The Piazza della Santissma Anunziata has a bronze statue in its center and two fountains decorated with mythical figures of rather grotesque appearance. One of the arcaded porticos pertains to the Spedale degli Innocenti, which is said to have been Europe's oldest orphanage.
Opened in 1445 it allowed women who had given birth to unwanted children to leave them there anonimously. They placed them on a rotating stone cylinder and once they rang the door bell the stone would rotate 180 degrees and thus have the children be taken into the orphanage. A similar system was used in Portugal from 1783 through to 1867 when a decree law put an end to such a commonly used system.
We did photograph the outside premises designed by Brunolleshi in 1419 which looked rather discreet, had it not been for the frescoed ceilings and the ceramic glazed roundels showing babies wrapped in swaddling bands by Andrea della Robbia which are said to have been added to the façade in 1487.
(To be continued)