The "Istituto degli Innocenti" in Florence has been working for nearly six centuries on behalf of the family and the child. At the time when it was established, during the first half of the fifteenth century, it was the first institution in the known world devoted exclusively to child care.
It was a considerable bequest by Francesco Datini, a Prato merchant, which led in 1419 to the initial agreements required to build in Florence a big Hospital for foundlings.

In 1421, the Silk Guild, which had been entrusted with the management of the building works, obtained the confirmation by the Municipality and the attribution to the new Hospital, devoted to Saint Mary of the Innocents, of all the privileges enjoyed by the other city hospital corporations.
Having bought a farm from the Albizzi family on Piazza dell' Annunziata, and having entrusted the project to Filippo Brunelleschi, the Guild increased the initial sum with additional receipts, thanks to the support of the Florentine government and individual benefactors.
The building works proceeded for most part of the sixteenth century, but the premises had been accommodating children since 1445. The benefactors commitment, which never failed over the centuries, is also witnessed by the commission of important works of art, held within the Hospital and in several other museums throughout the world.

With the end of the Guild's patronage in 1775, the Hospital was managed from 1810 to 1814, by a "Commissione sopra gli Spedali" (Hospital Commission) set up by the French government. Starting from 1862, its management was entrusted to a Board of Directors that became operational in 1888, the year when a Secretary General was also appointed.

Considered over the centuries as a universal model of for the reception and care of children, the Institute has now become a public company providing services for people (law n. 43/2004, Region of Tuscany) which continues its historical mission without interruption.