"Plunged into darkness, Florence seems like an immense lake whose turbid waters extend for more than six square kilometers. This is the biggest flood since 1270 and it affects two thirds of the town. Communication, running water and gas are interrupted, while electricity is available only in some areas. Buildings and hospitals are in a dramatic situation and even in the less troubled areas, there’s a lack of food".
The story above is a short account of what happened in the night between November 3rd and 4th 1966: the town was hit by a disastrous flood because the Arno riverbank collapsed, with water reaching the level of 4 metres and 92 centimetres, creating the most catastrophic situation in Florence since the Second World War. It caused 35 deaths and damaged churches and monuments, ruining thousands of precious volumes in the National Library. Many volunteers coming from all over the world, known as the “Mud Angels”, gave fundamental aid to the citizens who were obviously unprepared to face such devastation. Sadly the flood also had a deep economical and cultural impact. Fortunately, many famous people contributed with donations: for instance, Pablo Picasso offered the town the money he earned from selling one of his paintings and the Florentine film director Franco Zeffirelli produced the short documentary “Florence: Days of Destruction” to raise awareness about it.
Every year Florence commemorates this tragic anniversary, an important moment of remembrance dedicated to the city and to all the kind people who worked to get it back on its feet, lending a helping hand to the ones in need. In occasion of the fiftieth anniversary, throughout the month movies, documentaries, exhibitions, installations and a reunion of the Mud Angels will reveal the many sides to the story of the flood of ‘66, highlighting the importance of remembering that sad moment and especially the courage and strength of the entire community. The programme of events welcomes volunteers and promotes research that allows us to learn from the past.
On November 4th, at about 3 pm, the restoration ceremony of Vasari’s Ultima Cena in Santa Croce will be held with the President of the Republic in attendance. On the same day the house of cinema La Compagnia, recently opened in via Cavour, will screen 4 films all dedicated to the flood. That evening, at 8.30 pm, from the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte, a torchlight procession will take place, bringing together citizens and volunteers. From 4th to 20th November Ponte Vecchio will be illuminated by the images of a video mapping installation that will remind us the main stages of the flood. Another video installation will be projected in Galleria delle Carrozze (Palazzo Medici Riccardi) from 3rd to 30th November, to take visitors through a visual itinerary, showing what happened to the towns hit by the tragic event. The Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (the main library of the city) created a digital catalogue of preserved photographs, including 35,000 images that testify to what went on during those tragic days. To highlight this recovered heritage and make it accessible to the public, the library created an “augmented reality” app that can be downloaded on tablet and smartphone.
Beyond Florence, Pisa will contribute to this anniversary program: from October 29th to the end of January, the Palazzo Blu exhibit “4 Novembre 1966. L’alluvione a Pisa” will gather hundreds of pictures shot by Luciano Frassi during the days of the flood in that area.
In addition, on November 6th in the territory of Buiano (Poppi, in the province of Arezzo), along the “Via delle Pievi”, an itinerary will take you on a journey from Roman history to the Middle Ages. The trip ends in Pieve di Santa Maria where you will find a multisensory installation set up in occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the flood.
Discover more events related to the anniversary on the official website Toscana Firenze 2016.
Cover image credit: filippochiavacci on instagram