Unexpected fans
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Unexpected fans

October 27, 1954 was a perfectly normal autumn day in Florence-until about 2.20 in the afternoon, that is. Looking skywards in the area around the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, people where astonished to see a squadron of 20 or more luminous objects of different shapes passing at

Thu 17 Jun 2010 12:00 AM

October 27, 1954 was a perfectly normal autumn day in Florence-until
about 2.20 in the afternoon, that is. Looking skywards in the area around the
Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, people where astonished to see a squadron of
20 or more luminous objects of different shapes passing at high speed over the
church’s dome. Eyewitnesses variously described the unidentified flying objects
(UFOs) as long and cigar-shaped, white and shaped like seagull wings, round and
‘like a Chinese mandarin’s hat.’ Some, eyewitnesses said, flew in pairs, others
alone. Cruising in at high speed from the direction of the Cascine, they
hovered in the area for about 15 minutes until zigzagging off to the southeast.


During the sightings, the switchboard at the La Nazione newspaper
was deluged with calls from people eagerly recounting what they had seen. To
see for themselves, Giorgio Batini, then an editor, and some of his journalist
colleagues climbed to the top floor of the paper’s building and confirmed the
sightings. In fact, the strange light emanating from these ‘spacecraft’ could
be seen as far away as in the city’s suburbs.


Half an hour later, appearing to be heading to Fiesole, the UFOs reached
the soccer stadium where Fiorentina was playing against Pistoiese. They hovered
there. Romolo Tuci, captain of Pistoese at the time, stated in an interview
many years later, ‘It was a beautiful day. At a certain point we realised that
the fans were gazing up into the sky. It was spontaneous for us players to
stop, too. I saw something like small rings in the distance; what they actually
were I really don’t know.’ According to the referee’s official report, at the
beginning of the game’s second half, he was so distracted by the noise of
10,000 incredulous spectators looking skywards and by the stationary players on
the pitch that he suspended play for about 10 minutes.


Soon after the UFOs moved away from the stadium, very fine white
threads, like cobwebs or fibrous snowflakes, started falling like a lightweight
blanket over the city and outlying areas. Although the phenomenon continued for
several days, the substance, known as ‘angel’s hair’ evaporated rapidly. It did
so even more quickly when held in the hand, where it felt sticky and had a
nasty smell. The chemistry faculty at the University of Florence did a
spectrographic analysis of a sample that an engineering student had managed to
trap in a test tube; it was largely composed of boron, silicon and magnesium.


The episode, which was widely reported in the  press (for example,  Domenica del Corriere dedicated an
illustrated cover to it), divided the city: those who believed that these were
UFOs and non-believers. Fifty years later, even Tuci said ‘Whatever they were,
I really don’t know. The fact is, among us [players] there were those who saw
them and those who didn’t; there were also those who took no notice, believing
who knows what.’


A report prepared by Comitato Italiano per il Controllo delle
Affermazioni sul Paranormale (CICAP, ‘Italian Committee for the Investigation
of Claims on the Paranormal’) stated that military exercises using chaff to
confound radar systems were underway at the time of the sighting; these could
have created luminous reflections in the sky. It also suggested that the long,
thread-like matter was spiderweb: certain species of spiders produce web  which, by exploiting wind currents, they use
to migrate long distances.


Others theorised that the material came from recent above-ground atomic
bomb testing (however, it was not radioactive); that it was molten glass fibres
from a passing meteorite; or chemical residue from textile manufacturing. What
is hard to explain, however, is why  so
many people in two different locations were convinced they had seen the
‘spaceships’ and why there was so much of the fibrous matter found as far
afield as the Consuma.


Nearly 60 years after the event, Florence is home to UFO research centers
and organizations, among them the Centro Indipendente Raccolta Notizie
Osservazioni Spaziali, (CIRNOS, ‘Independent Centre for Collecting Space
Observations’) and Sezione Ufologia Fiorentina (SUF, ‘Florentine Ufology


Although the famous song Firenze sogna informs us that the
firmament is mirrored in the Arno’s silver waters, it unfortunately fails to
give us any advice about exactly what to do when and if the extraterrestrial
visitors from a far-off galaxy decide to visit again.


a suggestion: perhaps we could invite them to sit in the stands to watch an even more
exciting soccer game, this time between Fiorentina and archrivals, Juventus. If
Fiorentina wins, they might even decide to stay…






To hear Homo Sapiens sing Firenze sogna, go to :



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