Ospedale degli Innocenti
In Piazza Santissima Annunziata, the atmosphere is almost always very quiet, tourists tend to stay away from this part of the historic center, preferring the area of the nearby Academy of Fine Arts or the Duomo. It is precisely the scarce presence of people that gives this wide Florentine square a timeless atmosphere, allowing you to admire undisturbed the splendid Renaissance architectures present here. In particular the "Ospedale degli Innocenti", a milestone in Florentine architecture, designed by none other than Filippo Brunelleschi. Built in Piazza Santissima Annunziata in 1419, at the time of the Florentine Republic, it can be considered the oldest Renaissance architectural work.
With it, Brunelleschi created an example of harmonious and rational hospital architecture with a balanced system of spaces that included a refectory, dormitories, infirmary, nurseries and porticoes. These spaces were later enlarged and decorated with frescoes that documented the activity of the institution, which was founded to welcome and provide care for orphaned or abandoned children.
In fact, under the eastern portico there was the "wheel" on which unwanted children or those born from families too poor to raise them were abandoned to the care of the hospital.
But the orphanage of the Innocenti would not necessary be their home forever. After being left on the wheel, they were exposed to the public in the Loggia del Bigallo, in piazza Duomo, so that they could be reclaimed by those parents who had had a change of heart, or adopted by Florentine families willing to take in a foundling.
Porticoes were design by Brunelleschi following a precise correspondence between the spring line of the arch, the height of the columns and the depth of the portico, creating thus a geometrically perfect cubic spatial module.
The research for balance and harmony was, after all, at the very base of Renaissance aesthetics.
In the eyes of Filippo Brunelleschi, nothing created harmony like a perfectly geometrical and clean design. So originally, the façade of the building displayed a series of arches with blank spaces above the columns, a minimalistic decorative solution, based on the contrast between the white intonaco and dark grey pietra serena.
However, a decoration was added in 1487 when a series of beautifully crafted putti, made by Andrea Della Robbia around 1463, were installed, that highlighted the function of the institution. The new Museo degli Innocenti opened to the public in 2016, offering expanded and renewed exhibition spaces, new services and activities.
On the second floor, visitors of the Gallery can admire precious works of art, including those by Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Piero di Cosimo, Luca and Andrea della Robbia, Bartolomeo di Giovanni, Neri di Bicci and Giovanni del Biondo.
In addition to the museum spaces, the Caffè del Verone opend to the public on the fifteenth-century terrace. With a flexible structure made of class and wood, that expands whenever the weather conditions allow it, it offers a beautiful view over the rooftops of Florence and a unique place to go for a coffee in town.