Galileo Galilei

By Viator, September 2013

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Most visitors in Tuscany know that the region produced many of what we now think of as the world’s great artistic geniuses. In fact, it’s not uncommon to tour Italy in order to see the masterpieces of people like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. But have you ever thought about going to points of interest based on a scientist like Galileo?

Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa in 1564, and although he was criticized heavily by the church during his lifetime for what were said to be heretical statements about the earth revolving around the sun (he spent his last nine years under house arrest after being found guilty of heresy by the Inquisition), his scientific findings were later found to be correct. He was ahead of his time, to be sure, and was even buried in a less favorable position in a basilica in Florence due to church opposition to placing his tomb in the nave.

Today, there are still some places you can visit that are key points in Galileo’s life. In Pisa, the so-called House of Galileo isn’t his birthplace, but rather a library and museum dedicated to him. There is some debate over Galileo’s actual birthplace in Pisa — a building bearing a plaque declaring it as his birthplace is almost certainly not the right location — though many believe he was born in his mother’s house on Via Giusti.

A famous experiment said to be conducted by Galileo, in which he dropped objects of varying weights off the Leaning Tower of Pisa in order to see how quickly or slowly they would fall, is now believed to have been an idea but not one he actually carried through.

In Florence, you can find a statue of Galileo in one of the niches outside the Uffizi Gallery. Here, he is showcased alongside other famous Tuscans. Galileo is buried in the Basilica of Santa Croce in an elaborate tomb in the nave of the church, but this isn’t his original resting place. When he died in 1642, he was still considered suspect by the church, so they wouldn’t allow him to be buried in the main part of the basilica — rather, his original tomb was in a room next to a side chapel. He was reburied in 1737 in the tomb you can see today, and during the reburial three fingers and a tooth were removed from the body. One of those fingers is on display in the Museo Galileo in Florence, a museum dedicated to the history of science and featuring scientific artifacts from the 15th through 19th century.

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