Time passes. Crowds pack the squares and alleyways of Florence. Afternoon hoards dwindle in the hours leading to an evening meal. The facade of the Servite order’s mother church, Santissima Annunziata, glows russet in the long rays of the setting sun. Across the square of the same name is the Hospital of the Innocents, The Ospedale degli Innocenti. It was in this building, designed by the masterful Renaissance architect Brunelleschi, that abandoned children were cared for over the course of centuries.
Funded by the Medici family, specifically Cosimo di Medici, the hospital was created to provide support to the less fortunate children of the city.
Originally, a basin was located at the northwestern corner of the building. This was where the abandoned children were left. In 1660, the basin was replaced with a wheel which protruded from the same corner of the building. The child was left on the wheel and a bell rung. The Servite nuns would open a grate and turn the wheel. Once hidden from public view, the child was provided all the care and education the Renaissance culture could provide. Boys were educated and prepared for public life if so inclined. Girls were taught more basic skills.
So many tourists walk passed this most intriguing corner of Florence, never even suspecting that so many children disappeared into the courtyard of nuns. If you visit Florence, please take a moment to stand at the corner of the hospital and remember those who were nourished by the spirit, and funding, of the Medici.
IF YOU GO:
Address: Piazza SS. Annunziata, 12
Opening times: Everyday (except Wednesday, closed) from 8.15 to 14
Tel: 055 249 1708
Ticket: Euro 2,50