Children without families are the most vulnerable people in the world.
We are delighted that Karina of Murtagh’s Meadow has invited us to share photos of places that inspire and delight us. My special place might surprise you. True, it’s located in Florence, a city I love. But it’s not a famous art museum like the Accademia or an architectural wonder like the world-renowned Duomo.
In fact, it’s an orphanage, the Ospedale degli Innocenti, which has been turned into a museum. It’s one of my surprise discoveries in Florence that is definitely off-the-beaten tourist track. It is truly unforgettable. (Just click on the image to enlarge it.)
My first discovery was that the orphanage is a magnificent building designed by Filippo Brunelleschi–the same architect who designed the world-renowned Duomo during the Renaissance. On the left you can see the inner courtyard with its famous loggia.
The Ospedale was funded by wealthy silk merchants in the 15th Century who were inspired by humanitarian ideals. According to the orphanage’s records, Agata Smeralda was the first child admitted to the Ospedale on February 5th, 1445. This charitable institution continued to care for abandoned children for hundreds of years.
Local women were hired to nurse the infants. As the children grew, the boys were taught reading and writing and were trained in skilled trades. The girls learned to weave, sew, and do housework, with the aim of being hired by wealthy Florentine families. Their earnings were saved for their dowries or they could become nuns.
One corner of the the museum housed a huge wooden filing cabinet with a series of small drawers with labels identifying an orphan by name. I pulled the drawers open, revealing a child’s religious medal, a bit of cloth from a dress or ribbon, a small piece of jewelry, or another memento.
These items were tokens of love, tucked into the child’s clothing or pinned to their blankets by mothers who gave their children up for adoption for economic reasons. These items served another purpose.
If you look closely at the medal on the left, you can see that one part is missing. The larger section was left with the child and the fragment was kept by the mother. One day, the adult child could try to find the woman with the missing section of the medal.
Today, the museum houses a small art gallery, with works by della Robbia, Botticelli, and Ghirlandaio, among others. It’s also home to the UNESCO Innocenti Research Center.
On the roof of the museum, I discovered another surprise–a cafe with fantastic views of the Florentine skyline. You know me well enough by now to realize that my favorite places are often connected to food…
…and to amazing photo opportunities…like this view of the Duomo silhouetted against changeable skies.
I hope you enjoyed this visit to one of my special places. As you might imagine, over the past two years I’ve dreamed of sitting in the orphanage’s rooftop cafe, sipping a drink and admiring the view.
A special thanks to Karina of Murtagh’s Meadow for hosting this week’s challenge and for giving us the opportunity to share our special places close to home or far away.
Last week, we all enjoyed Anne Sandler’s challenge, which proves that water is a source of inspiration for many of us. What’s up for next week? Tina will lead LAPC #189 on Saturday, March 5th. Her subject is Odds and Ends.
Until then, have a safe and inspiring week.