Hospital of the Innocents: The First Renaissance Building in Florence

I just wrapped up a research trip through Rome and Venice — and now I’m in Florence, working on my Rick Steves Florence & Tuscany guidebook. And just like in Rome and Venice, the tourists here are crammed into the two or three most famous sights, leaving other museums and galleries — which would be big hits in a lesser city — essentially empty.

Today, I visited the Hospital of the Innocents, where a museum tells the story of the abandoned children who, beginning in 1445, were cared for here. This beautiful building, filled with amazing art, was almost empty — I was only sharing it with a group of adorable second graders, attentively learning about the traditional Italian practice of wrapping babies in swaddling cloths. Drop in with me now for a quick video visit.

Here’s how the museum will appear in the next edition of the Rick Steves Florence & Tuscany guidebook:
Museum of the Innocents, facing the Piazza S.S. Annunziata 13, fills a former hospital that was famously located behind the first Renaissance façade to grace Florence. For over five centuries, since the first baby was abandoned here in 1445, this “institute of the innocents” has cared for unwanted babies. Today, a fine and earnestly explained exhibit tells the story, in English, of these nursed and swaddled infants with artifacts (such as a huge chest of drawers, each holding half a piece of jewelry that was possessed by a child, used to help identify split families) and fine art, including several iconic glazed terra-cotta medallions by the della Robbia family (€10, tel. 055-203-7308, daily 10:00-19:00).