Pensione Bencistà and the prominent people of Florence
Leonardo Ximenes and the Ximenian Observatory (also called Observatory of San Giovannino)
On December 27th, 1716 a man was born in Trapani who, through his studies and hydraulic works, would give prestige to the scientific culture of Florence: Leonardo Ximenes.
Right in front of the incomplete façade of the Church of San Lorenzo stands a building surmounted by a small white dome, which can be seen from several viewpoints of the city: it’s the Ximenian Observatory, one of Italy’s meteorological and geophysical observatories, which is part of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology. It is located on the top floor of the convent of San Giovannino (hence the name) which is run by the Piarist Fathers, in the same building where, in 1756, it had been founded by the Jesuit Leonardo Ximenes.
The works of Leonardo Ximenes are numerous and varied. Born in Trapani, he was then transferred to Tuscany by the Society of Jesus. Here he dedicated himself to hydraulics studies, supervising important works such as the reclamation of the Maremma area.
The Grand Duke of Tuscany chose him as a cartographer and engineer, consulting him on important issues. Today many roads in Tuscany still follow the original drawings made by Ximenes.
Ximenes was also an important astronomer, and as such he was commissioned the restoration of the gnomon inside the Florentine Cathedral. He’s also the founder of an observatory that bears his name, and that he passed, in 1773, to the Piarists Fathers, who still run today it as a seismic observatory.
The Ximenian observatory preserves important documents and scientific instruments such as telescopes, compasses, binoculars, theodolites and geodetic instruments. There are also two scientific libraries, one ancient and the other modern. The building also keeps works of art from the 16th and 17th century.
The seismic and meteorological observatory is currently up and running and covers the Tuscan territory.
Only small groups are allowed to visit upon reservation.
For info: Osservatorio Ximeniano di Firenze,
Piazza San Lorenzo 6, 50123 Firenze
tel. 39 055 210420 | fax 055-214658