Monday, May 22, 2017

Florence: the children's home Ospedale degli Innocenti


More of the renovation has been completed 5/1/2017
 Florence, Italy

Ospedale degli Innocenti: the hospital of the innocents

Walking through the Piazza Santissima Annunziata as an exchange student many years ago, the imposing building on the east side of the piazza was never open, but it has proudly kept its long history of service to children.  





For the past year+ scaffolding and plastic sheathing has promised a renovation that will educate visitors on the buildings’ history.
The building style was unique for the 1400 and well documented in Wikipedia.

Now open to the public the ospedale innocente tells the story of the children left at the infants table (a circular platform that rotated to send the infant to the interior of the building) or older children brought to the ospedale when parents could no longer care for them.  Parents entrusted children to the ospedale until the family might be able to continue to care for them.

According to the information at the 'infants table' that infants were passed through the bars.   I expect only very young infants managed to pass this test.  
Other children were housed, fed and trained for skilled jobs when they reached maturity.   Girls might become nuns or marry since the organization supplied dowries for girls.   
Three floors are open to view for a small admission fee.   On the top floor is a large glassed wall café with outside seating to enjoy the rooftop views.   Off the cloister on the prima piano is a large meeting room and many other doors that were not open to visitors.   


On my second visit I found a new portion of the museum open for visitors.

                                                      The Museum

This is an interactive museum with audio, videos and text available in English as well as Italian.   A headset is an additional fee.  You can spend as much time as you wish at each exhibit. 
  
The bank of wooden drawers was captivating.




Each drawer was labeled with a child’s name and a date.  Inside is the original item a mother might have left with her child so that identification might be easier when a parent returned to claim their offspring.     Opening a drawer from more than 200 or 300 years ago, you find a ribbon or half of a medal (the parent would keep the other half) and other mementos that came to the ospedale with a child. 
I inspected dozens of boxes, some from the late 1800’s thinking of the mothers who left their children to be cared at the institute.

                                                                                                                                 
There is a note station nearby where you are asked to leave a message. Videos of several of former siblings of children adopted from the ospedale can also be played in English and explained how a family might bring a child from the ospedale home to join their other children.





       


                      Black and white photo show some of the children and workers, always formal photos. 
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You could easily spend most of the day reading all the display entries, enjoying lunch in the café and viewing the extensive art exhibit also housed in the buildings.     I saw Italian tour guides with small groups in the museum but no mention of any scheduled tours.

The top floor art gallery houses pieces from very well-known artists.  The room is striking from an architectural view point.

Large gift shop is located on the first floor, free lockers at the entrances allow you to store handbags and back packs (free when I visited) and restrooms.  
There is a small Church within the ospedale but it is only open on Sundays for mass.  Perhaps on my next visit more of the interior is renovated that exhibits from the daily lives of the children and the caretakers will be on display: furniture, clothing, housewares and written accounts from the years the ospedale was open.  

Let your mind wander back hundreds of years and you are in Renaissance Florence.