Fritz the elephant and Turin’s Museum of Natural Sciences

Did you know that in Turin there is a stuffed Indian elephant? Its name is Fritz and it is the celebrity of the newly reopened Museum of Natural Sciences. The live animal was donated in 1827 to Carlo Felice of Savoy by none other than the Viceroy of Egypt Mohamed Ali. The elephant, which travelled by sea from Alexandria in Egypt to the port of Genoa, walked to Turin and was housed in the former stable of the Stupinigi Hunting Lodge. A pool with a slide was also built for him in the courtyard of the Lodge. Of course, Fritz immediately became the local attraction and was the first and only animal to be photographed on a daguerreotype (a photographic image made on a silver-plated copper support polished so it would be sensitive to light). Fritz was also prescribed a special diet: every day it had to eat 50 loaves of bread, 24 cabbages, rice and butter, drink 2 pints of wine and smoke tobacco. Despite its size, the elephant was in poor health: it often suffered from indigestion and toothache. A lover of gentle music, for 25 years it was a great favourite of Turin’s inhabitants’, who flocked to admire it in droves. 

One day, however, the caretaker it was very fond of died and Fritz became depressed, refusing to leave its enclosure and perform. Forced by its new caretaker, it reacted by grabbing him with its trunk and killing him by throwing him to the ground.  Using its being dangerous as a pretext, King Victor Emmanuele II, who already struggled to accept the elephant due to its exorbitant upkeeping costs, decreed it be put down and its remains preserved in the Museum of Natural Sciences. 

Perhaps because of its sad story, Fritz is still dear to the people of Turin, who will surely go and see it again since, after being closed for 10 years, the Regional Museum of Natural Sciences has finally reopened. 

The Museum is located in a building built at the end of the seventeenth century, which once housed the St. John the Baptist Hospital. Since its founding, the museum has pursued its mission to spread knowledge of the natural world through an extensive programme of scientific research and exhibitions.

The new exhibition itinerary is divided into over three areas:

  1. The Historical Museum of Zoology, which holds the historical zoological collections of the University of Turin and allows visitors to explore the fauna of all the five continents. Fritz the elephant can be found at the centre of this section.
  2. The Ark of Explorations, which – in an exhibition structure reminiscent of a ship – tells the story of the naturalistic journeys that have contributed to the richness of the finds kept in the museum. At the centre of this section stands the exceptional skeleton of a fin whale beached in Bordighera in the mid-nineteenth century.
  3. The Hall of Wonders where visitors can admire a selection of the most interesting finds kept in the museum's archives.

The novelties of the new exhibition include multimedia installations that give visitors immersive experiences. Interactive video mapping is shown continuously on a giant screen and also directly on Fritz the elephant’s body, showing images of its internal organs. In the historic section of the museum, there is also a totem equipped with generative Artificial Intelligence. Inside the totem, the avatar of Sir Alfred Russel Wallace, the father of biogeography, talks to visitors about nature.

The museum is located in Via Accademia Albertina, 15 and is open from 10 am to 6 pm every day except Tuesday. Tickets cost €5.00.

For more information and reservations, see:

Scuola Leonardo da Vinci Turin

The Leonardo da Vinci partner School is situated in the Crocetta residential district of Turin.
The welcoming friendly atmosphere of our school will make you feel at home and you can relax with your classmates in the small gardens of the adjacent pedestrian area.