“Along the antique and steep portion of the Aretina road, just before reaching the Apparita house, rests a grand and austere building.”
This was how Carocci, an important local historian, described the ancient Bigallo hospital, founded in 1214 by Dioticidiede di Bonaguida del Dado. The name “Bigallo” is due to its location at the Bivius Galli, or rather the junction between the old Via del Gallo and Via Aretina.
In 1245 the ownership and management of the Hospital passed to a Florentine religious brotherhood, made up primarily by lay people, called the Compagnia di Santa Maria Maggiore, which would later go on to take the name Compagnia del Bigallo. The crest of the society was a rooster on a blue field and included the initials S.M.B. (Sancte Marie de Bigallo).
At the end of the 15th century the Hospital welcomed the nuns from the cloistered monastery in Casignano, who formally made the structure their new convent in 1503, keeping the hospital open for the poor and travellers. The cloister in which the nuns were accustomed to living led to the separation of the two environments (the hospital and the monastery), and the walling of the vegetable garden. Over the 17th century the church underwent remodeling which also saw the addition of the sacristy. In 1808 when the monastery was closed by the French government it became the home of multiple families of farmers.
The Spedale del Bigallo is very large, consisting in multiple different spaces. In one of areas that has been restored a hostel has been created, restoring the structure’s original purpose.
Bigallo provides us with a beautiful panoramic view of Florence, while within we find an impressive living-dining room area. The space, complete with coffered ceiling and pulpit, is now used as a conference room and is equipped with a beautiful monumental kitchen, in which valuable and elegant elements such as the large stone columned fireplace and a stone sink can be found. The hostel is found upstairs. It is divided into several rooms and decorated with furnishings inspired by medieval “spedali”. A portico consisting in five rounded archways supported by massive square pillars surrounds the courtyard. In the downstairs rooms adjacent to the courtyard one can admire the fascinating laundry room, where the cavity in the wall, formerly home to a washing basin and intriguing system of water canals, can still be observed. In these rooms it is possible to observe the only brick construction in the complex. It runs in parallel with the actual wall in the same room and is made up by arches supported by thick pillars, which have been hollowed for the containment and channeling of water, creating a type of old aqueduct.