Europe's oldest foundling hospital, opened in 1445, is still going strong as a convent orphanage, though times have changed a bit. The Lazy Susan set into the wall on the left end of the arcade -- where once people left unwanted babies, swiveled it around, rang the bell, and ran -- has since been blocked up. The colonnaded portico (built 1419-26) was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi when he was still an active goldsmith. It was his first great achievement as an architect and helped define the new Renaissance style he was developing. Its repetition by later artists in front of other buildings on the piazza makes it one of the most exquisite squares in all of Italy. The spandrels between the arches of Brunelleschi's portico are set with glazed terra-cotta reliefs of swaddled babes against rounded blue backgrounds -- hands-down the masterpieces of Andrea della Robbia.
- © Frommer's 2013