L’Aia* has a complex history. Located on the mediaeval pilgrim route, the Via Francigena, the original residence was called “Spedaletto di Uopini” (the Hospice at Uopini). It was built by the Senese cloth trader, Giovanni Colombini, who founded the Congregation of Jesuati, was beatified and, immediately after his death, became the protector of Senese traders. Giovanni took a vow of poverty and dedicated all his property to providing hospitality to travellers and the needy. In 1363, the buildings were donated to the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena and under this administration, the property was transformed into a place for curing the infirm. A document of 1440 states that the hospice was a “place of recovery for pilgrims and wayfarers comprising of 8 rooms, a stable and the room of the hospitaler”.
Following Grand Duke Leopoldo II of Tuscany’s edict of 1751 to regulate Tuscan hospitals, the hospice was closed and sold to become a private residence.
In the first half of the 19th century, “lo Spedaletto” was acquired by the painter Francesco Nenci who personally decorated the sitting-room of the main house. He also painted the annex of the church of Santa Croce where there is an interesting altar-piece. Church and sitting-room can be visited on request.
The buildings have all been recently restored to reflect their history and the tradition of “lo Spedaletto”. As our predecessors did in days gone by, we welcome modern-day travellers visiting Siena and its environs.
*Aia means “threshing barn”. It is also the Italian name for The Hague.