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Fondaco dei Turchi

Venice's Natural History Museum

Fondaco dei Turchi

One of the landmarks of the Grand Canal, the Fondaco dei Turchi, with its arcades of round arches, was built for the Palmieri family in the 12th–13th centuries, and passed through many owners thereafter.

In 1453, the last ambassador from Constantinople sojourned here; ironically, after 1621 the palace was occupied by his Turkish successors, serving as the headquarters for Ottoman merchants in Venice until 1838, when it was tidily over-restored by the Austrians to house the city’s Natural History Museum

The museum is good fun, and nature’s quiet reminder in the world’s most beautiful city that its creatures are all masterpieces in their own way – even the sponges, from the delicate little Basket of Venus to the mighty Elephant Ear Sponge.

There’s a Japanese crab, the Macrocheira kaempferi, that could play a villain’s role in a James Bond film; incredible bugs, scorpions and centipedes (more in the Vincent Price vein); beautiful butterflies, beetles and bees; and a collection of things you’d probably never pondered before, like the embryos of the shark and ray, complete with photos of a shark giving birth on an Egyptian ship, or the ‘Monstrous Chimera’, a strange fish with peculiar sex organs.

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Museums and Galleries

Other places

San Polo/Santa Croce

Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Image by mararie