World’s 1st museum open to the public, Florence. “Dress decently and leave your sword at the door.”

When the son of Francis I, Duke of Lorraine, Pietro Leopoldo arrived in Florence, he found the majority of the people shockingly uneducated, their lives blighted by famine and the inefficient bureaucracy, high taxes and old-fashioned legal system imposed by the Medici and left unreformed by his father, who succeeded the Medici as rulers.

Pietro Leopoldo modelled his new administration on Enlightenment principles, taking it upon himself to disseminate information about science and the natural world in the belief that knowledge was a tool that could be used to combat suffering, superstition and tyranny.

He believed in giving the citizens of Florence a chance to educate themselves, and to this end he founded a new science and natural history museum called La Specola [] on Via Romana, the narrow street that runs from Palazzo Pitti to the Porta Romana.


When its doors opened in 1775, La Specola was the first museum in the world to be accessible to the general public, although initially a distinction was made between the lower classes, who could enter between eight and ten in the morning, ‘if decently dressed’, and ‘the intelligent and well educated’, who had free access from one o’clock, as long as they removed swords and overcoats and left them by the door.

Attlee, Helena (2015-01-05). The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and Its Citrus Fruit (Kindle Locations 221-224). Countryman Press. Kindle Edition.

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