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Ex Ospizio Marino di Firenze [Former Seaside Hospice of Florence]

Around the middle of the 19th century Giuseppe Barellai, an illustrious member of the Florentine Physical Medical Society, instituted in Florence a committee for the creation of a treatment centre for children affected by scrofula. Since the little patients needed sea-water therapy, Viareggio was chosen as the place in which to build the therapeutic institute. Starting in 1856 the Committee organised seaside colonies in this Versilian town, at the Convent of the Tertiaries of the Order of the Sisters of St. Mary.

At last, on October 14, 1861, the first stone of the Hospice was laid, in the presence of the Prince of Piedmont and the Duke of Aosta, as representatives of King Victor Emanuel II, for whom the therapeutic centre was named. The building, later known as "Palazzo delle Muse", was designed by Giuseppe Poggi and completed in 1869, taking its place alongside that of Lucca. "There quietly began", noted Niccolò Tommaseo, "the sending of little patients to Viareggio, where they were provided with wholesome food; and regularly scheduled baths and every other thing; and the sea, which is often called treacherous, faithfully complied with the good opinion of him conceived by science and charity, and in short time revealed, not merely the beginnings of recovery, but almost therapeutic miracles. Attracted by the good results, even the affluent are now going there; and the not excessive cost of sixty lire that they pay serves as support to the most severely tried."

In 1939 the Seaside Hospice of Florence was moved to Cinquale, near Forte dei Marmi, where a large building was erected, named after Giuseppe Barellai; the imposing edifice contained over 700 beds. In July 1944, the new building, along with other seaside colonies that had in the meantime been built along the coasts of Versilia, was mined and razed to the ground by German troops. Today, the Municipal Library is housed in the historic Palazzo delle Muse in Viareggio.


Texts by Graziano Magrini

English translation by Catherine Frost

Last update 30/gen/2008