Taking kids to Italy is a wonderful opportunity, no doubt! The breath-taking churches, the museums containing some of the most important works of art….what a gift to give young travelers. But….if their interest seems to be waning, and the lack of 24/7 wifi is starting to make a fun trip, well…less than fun..let me offer two weird Italy sites, that will be right up your young travelers’ alley!
Rome: The Santa Maria della Concezione Crypt
Y’all…this place is amazing, and creepy, and awesome all at the same time. Mark Twain visited the crypt, and was so impressed, he wrote about his experience in his 1869 book “Innocents Abroad.” Some 4,000 Capuchin friars who died between 1528 and 1870 are still lying, hanging, and generally decorating the Santa Maria della Concezione Crypt in Rome.
In 1631, the Capuchin friars – so-called because of the “capuche” or hood attached to their religious habit – left the friary of St. Bonaventure near the Trevi Fountain and came to live at the Santa Maria della Concezione, of which only the church and crypt remain. Ordered to bring the remains of the deceased friars along with them to their new home, so that all the Capuchin friars might be in one place, they obeyed. But, rather than simply burying the remains, the monks decorated the walls of the crypts with their bones, as a way of reminding themselves that death could come at anytime; A plaque in the crypt reads: “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.” Mummified monks were dressed in friar’s clothes and hung from the walls and ceiling. With the addition of electricity, light fixtures, made entirely out of bones, were incorporated into some of the hallways. Today, all photography is prohibited, but I visited many years back when photos were allowed.
- Starting at the Via del Corso, walk up east, uphill, on the Via del Tritone. When you reach the Piazza Barberini with the famous Bernini Triton Fountain, walk along the left side of the Piazza, and turn left on Via Veneto. The Crypt will be on your right on the opposite side of the Via Veneto.
- Allow about an hour to visit the crypt, and there’s a gift shop where the kids can get fun and slightly macabre shirts, and other souvenirs to remember their weird Italy Rome experience, the proceeds of which support the museum.
- There is a fee to enter the museum.
Florence: La Specola Museum
La Specola is the oldest public museum in Europe, having started as the personal collection of the Medici family. It was opened to the public in 1775. Anyone could attend as long as they “looked clean.” Many rooms contain wax anatomical models….full human models and details of internal organs….kids will be grossed out and love this weird Italy collection all at the same time. Adults will too, as the 18th Century cases are truly gorgeous, and it’s fascinating to think about how anatomy was studied so long ago. Plus you can tell the kids that Goethe and Emperor Leopold visited the museum (buy them a gelato if they can tell you who those people are!)
In addition to the wax models, La Specola is part of the Museum of Natural History in Florence and also houses some wonderful taxidermy, including birds, fish, and monkeys, and deer….and a hippo!
- La Specola is right down the street from the Pitti Palace, which is on the south side of the river Arno. It’s a short walk to the Ponte Vecchio, where you can cross the river, ogle all the jewelry, and see the other major site of Florence.
- Plan on two hours in this museum. There’s really a lot to see, and kids, as well as adults, will find this weird Italy collection very interesting.
- There is a fee to enter the museum.
- Ok y’all….anatomy means naked. So, maybe work in a solid “birds and bees” convo while you are there. After that…you might need something stronger than a gelato!
For more information about visiting Italy, click here!