Art history in Florence: L'Ospedale degli Innocenti | Senza categoria

Art history in Florence: L’Ospedale degli Innocenti

The “Hospital of the Innocence”, also known as Spedale degli Innocenti in Italian, was a children’s orphanage designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1419. The hospital, facing Santissima Annunziata square with its loggia, is one of the best examples of the Italian Renaissance architecture.

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The building, elevated above the level of the piazza by a set of steps running along the entire length of the façade, was constructed in several phases of which only the first was under Brunelleschi’s direct supervision. Since the loggia was started before the hospital was begun, the hospital was not formally opened until 1445.

Brunelleschi’s design was based on Classical Roman, Italian Romanesque and late Gothic architecture, but the use of round columns with classically correct capitals, in this case of the Composite Order, in conjunction with a dosseret (or impost blocks) was novel. So too, the circular arches and the segmented spherical domes behind them. The architectural elements were also all articulated in grey stone and set off against the white of the walls. This motif came to be known as pietra serena (Italian: dark stone). Also novel was the proportional logic. The heights of the columns, for example, was not arbitrary. If a horizontal line is drawn along the tops of the columns, a square is created out of the height of the column and the distance from one column to the next. This desire for regularity and geometric order was to become an important element in Renaissance architecture.

An important feature of the building are, of course, the “Tondi”, located above each column. In Brunelleschi’s original idea, they were supposed to be blank, but later Andrea della Robbia was commissioned to fill them in.

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The design features a baby in swaddling clothes on a blue wheel, indicative of the horizontal wheel in the wall where babies could be rotated into the interior. A few of the tondi are still the original ones, but some are nineteenth century copies.

(source: Wikipedia)

The Ospedale degli Innocenti can be included in the Institute Galile’s art history and our guided visits program.

Art history in Florence: L'Ospedale degli Innocenti | Senza categoria

Events in Florence: The historic game of “Calcio in costume”

The game of Calcio in Costume bears no resemblance to football, although calcio is Italian for football, or soccer.

It was probably invented in the military encampments where the soldiers resting between battles would have lost strength without exercise. Here was a game which developed arm and leg muscles in a real hand to hand struggle for what was the size and shape of a cannon ball.

It was first played in Florence not so much as a sport as for training young men in the art of combat. The most famous match was probably that played on 17 February 1530, in Piazza Santa Croce. The Florentines had taken advantage of the sack of Rome by the imperial armies in 1527 to drive the Medici out of the city for a second time and place themselves under the sovereignty of Christ and the Virgin, determined to defend Florence to the last against the imperial armies spurred on by Pope Clement VII.

The imperial army, the most powerful of the time, laid siege to Florence from the summer 1529 to that of the following year. It was a memorable siege, which became steadily more severe, the city began to feel the shortage of food, although the general feeling in the city at that time was summed up by the graffiti on the walls; poor but free. It is in this atmosphere that a game of Calcio in Costume was played in mid-February, not just to keep up the ancient tradition of playing during carnival but more to show the city’s scorn for the besieging troops, who considered Florence exhausted and already defeated.

To emphasize this scorn a group of Florentincalcio storico, historic football florence, florence ball game, piazza santa croce, santa croce florence, june in florence, florence events, florence folkloree musicians played from the roof of Santa Croce so that the enemy would have a better idea of what was going on. Suddenly a cannon ball from the imperial batteries flew over the heads of the musicians and landed on the other side of the church; no damage was done, and it was greeted by the jeers of the crowds and the clamour of the instruments. There are no records of who won the match, maybe because it seemed more of a joint effort against the enemy than a tournament amongst teams. Although the match was a success, the city soon capitulated and the iron rule of the Medici returned.

The matches were played almost without interruption until the end of the 18th century, and only in May 1930 on the fourth centenary of the siege of Florence was the historical manifestation started up again.

Nowadays three matches are played, by teams drawn from Florence’s four major neighborhoods, in Piazza Santa Croce, on 16th, 24th, 30th of June on the recurrence of the patron-saint. After the long parade headed by the nobles on horseback, starting in Santa Maria Novella and culminating in Piazza Santa Croce, the game begins to cries of Viva Firenze!

It is an hour of continuous struggle, attacks, scuffles, blows and tangling of bodies dressed in fifteenth-century costumes. It is intended to echo the famous match of 1530, in the desire to revive and to record a memorable page of the city’s glorious history.

Don’t miss it!

Source: About Florence

Discover Florence and its traditions with the Institute Galilei History of Florence course!

Art history in Florence: L'Ospedale degli Innocenti | Senza categoria

Art history in Florence: The lucky piglet

La “Loggia del Porcellino”  – that means literally “The lodge of the piglet” – it’s a 16th century lodge, located just in the way between Piazza della Repubblica and Ponte Vecchio.  As we can understand from its official name, “Loggia del Mercato Nuovo”, its function was – and still, is – the sale of goods. Walking there, you will be captured by the thousands of colours of the exposed bags, scarves and lots of other things.

But let’s talk about the funny piglet that you can see right in front of the building. This bronze wild boar is a reproduction of an Hellenistic statue which is in the Uffizzi, signed by Pietro Tacca. The piglet is a real touristic attraction, Wikipedia explains the reason:

Popular tradition has it that rubbing the nose brings fortune, so that the statue has acquired over time a certain shine in that spot. Visitors are encouraged to place a coin in the mouth of the boar after rubbing its nose, and superstition implies that the wish will be granted if the offering tumbles through the grate whence the water flows.”

This place of interest can of course be included in one of the Institute Galilei’s guided tours of Florence.  Good luck, then!

Art history in Florence: L'Ospedale degli Innocenti | Senza categoria

Art history in Florence: La loggia del Bigallo

Walking in front of  Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, you will see – right in the corner in front of you, between piazza San Giovanni and Via dei Calzaiuoli – a particular building with two wide arches; it’s called “Loggia del Bigallo”, and was part of a construction that housed the “Compagnia della Misericordia” (the Company of Mercy).

loggia bigallo, bigallo florence, art history in Florence, art history courses florence, italian art history, discover florenceBuilt around 1352, the Loggia was used as a shelter for lost children and unwanted infants who were abandoned to0 the care of the Company of Mercy.  In 1425 the “Compagnia of Santa Maria del Bigallo”, normally housed at Orsanmichele, transfered here as well. They used to take care of pilgrims and travellers at their Ospedale di Santa Maria del Bigallo, located in Fonteviva.

The two arches are richely decorated with bas-reliefs of prophets, Angel, the Virtues, a Christ giving benediction and an Ecce Homo. Nowadays, the Loggia hosts a museums of objects related to the Compagnia del Bigallo.

(source: Wikipedia)

Every building in Florence hides a story – discovering it with the Institute Galilei’s art history course is really easy and interesting!

Art history in Florence: L'Ospedale degli Innocenti | Senza categoria

Italian slang: Solo “Quattro gatti…”

Are we talking about cats? Yes, you can say. The expression in fact means literally “four cats” and it’s used in Italian to indicate that in a particular place or situation were just a few people; an example?

“C’eran giusto quattro gatti al cinema” doesn’t actually mean that suddenly four cats invaded the cinema, but just that there was a little audience 🙂

No cats around, then!

Wanna learn more colloquial  expressions? Take a look to the fully-personalizable one-to-one Italian language courses at Instituet Galilei

Art history in Florence: L'Ospedale degli Innocenti | Senza categoria

Italian recipes: Panzanella!

Summertime is approaching, soups and warm dishes begin to be too hot for the nice weather; it’s time to have some fresh vegetables and salads! In Italy we have a real passion for them, also thanks to the our great olive oils that makes everything delicious. A typical Tuscan salad is the “Panzanella”, made with bread. It’s quick & easy to prepare, and the result will surprise you!


  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces with your hands
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar, plus more as needed
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 8 slices thick stale country style Italian bread, torn into bite-size pieces (sourdough is also good but not something you use here in Italy)


  1. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic and basil. Drizzle with the 1/2 cup olive oil and the 3 tbsp vinegar, season with salt and pepper and toss well.
  2. Place half of the bread in a wide, shallow bowl. If the bread is quite stale and dry, you should first spoon a few tbsp of water over the bread and let it soak some of the water up, then with your hands squeeze all of the water out and place bread in a different bowl before proceeding. If it isn’t too stale or didn’t have any, then you can skip this step.
  3. Spoon half of the tomato mixture over the bread. Layer the remaining bread on top and then the remaining tomato mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or until serving time. Just before serving, toss the salad and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. At this point the bread should have assorbed the water from the tomatoes and be all moist. If the bread seems dry for some reason, add a little bit of olive oil and toss well. Serve immediately.

(source: Tuscan Recipes)

Wanna learn more salads recipes? Your Summer will be delicious with the Institute Galilei’s cooking courses!

Art history in Florence: L'Ospedale degli Innocenti | Senza categoria

Art history in Florence: The church of the brides

The square of Santissima Annunziata is one of the most beautiful in Florence. In its perfect Renaissance structure hides many anecdotes that not everyone knows. Each piece of the square can be analyzed in its single story – we will start talking about the Basilica of Santissima Annunziata.

The Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation (Basilica della Santissima Annunziata) is a Catholic church located in Santissima Annunziata Square, in of the brides, santissima annunziata florence, churches in florence, discover florence, history of fklorence, italian history courses, exam preparation courses in florence

This basilica was founded in 1250 by the Seven Holy Founders, the seven Florentine youths belonging to patrician families that formed the Servite Order. The Servite is one of the five original Catholic mendicant orders and its members (called Servite Friars or Servants of Mary) are devoted to the Mother of God.

The Basilica della Santissima Annunziata still is the mother church of the Servite Order.

Inside the Basilica there’s a miraculous painting of the Annunciation that, after being begun by one of the monks in 1252, was supposedly completed by an angel while he slept.

A special atrium (Chiostrino dei voti) has been built to house the votive offerings of the pilgrims that came to venerate the painting. This painting has always been venerated, especially by girls and women in childbed and, traditionally, the Florentine brides visit this shrine to leave their bouquets as a gift to the Virgin Mary.

This church is just on the Institute Galilei’s doorstep and is worth visiting.

Art history in Florence: L'Ospedale degli Innocenti | Senza categoria

Traditional recipes from Florence: Florentine tripe

As you have maybe already understood from the other recipes we have posted, the Italian cuisine is especially based on “poor” dishes, which are all savoury and genuine.

One of the most typical, that you have heard for sure, is the “trippa alla fiorentina“:  walking around Florence you will meet for sure the “trippai“, which prepare everyday fresh tripe and sell delicious sandwiches filled with trippa or lampredotto. Do not miss them!
But let’s try to cook it. The ingredients are easy to find and the only thing you need is a little patience.


1 kg, or 2 1/4 lb tripe
2 red-skinned onions
2 carrots
head of celery
500 g, or 1 lb 2 oz tinned (canned) tomatoes
Parmesan cheese
olive oil


Wash the tripe and cut into finger-length strips. Make a mirepoix with 6 tablespoons of oil in a short pot. Add the tripe and, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, blend the flavours well.
When, after 20 minutes cooking, some of the liquor has seeped out of the tripe, add the drained tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook for another hour over moderate heat, stirring frequently.

Serve the tripe hot, with the addition of  Parmesan cheese.

Why not trying to cook it with an experienced chef who will tell you all the secrets of this traditional dish? Take a look to the Institute Galilei’s cooking course “Da Lino”.

Source: Rameria