This site employs cookies, for both technical and profiling reasons.

If you continue browsing, it means you accept their use. Show detailed info

I accept


Choose language:


One of the oldest European institutions of assistance to children has reopened its doors after a long period of refurbishment begun in 2010, with its splendid museum that has been completely restored.

It was in 1419 that the Arte della Seta [Silk Guild] commissioned Filippo Brunelleschi to design and build an edifice dedicated exclusively to care for abandoned children and orphans. It was his idea innocentipsmallto open an ample and airy loggia along the entire façade facing onto Piazza Santissima Annunziata. That idea, which would be followed during the next two centuries when the other sides of the square were completed, opened the way to Renaissance architecture and the new humanistic significance of the “piazza” and its role in the fabric of the city.

The beautiful new museum is an integral element of the Institute that has its roots in the new concept of man diffused in the world by the Renaissance and a mission to protect, educate and defend the rights of infancy. The museum exhibitions touch on three thematic lines: history, architecture and art. The architectural complex is exceptionally unique, because Renaissance architecture began with Brunelleschi and this commission. Its multisecular history is exceptionally well-documented and the immense archive of the Institute is of extraordinary documentary interest. In fact, it is no accident that the Unicef international Office of Research-Innocenti has its seat here. The Institute is also endowed with an exceptional collection of art and the prestigious collection on the first floor includes works by Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Luca della Robbia, Piero di Cosimo and many others.

Facing the façade, the entrance is to the right and opens directly onto the historical itinerary that winds through the basements, originally designed for use as storerooms and service areas. The visitor is introduced to the Institute by a descriptive panel summarising its main historical events and by two multimedia contents that narrate (one) the history of assistance for children (beginning from 15th century Florence) and (two) the evolution of the architectural complex itself. A series of works of art, finds and objects illustrate the history and daily life of the institution from 1475 (when the first little girl was welcomed) to 1875 (the year when the foundling wheel where babies were abandoned was closed). The section containing 140 marks of recognition is very gripping. The marks for each child are in a separate case of its own, illuminated when opened, containing one or more objects, cut in half, that were included among the swaddling clothes of an infant like metaphorical fragments of a broken love story (little medals, rings, buttons or other small objects) in the hope of some day being able to be united with their own child, by matching the other half of the object to its companion as proof of their parenthood.  The biographies of some of the children assisted here, known in Florence as “nocentini” (little innocents) are available on the four touch screens adjacent to this section. Common surnames in Florence such as Nocentini, but also Innocenti and Degl’Innocenti, often revealed provenance from this Institute.

On the top floor, in the long room overlooking the piazza from above the loggia designed by Brunelleschi, the valuable art collection is displayed according to chronological criteria, starting from splendid fresco fragments by Giottino to a remarkable 14th century wooden crucifix (now on display for the first time after undergoing thorough restoration). There is a very beautiful Madonna and Child of glazed terracotta by Luca della Robbia, and the same subject in a painting by Sandro Botticelli under the influence of his maestro, Filippo Lippi. At the end of the gallery, a room is dedicated to three altarpieces from the church of S. Maria degli Innocenti. The famous Adorazione dei Magi by Domenico del Ghirlandaio is the centre piece with, at the sides, la Madonna and Child with Saints by Piero di Cosimo and the Crowning of the Virgin by Neri di Bicci.

The great beauty of the splendid putti in swaddling clothes by Andrea della Robbia, image and symbol of the Institute, can be admired from the square, because they are mounted once again on the façade of the loggia.

At the highest point of the complex, above the Brunelleschi hall, the great loggia (once the laundry and drying room) has been opened to the public for the first time, now hosting the coffee shop and offering new views of the city. The important and demanding restoration of the complex also included refurbishment of the two monumental courtyards, one was for women and the other for men.

The museum is perfectly equipped to allow for access to all members of the public, including those in wheelchairs or with other protheses. Captions and audio guides are provided in Italian and English for adults and for children.
Continuing in the tradition of its historic function, the Institute has also re-opened its creativity laboratories “La bottega dei Ragazzi” [The children’s workshop] r for children from 3 to 11 years of age to introduce them to art and artistic techniques. Another proposal for families and children, in Italian or English, is the Family Tour (a kit containing various materials, including some in digital format), available for use free of charge at the new bookshop.

After leaving the museum, walking to the right to the end of the loggia, you can’t miss the famous foundling wheel where, until 1875, babies were abandoned. It is a symbolic place of this charitable institution, which has never interrupted its priceless activities during its life of over three centuries.

The museum is open every day from 10 am to 7 pm.

Entrance fee: € 7.00
For more information call +39 055 20371; for reservations + 39 848 082380.


Published: 20/6/2016

Learn more

Accommodations Accommodations
Events Events
Historic business Historic business
Natural reserves Natural reserves
Place of interest Place of interest
Services and useful information Services and useful information
Shopping Shopping
Things to do Things to do
Where to eat Where to eat