Federico, Michelangelo, Igor, Dora, Willy and others are the protagonists, with their compelling and yet utterly diverse stories, of the “Stories of Children” exhibition.

Each of them occupies a display structure, with around 12 original drawings of the illustrated and already-published books, allowing the visitor to enter into the fascinating world of these characters.

The book “Agata Smeralda” was conceived on the occasion of the exhibition itself and was published by the Franco Cosimo Panini publishing house in Modena. It is, of course, the flagship book of this initiative.

“Agata Smeralda” came about after the artist Letizia Galli visted the Istituto degli Innocenti di Firenze. “Entering this place that I was unfamiliar with,” – reveals Letizia Galli –”I discovered this world that had been untouched for centuries, born from the will and generosity of exceptional people during the early Renaissance in Florence and aimed at providing refuge to the many children who were bought into the world, only to be abandoned due to necessity or rejection. It provoked a real emotional shock in me. The citizens of Florence wanted to offer the orphans and the poor a real safe-haven, appointing the most famous architect of the time, Filippo Brunelleschi, to oversee the project. Even before this discovery, my ‘Stories of Children’, being the characters of my books, narrated very particular situations, from the most extreme poverty (Igor and Abdou) to the dreams of those children who fought to become genius adults (Federico, Michelangelo, etc.), to those in distress (Dora), who triumph because of their own courage. The tale of Agata came to me right after that visit. It recounts, in a totally imaginary way, the life of the first child left in the baby hatch of the hospital and the determination to rely solely on their own autonomy of thought in evolving throughout the course of their existence. It is a sort of magic thread and an extended universe, connecting to the many other stories of children, orphaned or otherwise, who are presented in the exhibition.”

The children playing

Agata Smeralda as a newborn

Letizia Galli ater proposed the text of Agata Smeralda to the president of the Institute, Alessandra Maggi, and in the course of subsequent meetings, the idea for this great exhibition unfolded, offering visitors and especially children, numerous points for reflection, on geographic realities and different existences of children today and yesterday. Diversity will be one of the main topics addressed as an object of analysis, while empathy will certainly be an emotional objective. Each of us will be led to share in the stories of these young lives, having different origins and cultures, destined to face harsh trials of existence. Today, as in the past, following on from the 19th-century closure of the ‘baby hatch’, the Istituto degli Innocenti provides refuge, protection and support to children, mothers and families in difficulty. “It is to them, but not only,” – continues Letizia Galli – “that we wanted to dedicate the ‘Stories of Children’ exhibition, which will take place in various historical structures founded in the name of refuge, in Naples, Venice, Rome, Milan and, of course, the Innocenti in Florence.”

The experiences of these children and of Agata Smeralda tell us that all children dream, hope and desire a better future.

The open and modern vision that the Renaissance managed to create, disseminate and maintain throughout the centuries will be transported all around through the series of “Stories of Children” exhibitions.


Some of the books from which the characters in the exhibition have been taken were published abroad. Alongside each display, we present to the public copies of the books translated into Italian, in order to facilitate an understanding of the texts and stories. Here is a brief summary of the books and characters presented, with titles in Italian.

storie-Agata_SmeraldaAgata Smeralda

Protagonist of the new book by Letizia Galli, she follows the events happening within the Istituto degli Innocenti at the time of its foundation and when the first child was left there in 1444.

Franco Cosimo Panini Editore, Modena

storie-Connaistu_IgorHIS NAME IS IGOR

Protagonist of a contemporary story that takes place in the underground of the Moscow mtro, it concerns the children exploited to beg for handouts.

Palazzo Verlag Editore, Zurich and other countries (France, Germany and Russia)

storie-Comme_le_papillonComme le papillon

The story of a child from the African desert lured by the dream of a better life, who listens to the voice of a mysterious butterfly. His escape, clinging to the fuselage of an aeroplane, recounts a true story.

Points de Suspension Editore, Paris

storie-Willy_StadtWilly’s Stadt

The story of a child who lives in a big, noisy city bustling with people, who is able to transform the surrounding din into music, engaging the whole family in his imagination and in his positive vision.

Atlantis Pro Juventute Editore, Zurich and other countries (France)

storie-Michael_the_AngelMICHAEL THE ANGEL

The story of Michelangelo’s rebellious childhood and youth through to his creation of the David statue.

Franco Cosimo Panini Editore, Modena


This book narrates the oddities and absolute originality of Leonardo as a child and his first approach to exploring his multiform talent.

Franco Cosimo Panini Editore, Modena

storie-Il_sogno_di_FedericoIl sogno di Federico

The story of the childhood of the magician Federico Fellini in his home of Rimini, narrated on the basis of his famous lie that Fellini took great delight in telling: his escape as a child following the circus bandwagons.

Rosellina Archinto Editore, Milan and other countries (France, Germany, Spain, Greece)

storie-La_folle_equipeeLa folle équipée

Dora, a South American girl, enters into the creepy labyrinth of a luna park, facing and overcoming her phobia of insects all alone. A tribute to pop art.

Grasset Jeunesse Editore, Paris

storie-A_la_courbe_de_JolibaÀ la courbe du Joliba

Three African sisters and their mother flee from their warring country, Senegal, and find refuge in Mali, encountering unknown people and landscapes along the way. The story of the famous writer of Guadeloupe, Maryse Condé.

Grasset Jeunesse Editore, Paris

storie-Sara_e_PietroIl bottone di Sara e Pietro; La scatola di Sara e Pietro; La palla di Sara e Pietro

A brother and sister find seemingly insignificant objects in the attic, before each tell their the most adventure-filled stories, evoking the origins of the items in remote times.

Fulmino Editore, Rimini

storie-La_mitologiaLa mitologia, le avventure degli dei; La mitologia, gli eroi e gli uomini

A collection of stories regarding the births of the most famous characters in Greek mythology.

Centurion Editore, Paris – Lapis Editore, Rome


The protagonists of the various stories, Nino, Susi, Toni and Ines, together with their friends manage to solve in a simple and joyful way the problems of the planet, whilst the adults were arguing, scheming and wasting a lot of time.


For the exhibition, “Stories of Children”, artist Michele Iodice has created an exhibition project with 12 support structures with three horizontal sections, diminishing in size and at an angle with a superior circle.

The structures will be arranged around the perimeter of the rooms destined to host the exhibition. Each single element will be constructed from pressed metal sheeting and painted in a red brick colour. The drawings will be arranged in plexiglass casing corresponding to the dimensions of the iron structure, secured in place with screws or magnets.

The assembly and dismantling consists in the division of the structure into four parts: pressed metal sheeting with a support stand behind, and a round base. The 36 casings holding the drawings will have a special wooden box packaging to allow for transport and safety.


michele-iodiceMichele Iodice lives and works in Naples. He is the creator of numerous performances, productions, installations and decorations in situ. The location is reanimated by the artist as a space to be interpreted, offering up a significant transformation. The artist has also created theatrical set designs and designer objects, with great inventive profusion and an anticipated alternation between great works and small objects, between the conceptual and the decorative. Arising in him is a renaissance impulse reproposed in a modern synthesis. >