Spedale degli Innocenti
This incredible work of art and humanity got the name from the biblical episode of "the slaughter of the innocents", and was instituted just to welcome abandoned children. Inaugurated in 1444, the Spedale became the first orphanage in Europe.
The splendid Brunelleschi's colonnade is decorated by eight glazed earthenware tondos by Andrea della Robbia (1487), representing babies wrapped into swaddling-bands.
On the left tip of the portico you'll notice the "rota": characteristic rotating stone where the mothers secretly left their unwanted children (the stone rotated and the baby was brought inside, without any need for the mother to identify herself). The practice quickly spread-out, and gave origin to one of the most common Italian last names: Esposito, "exposed", as the orphans were called "esposto", from the Latin word exponere, to put away.
Inwards you'll admire the beautiful courtyard of men (1445-70), from where you'll access the stunning picture-gallery, with notable oeuvres by Botticelli, Luca della Robbia, Pietro di Cosimo and a series of amazing frescoes.
The Spedale is open from 8.30 am to 2 pm every Tuesday and Thursday.
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Address in Florence:
Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, 12.
Ph. +39 055 249 1708.