Ancient “Bigallo” Hospital at Bagno a Ripoli
Even if time has left its inevitable signs on the ancient Bigallo Hospital in the Commune of Bagno a Ripoli, it is still possible to savour the atmosphere of peace and comfort that this place originally represented for wayfarers and pilgrims travelling along the Via Aretina.Founded in 1214 in the vicinity of the ancient spring of Fonte Viva by the wealthy Dioticidiede di Bonaguida del Dado, who belonged to the feudal Lamberti family, it took its name from the “bivius galli”, a place-name that referred to the site in which the complex is located: the cross-roads between the Via Aretina and the ancient Via del Gallo. In 1245 the Florentine bishop Ardingo, to whom the safeguarding of the hospital had been assigned, entrusted the institute to the leaders of the “Compagnia Maggiore di Santa Maria della Fede”, a Florentine confraternity that changed its name to “Compagnia del Bigallo” and inserted in several points of the building as its coat of arms a rooster with the initials S.M.B. (which stood for “Santa Maria del Bigallo”).
In the 15th century it became a closed convent for the Benedictine nuns of Casignano, but nevertheless continued to maintain its function as a refuge for the poor and for wayfarers. However, it underwent a clear-cut separation between the premises of the convent and those of the hospital, while the kitchen garden was transformed into a cloister.When, in the course of the 18th century, the old Via Aretino lost its importance due to the opening of the more convenient alternative route for reaching San Donato, the Bigallo ceased to be a hospital and, in 1808 with the Napoleonic abolitions of the monasteries, became a residence for farmers’ families and began to head towards a slow, but constant deterioration.
In the early years of the 20th century, the complex was purchased by the Commune of Bagno a Ripoli. The said Commune then initiated the restoration works begun in 2000 on the occasion of the Jubilee, which brought back to their ancient splendour the charming hall-refectory with its caisson ceiling, the dormitory with traditional coffered beds made of wood, the monumental kitchen with the fireplace supported by small columns, and the ancient stone sink. Other interventions were made in 2008, revealing once again the forgotten beauty of the chapel, the small dining room, the “vetrine [windows]” that looked out over Florence, and the “hortus conclusus” [herbarium] enclosed by a high surrounding wall and enriched by a large variety of officinal plants. In 2014 the accommodations capacity was enlarged even more with the addition of the “Bigallino”[little Bigallo], and today has returned - under the aegis of the Commune of Bagno a Ripoli – to being an efficient reception structure that offers a hostel divided into various rooms on the first floor and furnished by taking inspiration from the medieval "spedali", a restaurant, and spaces such as the large refectory in which to organize meetings and weddings.