Tucked all over Italy, housed in universities, in dusty museums, in backrooms with irregular hours, are astounding collections of a fascinating nature. Ignored by locals and unknown by tourists these collections were once the pride of the town and university. Pisa, home to a university founded in 1343 has had time to amass quite a few such collections. It is worth walking away from the leaning tower in search of a few of them.
One such collection is the Museum of Human Anatomy opened in 1832 by Tommaso Biancini under the title “Anatomical Cabinet.” The cabinet quickly grew to house over 1,600 specimens and the collection holds fetal skeletons, skulls, anatomical statues, prepared specimens, and wax models. Mixed in with the anatomy collection are some Colombian and Egyptian mummies and the death mask of the great wax modeler Paolo Mascagni.
Another such collection can be found next door at Via Rome 57. It is the Museo di Anatomia ed Istologia Patologica or Pathological Anatomy Museum. Dedicated to what can go wrong in nature, the collection includes “a dog with six legs, a cat with two heads, and a baby chick with two heads and four legs.” Nearby, at Viale delle Piagge 2, is the Veterinary Anatomy museum, with even more anatomical models - this time of animals. No doubt Pisa holds many other collections waiting to be discovered in the shadow of the tower.