Ulisse Aldrovandi and the wonders of the world

Palazzo Poggi Museum
8 December 2022 - 28 May 2023

There is an episode of the Italian Renaissance that is as important as it is unknown, perhaps overshadowed by the masterpieces of art and architecture that the whole world admires. It is the reawakening of natural sciences. The event was led by Ulisse Aldrovandi and a small group of doctors, pharmacists and naturalists from a number of Italian cities, who first studied animals and plants from life, rather than just in books, taking the first steps towards science as we know it today

Today, we owe our visual imagery of nature to Ulisse Aldrovandi and that first generation of naturalists. An imagery built on the tradition of nature illustrations, which perhaps nowhere as in Bologna saw such an extraordinary growth, and which would one day turn into the photographs and documentaries we all know.

These naturalists did not make any revolutionary discoveries, but without them Galileo and the birth of modern science might not have happened quite so soon. All trace of them and their story might have been lost if the University of Bologna had not preserved, in its collections and library, an exceptional legacy of objects, images, books and manuscripts linked both to Aldrovandi’s bequest to the city and to the collections of the Istituto delle Scienze, created later by Luigi Ferdinando Marsili.

The Other Renaissance offers visitors the chance to admire many of the gems stored by the University of Bologna, most of them never exhibited before, together with objects and works of art from important Italian museums.

These include a number of digital installations, “sewn” together by a narrative that makes them speak, taking visitors by the hand right from the start of the show and accompanying them on a journey into the past to discover the roots of the present.

The exhibition is organised by the University Museum Network, in collaboration with the Bologna University Library, with the contribution of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers - Mission structure for the promotion of national anniversaries and of the participatory dimension of new generations, and with the patronage of the Bologna City Council, the National Research Council (CNR) and the Institute of Mediterranean European History (ISEM)

The brainchild of Roberto Balzani, Professor at the Alma Mater and President of the University Museum Network, the exhibition, organised in collaboration with the Bologna University Library, is curated by Giovanni Carrada, an expert in the communication of science and cultural heritage, with the scientific advice of Professors Giuseppe Olmi and Davide Domenici of the University of Bologna.

Image: Agostino Carracci, Ritratto di Ulisse Aldrovandi Accademia Carrara, Bergamo ©Fondazione Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

The new Ulisse Aldrovandi itinerary

From the 22nd of June 2023, it is possible to visit the new exhibition dedicated to Ulisse Aldrovandi in the halls of Palazzo Poggi Museum, where “The Other Renaissance. Ulisse Aldrovandi and the Wonders of the World” exhibition was hosted, ending on the 28th of May 2023 with more than 30,000 visitors. A modern and multidisciplinary approach to take a closer look at the great Bolognese naturalist who, more than others, contributed to the reawakening of natural sciences, leading science from the Renaissance to modernity.

The new “Ulisse Aldrovandi” itinerary re-proposes the layout of the exhibition with new objects from the University's collections and is designed to be enjoyed together with a narration which is available free of charge and directly from your mobile device (use of earphones recommended). Visitors will be accompanied through the exhibition by the voice of the curator Giovanni Carrada.

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Palazzo Poggi Museum


Layout of Aldrovandi's Room

Layout of Aldrovandi's Room, Museum of Palazzo Poggi, University Museum Network


Rhinoceros, Ms. Aldrovandi, Tavole di animali, vol. 1, carta 91, Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna

Brendel botanical model

Model of Spurge laurel (Daphne mezereum L.) Brendel company, Berlin, late 19th Century. Bologna, Orto Botanico ed Erbario, Sistema Museale di Ateneo

Codex Cospi

Codex Cospi, Mesoamerican divination manuscript, sec. XV-XVI Ms. 4093, Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna

Living masks: Ai-Hum male

Living masks: Ai-Hum male. Lidio Cipriani's Collection, sec. XX, Bologna, Anthropological Collection, University Museum Network


Horse head, neck, thorax and diaphragm, dried specimen, 1885 Ozzano dell'Emilia (Bo), Domestic Animal Anatomy Collection, University Museum Network

Wax model

Wax model of the different stages of the Smallpox vaccination Giuseppe Astorri, 1822, Bologna, "Luigi Cattaneo" Anatomical Wax Collection, University Museum Network

Lophophorus impejanus

Taxidermized specimen of Himalayan monal Lophophorus impejanus (Lapham, 1790) Bologna, Zoological Collection, University Museum Network

Layout of Aldrovandi's Room

Layout of Aldrovandi's Room, Museum of Palazzo Poggi, University Museum Network

Layout of the Sala di Davide

Layout of the Sala di Davide, Museum of Palazzo Poggi, University Museum Network

Layout of the Sala di Mosè

Layout of the Sala di Mosè, Museum of Palazzo Poggi, University Museum Network

Xilographic matrices for printing

Painted and carved Xilographic matrices for printing, from Ulisse Aldrovandi’s workshop sec. XVI 16th century Bologna, Museum of Palazzo Poggi, University Museum Network

Nautical chart

Ibanet Panades, Nautical chart 1556 Bologna, Specola Museum Of Astronomy, University Museum Network


Ulisse Aldrovandi, Erbarium, Milkvetch in vol. 10, carta 59, Purple viper’s-bugloss in vol. 10, carta 58, Broad-leaved anemone in vol.5, carta 14, 16th century Bologna, Botanic Garden and Herbarium, University Museum Network

Dissected swan

Dissected swan, in Ulisse Aldrovandi, Ornithologiae hoc est de avibus historiae libri XII, vol.3 Bologna, Francesco De Franceschi senese, 1603 Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna, A.IV.H.III.8/3

Dioscorides Pedanius

Dioscorides Pedanius, De plantis epitome utilissima Frankfurt am Main, Johann Feyerabend, 1586 Bologna, Biblioteca del Dipartimento di Scienze Biologiche, Geologiche e Ambientali Fondo storico Bertoloni

Monstrous toad specimen

Monstrous toad specimen - Bufo sp. 16th century Bologna, Ulisse Aldrovandi's Collection, Museum of Palazzo Poggi, University Museum Network

Layout of the Sala di Mosè

Layout of the Sala di Mosè, Museum of Palazzo Poggi, University Museum Network

Layout of the Sala di Susanna

Layout of the Sala di Susanna, Museum of Palazzo Poggi, University Museum Network

European asp

European asp - Vipera aspis (Linnaeus, 1758) Bologna, Zoological Collection, University Museum Network

Information & Contacts

Palazzo Poggi Museum

Via Zamboni 33, 40126, Bologna

+39 051 2099600

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