‘All I could think about were those who lived below street level.’ This was the first thought that struck Sherry Peregrin, a student and one of many Americans who lived in Florence’s historical center during the flood of 1966. She further recounts her experience, saying, ‘I remember the sound of the water rushing just below my windowsill. I was stuck in the apartment for two days.’ Her testimony is one of the many episodes included in a new book that has graced book stores for the past few weeks, entitled, 4 November 1966. The Flood in Florence.
Forty years have passed since the Arno flooded Florence. That day the river, swelling with dark and muddy water, invaded streets, alleys, courtyards, houses, workshops, shop, cellars, offices, museums, churches and libraries. Mixed with debris and naphthalene, the water flooded the city, sweeping up everything it found in its path provoking enormous damage to the population and incalculable casualties for the city’s artistic and architectural heritage.
Along the course of the river, the surrounding countryside remained flooded for days, leaving smaller local municipalities isolated and gravely damaged. Thanks to volunteers who arrived from all over Italy and abroad, it was possible to offer help to local people and salvage the art that bore the brunt of the disaster. Thanks to these invaluable efforts, Florence was able to return to ‘normal’ in a relatively brief period of time, despite its grave wounds.
This tragic event became an occasion for experts and specialists from every country to exchange techniques and ideas. Their cooperative efforts transformed Florence into a world centre for restoration. This was probably the first example of ‘globalization’ before the age of the global village and Internet. It was an example of solidarity that overcame national boundaries in the name of love for art and history.
Forty years after the flood, journalists Silvia Messeri and Sandro Pintus bear witness to these tragic events in their new book. It proves to be a unique document, as it includes a photographic timeline featuring 90 original images, some of which have remained unpublished until now. These images, produced by imminent photojournalists of the time, are accompanied by the moving stories of people who intervened to save Florence from destruction. Among these are the testimonies of several mud angels and people of international prestige, including Senator Ted Kennedy, Prof. Baldini, Director of Restoration of the Superintendent’s Department, Dr. Petrioli Tofani, Director of the Uffizi, Mr. and Mrs. Kortan of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Prof. Alfio Del Serra, restorer of Botticelli’s Venus and other works by Leonardo and Giotto.
This bilingual volume, published in Italian and English by Ibiskos Editrice Risolo, opens with a preface written by Claudio Martini, President of the Tuscan Region. It is meant to pay homage to the people of Florence and all those who contributed to the effort of saving Florence and restoring the city to its ancient beauty.
TITLE: 4 November 1966. The Flood in Florence
AUTHOR: Silvia Messeri and Sandro Pintus
Review copy provided by Paperback Exchange.