The first reformatory known to the world was born in Florence in 1650, thanks to Ippolito Francini.
Francini was a Florentine craftsman, particularly skilled in the processing of semi-precious stones and in the “smoothing of the lights of the glasses“, that is the lenses.
Thanks to the care with which he carried out the work, he came into contact with Galilei Galilei, with whom he collaborated for years in the construction of lenses for telescopes. His reputation grew both in Italy and in the rest of Europe, as did his assets, as evidenced by the proof of purchase of a house in via della Lambertesca in Florence.
Soon he began to host in his home both the children abandoned by their parents and those who had come from the countryside and escaped from misery, looking for work.
In a few months the number of the boys he helped grew to the point that he had to procure an additional reception area, where he brought meals from his home and where he often went to serve the boys at the tables.
But the number of “urchins” continued to increase, it was then that Francini asked for and obtained from Cardinal Leopoldo de ‘Medici a room belonging to the state property. It was here that he was seriously injured by a stab wound in October 1653, having intervened to put an end to a quarrel between two boys.
Within a few days he died, not before having made a will and forgiven his “brats”, and finally recommended them to two of his dearest friends, the priest Filippo Franci and Benedetto Salvi.
The promise that the two made a few hours before Francini’s death was that of not abandoning what he had generously built and donated. The building known as the Quarconia was opened by grand ducal concession near the Loggia Dei Lanzi.
We can find traces of this story of charity and generosity in the presence of the Tabernacle of the Quarconia, where St. Philip Neri is depicted presenting the urchins to the Virgin, in via dei Cimatori in Florence.
Source: FOTOGRAFIA DI INTERNI NEL MERCATO EXTRALBERGHIERO – Publisher: Dario Flaccovio