By Alexandra Turney
The influence of the powerful Medici dynasty can be seen everywhere in Florence. Palazzo Vecchio was once the home of the Medici; the Uffizi Gallery began as a collection of Medici art; the churches of Florence are filled with famous artworks commissioned by the Medici; the Basilica of San Lorenzo was rebuilt with Medici money. But the most unusual part of the Medici legacy in Florence can be found not in the palaces or piazzas, but in a small museum called La Specola, in the form of a stuffed hippopotamus.
In the 17th century, a hippo once roamed the Boboli Gardens. It was apparently the pet of Cosimo III, a member of the Medici who had a penchant for exotic animals. After its death, the hippo was inexpertly stuffed, and later displayed in Florence's Museum of Zoology and Natural History (La Specola), where it can still be seen today.