Located on one of the main streets into the city centre, Palazzo Cavalli takes its name from the family who built it and then lived in it for almost three centuries. Its original construction, in the 1660s, is linked with the fascinating figure of Marino Cavalli ‘Il Vecchio’, Venetian ambassador to some of the main courts in Europe. The palazzo subsequently underwent refurbishment at the end of the seventeenth/beginning of the eighteenth century; it was then that Federico Cavalli and his wife, Elisabetta Duodo, commissioned the imposing decorative work which can still be seen within the structure.
In 1892 the building became home to Padua University’s Technical School for Engineering, and since 1932 has housed the collections of the Museum of Geology and Palaeontology. The first material here was that donated to the University in 1734 by Antonio Vallisnieri the Elder, who also donated to various other museums, and since then the collections have continued to grow.
The museum is divided into four sections: rocks, invertebrate fossils, vertebrate fossils and plant fossils (paleobotany). In the Palm Room visitors can see hundreds of palm fossils found in the Veneto and dating from the Palaeogene period. There are also fish fossils from Bocca, crocodiles and snakes from Roncà and early mammals from Monteviale – all of which provide precious evidence of the tropical climate in the region over the period from fifty to twenty-five million years ago. There are also animal remains dating from the last Ice Ages: cave bears, giant deer, sabre-toothed tigers, shaggy-coated rhinoceroses, mammoths and many others.