No sound like it had been heard in Florence since World War II. An hour after midnight on May 27, 1993, a massive explosion echoed throughout the city. A white Fiat Fiorino van, stolen from via della Scala the evening before and taken to Isolotto where it was loaded with explosives, had been driven into the city centre and parked under the Torre dei Pulci in via dei Georgofili. When the 280 kilograms of Pentrite and T4 (both components of Semtex) mixed with a small quantity of TNT were detonated, the car bomb blasted a crater 10 feet wide and 6 feet deep, cutting off all the electricity to the inner city. Fragments of metal debris landed as far away as via dei Calzaiuoli. Tragically, the explosion killed five people: municipal police inspector Fabrizio Nencini; his wife Angelamaria, live-in custodian at the Accademia dei Georgofili; their 9-year-old daughter, Nadia; two-month-old Caterina, baptised just four days prior; and 20-year-old architecture student Dario Capolicchio, who lived in a nearby apartment. Another 33 people were hospitalised for injuries.
From the excessive quantity of explosives used, investigators quickly understood that the device was not intended to assassinate a single person or group of people but, rather, that those behind the attack had a far bigger target in mind. Their aim was to ravage the Uffizi Gallery and the Vasari Corridor, the very heart of the Renaissance and, as movie director Franco Zeffirelli said at the time, to attack ‘the cultural identity of the world.'
Repairing the structural damage to the Uffizi cost more than a million dollars. Luckily, although the recently installed bulletproof window glass shattered, it protected most of the artworks from the full force of the blast: only 3 minor paintings were completely destroyed, 33 others were damaged and 3 statues were broken.
However, it was a very different story for the fifteenth-century Torre dei Pulci, home since 1933 to the Accademia dei Georgofili, the world's first learned society of agronomy and scientific agriculture. Established in 1735, it counted two American presidents among its fellows over the centuries. The building buckled and crumbled to the ground, ending the lives of the Nencini family. Amazingly, 39,000 of the Accademia's 40,000 rare books, manuscripts and historic archives were eventually recovered.