The MUSE science museum in Trento became the innovative answer to one of this Italian city’s biggest problems. It was a huge blow to Trento’s economy, in 2004, when the multi-national tyre manufacterer Michelin decided to close its factory. Many locals were sceptical, though, when the local authorities announced a project to re-develop the site of the old factory, building a state-of-the-art science museum, and an area of shops, appartments and offices – an area to be designed by the world-famous architect Renzo Piano. The idea that this project would act as a beacon calling visitors from across Italy, and the World, to visit Trento, seemed fanciful.
Now, in 2016, just three years after the opening of the Muse Science Museum, the project has been an undoubted success – turning an old industrial zone, into a new, eco-friendly tourist attraction that draws thousands of visitors to this small but beautiful city.
The Muse museum, is much more than just a science museum. Located in a valley surrounded by the Dolomites, with the Adige river a literal stone’s throw away, the museum – with its specially commissioned building, by Renzo Piano – has become a symbol and a philosophy, reclaiming the industrial space and turning it into an eco-friendly, green-energy powered learning space. It’s a wonder to behold.
The museum has become so popular that it’s important to plan your visit carefully. Lots of visitors turn up only to find that the museum has already sold out for that immediate time-period, so the best plan is to visit the Museum’s ticket office online and book in advance.
If the online tickets are sold out, there are always a number of tickets available at the Museum itself, but you will need to queue, and there is no guarantee that you will get in. The queuing system itself is efficient and well thought out. You take a number when you arrive, and are served in sequence as space/tickets become available. There are large screens informing visitors of estimated waiting times for admission.
There are useful footprints on the floor at various points in the museum, to indicate the correct direction to view an exhibit, so keep an eye out for these.
The museum suggests that the best way to visit, is starting from the top level – the panoramic roof garden – and working your way down. This is because the shape and layout of the museum uses the metaphor of a mountain, starting at the top encountering sun and ice, and then working your way down through biodiversity, sustainability, and evolution, through to prehistory and the tropical rainforest in the basement.
The Museum is closed on Mondays. Opening hours and ticket prices can be viewed at the Muse official site here. Muse is generally open on holidays, apart from Christmas day, but it’s worthwhile checking in advance. Also, keep in mind that on many Italian national holidays, particularly if they fall towards the weekend, there will be a bigger demand for tickets.
At the moment children under 6 years of age are entitled to free admission, as are children under the age of 14 whose birthday is on the day of the visit (or one day prior/after).
The Muse Museum is a great space for all ages, but in particular it’s great for kids with lots of hands-on exhibits and experiments, digital sreens to touch and play areas. It’s particularly good, though, for very young children, because they’ve set up a specific space dedicated only to them (0-5 years) on the ground floor. This is a 200m2 space to thrill small kids and allow them to explore and wander in a safe but intriguing space. It’s a real treat that you won’t find in traditional museums, and helps make the museum a family-friendly space with something for everyone.
To use the Maxi Ooh! space, make sure you get age verification at the entrance/ticket office, to show when you try to gain admittance on the 2nd floor.
Some of the older kids may be dissapointed that they can’t get in to Maxi Ooh!, but situated right outside its entrance are an amazing selection of interactive science games and puzzles that will more than keep them distracted.
The musuem is divided into 7 levels, including a panoramic roof garden which gives a great view across the whole Albere district, and the Adige river valley. Here we list just some of the highlights in the museum
On the fourth floor, you can learn all about the mountains that have shaped the city of Trento, and can enter the Glacial Experience – a 10-metrelong multi-vision space inside which the visitor
experiences the impression of flying above the Alps!
On the third floor there’s the Bio-Diversity Labyrinth, which takes visitors through a quick succession of different Alpine panoramic views, showcasing various different habitats and their flora / fauna.
The Second floor has various exhibits dealing with the beauty and power of the geological forces that shape our planet. Italy is particularly prone to seismic activity, and there are some wonderful exhibits here that explain volcanic activity and earthquakes, as well as flooding (our kids were awestruck by the model that demonstrates how a dam can regulate river flows to avoid flooding).
The first floor has a Time Machine, a multimedia cave. Inside this immersive space, scenes ofprehistoric life are projected on the walls and centrally located screens. It’s an amazing experience – heightened by the ultra realistic stone-age models that surround the outside of the cave.
Another great feature of the Museum is the Science on a Sphere section, a giant multimedia sphere suspended, where Museum staff show visitors projected effects of climate change. Like much of the Museum space, it manages to take a difficult subject and make it fun, interesting, and inspiring.
The basement floor is great fun, with dinosaur
Finally, one highlight of the Museum that is unmissable is the Big Void – the central space that runs down this magnificent building, allowing visitors to look down and up through the different floors, and into which are suspended various stuffed animals and skeletons (the Museum is quick to point out that all of the animals on display died naturally and were donated to the Museum).