the Natural History Museum of Venice.

The museum itself was founded in 1923 to hold the scientific items that were part of the collections of the Museo Correr and the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere e Arti.

Sala Miani

The museum’s collections benefitted greatly from the findings of three explorers: Giovanni Miani, Giuseppe de Reali, and Giancarlo Ligabue. Giovanni Miani was a poet and musicologist who sought fame by exploring Africa, conducting expeditions to try to find the sources of the Nile, though he failed in his endeavor. He donated a total of 1800 items to the museum.

Giuseppe de Reali was a big game hunter who collected hunting trophies from his safaris to northern and equatorial Africa (a room dedicated to him is probably the only room I did not photograph, as it felt more like a hunting lodge than a natural history exhibition).

Giancarlo Ligabue was a Venetian entrepreneur who dedicated himself to exploration and scientific research, leading expeditions to five continents, and founding the Ligabue Study and Research Center. He also donated the Ouranosaurus nigeriensis on display at the beginning of this post.

The museum’s collection has continued to grow over the years, and today it spans 700 million years, with 2 million items covering zoological, entomological, and botanical spheres, holding fossils and anatomic specimens, and ethnographic collections. Its library holds over 40,000 tomes.

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