Free Guided Tours at Innocenti Museum

Tour guides will provide guided visits at the Innocenti museum at no extra charge (excluding the normal admission price of €7, €15 for two adults and two children) through January 7 between 11 am and 5 pm.  This provides a savings on a €10 ticket that comprises a audio guide.

Chartered in 1419 as the first lay organization in the world to provide a home for abandoned infants, the Foundling Hospital of the Innocenti has been caring for children for over six centuries.  A look at the Florence’s white pages will also reveal a long list of residents, whose last name is Innocenti or Nocentini, descendants of children who grew up in the Piazza Santissima Annunziata orphanage.  Founded by the silk guild, the Innocenti, an integral part of Florence’s social fabric, has played a major role in the city’s history and public life.

Many of the art works at the Museum degli Innocenti have been restored. These include the famous glazed reliefs of infants in swaddling clothes created by Andrea della Robbia from the facade.  The terracotta toddlers have been reinstalled on the facade, which was formally inaugurated in December 2016 along with the Museum’s 20th century section.

It was not been a simple task to remodel a space that is an architectural Renaissance masterpiece, but the new Museum has masterfully meshed modern and historical elements together. The renovation encompasses three stories of the historic building, including a stunning rooftop terrace. Originally a verone, a covered outdoors space used for drying linens at the orphanage, the large terrace now houses a café. While taking a break from touring, visitors to the terrace can enjoy a unique and intimate birds-eye view of the Duomo, the Synagogue and many other buildings and gardens in the Florence cityscape.

The vaulted rooms of the basement, which once served as the main storage area, now feature the Museum’s large historical section. Visitors can discover how childcare has evolved over the centuries, experience the lives of over 100 orphans of the past at the Foundling Hospital through multimedia reconstruction, and learn about fascinating aspects of life inside the Orphanage from the early Renaissance period up until the last century.

A beautiful semi-circular installation contains 140 wooden drawers displaying “markers,” left by the orphans’ mothers so that they could reclaim their child in the future. The markers include pieces of jewelry, coins cut in half, notes, and many other touching signs of maternal love.

Upstairs over the loggia is the main Gallery of the Museum, once the sleeping quarters for the male orphans. The newly renovated space houses the most precious of the numerous works of art given as gifts to the Innocenti over the centuries.

The 80+ masterpieces on display include Ghirlandaio’s exquisite Adoration of the Magi, painted in 1488 for the high altar of the Church of the Innocents.  This is one of the artist’s finest; full of animated details that the children at the Hospital surely enjoyed as much as their elders.

The museum also provides a showcase for Botticelli, Piero di Cosimo, Luca della Robbia, Neri di Bicci, Filippino Lippi and Andrea del Sarto.  Earlier works, such as the altarpieces by Giovanni del Biondo and Giovanni Toscani, entered the Foundling Hospital’s collection when it took over the operation of the Orbitello Hospice, which cared for pregnant single mothers.

A Little History

The job of designing the Foundling Hospital was given to an untried young architect, Filippo Brunelleschi, a member of the silk guild, which included goldsmiths and metal workers among its ranks. The Spedale degli Innocenti was the first Renaissance building in Italy, and the first important commission entrusted to Brunelleschi, who would go on to construct the great Dome of Florence’s Cathedral. (elizabeth wicks)