The Birds and the Bees in Florence

Written by Jenn

We arrived in Firenze (pronounced fee-ren-zeh, which is Italian for Florence) during Settimana della Cultura. It was Italy’s 13th annual Culture Week (April 9-17), and the entire city was abuzz with heavy crowds of tourists everywhere. Every year, the country opens up its state museums to the public free of charge. So locals and tourists join the seemingly unending queues to enter Florence’s world-renowned art museums.

We alloted ourselves only 2 nights in Florence before heading off towards Pisa and Cinque Terre, so our main objectives were to see the Duomo, Michelangelo’s David masterpiece at the Accademia Gallery, explore Galileo’s Science Museum, and walk across the famous Ponte Vecchio Bridge.

Waiting in line for the Galleria Accademia

We started off our day with a 3-hour wait in line to enter the Galleria Accademia, then spent a couple of hours wandering through its halls in complete awe with the masterpieces we saw. Seeing Michelangelo’s 17 foot marble statue of the biblical hero David was worth our time in line.

From there, we ate lunch and walked to the Duomo. We were having such a great day! The weather was warm with an overcast sky, and the streets were jammin’ with people looking to explore this incredible historical city. It was as if everyone was out there on their own educational adventures!

From the Duomo, we hiked it to Museo Galileo. We wanted to explore Galileo’s Museum of the History of Science after reading Carol Marsh’s Mystery at the Roman Colosseum (Around the World in 80 Mysteries). The book was one of our worldschool thematic books for Italy. We wanted to see for ourselves Galileo’s handmade scientific instruments -the telescope and sun dial.

We admired the grandiose globes, astronomical instruments and calendars, varying sizes of telescopes, and instruments which measured atmosphere and light. It wasn’t until we entered into the room which held the medical teaching instruments that our educational adventure became more exciting.

Brian and I were thinking that perhaps this would be the year we would tell our nine year old about the Birds and the Bees.

Little did we know what the day held in store for us…….

Standing in the centre of the room, encased in glass, were a handful of perfectly preserved anatomical wax models of the different scenarios of childbirth.

“Mommy, what’s happening to that baby?” Lucy asked.

Brian and I froze and looked at eachother with large eyes.

You see, we hadn’t actually talked to our kids about the birds and the bees yet. Whenever they would ask where babies came from, my answer was usually, “Well, the mommy and daddy would love eachother so much, and when God felt they were ready to have a baby, He would bless them with one to grow in the mommy’s belly.” We told them that when it was time for the baby to be born, the mommy would know by the feelings she got in her belly, and the doctor at the hospital would help the baby out.

Brian and I smiled to eachother as we paused to prepare ourselves with the answers. I explained to them that these 200 year old wax models (the similar models that you would find in a medical school today) showed the different birthing complications from which a baby was born from a mother’s birth canal. For example, one model showed the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby, while another showed a breech birth (feet first).

“What?! The baby comes out of the mom’s pek (vagina in Filipino slang)?!” Peter exclaimed.

“Yes, most of the time. But sometimes when complications happen, the doctor has to help the mommy by cutting through her belly, called a c-section.” I said.

Brian and I exchanged glances again, and without skipping a beat, Brian took the reigns and started explaining what was happening with each wax model. The kids had so many questions for me though: Did I push them out that way? Did it hurt? Was there any danger of the cord wrapping around their necks? How long did it take? Was I tired after? How could that happen??

We could feel the buzzing of curiosity coming from the kids. We moved on when the questions died down. But, that was just an introduction to our impromptu sex education. The how-does-a-mommy-and-daddy-make-a-baby question didn’t get answered till the next day on our way to Pisa.

The girls reading The Story of Painting

At the gift shop I purchased 3 great Usborne books as educational souvenirs from our time at Museo Galileo: The Story of Science for Susan, The Story of Exploration for Edmund, and The Red Book Pocket Scientist for our budding scientist Peter. For our artist Lucy, we bought The Story of Painting from the Galleria Accademia earlier that day.

From Museo Galileo we continued over to the Ponte Vecchio, stopping to admire the love locks on the way there (romantic couples profess their love for eachother by attaching a lock on the bridge or chain and then throwing the key into the river).

After crossing the bridge, we walked to the Basilica of Santa Croce where Michelangelo and Galileo are buried. The church was closed by the time we arrived that evening, so we headed home to our apartment on the bus.

Thus ended our art and science educational day in Florence.

The next morning we caught the train to Cinque Terre, stopping for a couple of hours at Pisa. On the train, the kids soon took out their new books to read. Peter sidled up to me with his Pocket Scientist book opened to the page How does a baby start?

“Mom, read this. Is this true?” he asked.

I nodded, surprised, and caught unprepared to explain further.


His giggle was a half bewildered squeal.

“Susan, take a look at this! It’s gross!”

Fumbling for words, I quickly improvised and told Peter to show the part that he just read to his dad. Brian read the page, exchanged glances with me, took Peter aside and explained to him the Birds and the Bees.

I don’t think Peter and Susan will ever forget about learning the birds and bees in Florence.

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One Response to The Birds and the Bees in Florence

  1. Pingback: Smeenk Grandparent’s visit to France Part Quatre (4): Patisserie Breakfast and Notre Dame | At Home in the World

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