chapter  2
HEALING THE POOR: HOSPITALS AND MEDICAL ASSISTANCE IN RENAISSANCE
Hospitals and medical assistance in Renaissance Florence
ByKatharine Park
Pages 20

Describing the city of Florence in 1527, the chronicler Benedetto Varchi divided its hospitals into two main groups: those that provided food and lodging for the healthy and those that (in Varchi’s words) ‘take in the sick’ and ‘supply them with medical care until they are well’. The first group embraced a miscellany of homes for widows and foundlings, hostels for travellers and pilgrims, and other smaller institutions, of which few, according to Varchi, ‘function as they should, partly because their directors cannot see to it, and partly because they will not’. The second group, the hospitals for the sick, which Varchi described with evident and contrasting pride, included five large institutions, of which the principal was Santa Maria Nuova, with its awesome annual budget of 25,000 scudi.1