Under the scattered rain, as usual lost at the streets, i was walking along Florence, amazed. The silence and solitude I had savoured when arriving by train at 5 a.m… they had been replaced by the noisy tourists.
I admired hundred times the Duomo, the piazza... I imagined Savonarola there, defying the people and the bonfire,, but I also imagined the anonymous victims of the incomprehension, of the intolerance, of the violence of those times…
I shivered…maybe it was the drizzle, or the memories of a past I had not lived… or perhaps the beauty of the architecture, of monuments.
I followed my way and I arrived at the market. Polyglot salesmen, offering leathers, clothes… shouting marvels for few euros.. I bought a silk’s scarf and ran away!
Sky was opening showing a shy sun.. Around a corner, at a near street, an incredible building appeared. The simplicity of the forms attracted me immediately. Arcs, a staircase..
Then, I saw them…
Contrasting with grey of stone and white stucco of the facade, there were some terracotta’s medallions enamelled in white and turquoise … Against a broken background, figures of babies wrapped as in old times, with their opened arms, waiting..
They impressed me. I captured the image, knowing in advance how impossible was to transmit the feeling... When looking for more details to know what this building was, my eyes found those of an old woman, seated in the staircase, with some pigeons around. She smiled, and opening the arms, almost in the same position of those babies, she said to me: - The city and its stories!
I was intrigued.... -L'ospedale degli innocenti, here are you now – she continued - In 1500, the silk’s merchants, made it built to receive the orphans, the god-forsaken ones, to educate them and give them a craft.
I sat down next to her, and she went on telling me the history of this "spedale” as she named it. It had been the first institution of that side of the world, dedicated to help kids. Still at present, it kept on working, giving subsidies for the infancy.
While the woman was speaking, the image of those babies, in the medallions was pervading me.
-You know a lot about this city’s history, madam! - I told her .
- Not so much -she answered - but I like this place. I come often to sit down here, to be with the pigeons and some memories.
She stood up... smiling, again, and said: - My family dedicated to the silk for generations... but here began everything, with me. In this staircase, I was picked up by the spedale, when I was abandoned; here they educated me gave me a craft, chose me a husband, and gave me a dowry at the age of fifteen to begin the business. What would had happened to me at those years, if this place had not existed?.
I stood up , also thinking about the local history. I looked again at the terracotta babies… there I realized: What had she said? “for generations… those years.." I looked at her again, but she had disappeared.
I shivered again.. I had understood!
I took the scarf from the backpack and put it at my neck.
The cold contact of the silk warmed my heart.