THE FLORENCE FLOOD:
4th of November 1966
"On November 4, 1966, in Florence the Arno river swollen with dark, muddy waters, spilled over sweeping away everything in its way. When the waters subsided, only destruction enveloped the city." (main source: the book "Florence flood 1996")
This flood, happened between the 3rd and 4th of November, was the worst of all in Florence and in the surrounding villages, due to the big quantity of water that flowed into all of the region, about the third part of the annual average ( about 200 litres for square metre ) and also because of the fact that the level of the Arno rose up to 11 metres.
The 4th of November flood, damaged not only the historic centre of Florence but also the zone of the Arno’s dock. Moreover, the surrounding fields continued to be flooded for many days after the disaster and a wide range of smaller communes were damaged heavily and also isolated.
The Chronicle Of The Drama
The last few days of October and the first ones of November were characterized from intense rainfalls, interrupted only from short clearings during the All Saints’ Day.
Even if during the following days the rainfalls continued and increased in intensity, the inhabitant of Florence weren’t worried because they can’t imagine the catastrophe that will happen, above all because they are accustomed to the autumnal floods of the near river and watercourses.
The victims were relatively few, because the horrible flood didn’t overtook them while they are going to work or while they are working in the fields, but the majority of them was at home to pass the 4th of November with their families.
3rd of November
In the evening: the first worrying news come from the Mugello and from the province of Arezzo ( Casentino, High Valdarno),where river and torrent have flooded.
At the Midnight: The River Arno begin its work of destruction, firstly in the zone of Casentino and High Valdarno , secondly in the zone of Incisa, where have to be interrupted the motorway of the Sun and the railway to Arezzo and Rome. In a second moment, the waters of the Arno flood the surrounding villages such as Montevarchi, Figline Valdarno, Incisa, Rignano sull’Arno,Pontassieve and many more. An episode to remember with sadness, happened in the zone of Reggello, is that of an habitation, where lived seven persons, completely destroyed by the flood.
4th of November
1:00: the Arno overflows in the zone of “la Liscia” in the commune of Lastra a Signa . The state road Tosco-Romagnola and the secondary ways between Florence and Empoli were interrupted.
3:00: the fury of the Arno reaches Florence.
3:30: The Arno breaks the levees in the zone of Rovezzano. Moreover, many quarters of Florence are flooded and there is the first victim of this natural catastrophe, a man called Carlo Maggiorelli, who was an overseer of the water establishments. In the historic centre the sewers and the cellars are being flooded.
From this moment, during all the night and also during the next day the situation becomes even more critical. In fact, the destructive strength of the water causes problems to the things and to the persons; maybe, among the damages to the things, those to the National Library and to the well known quarter of Santa Croce can be considered the most serious.
12:00: The worst moment of this drama for the artistic town of Florence, because the water reach the first floor of the buildings and the first victims are made known ( a couple of old persons and a young prisoner ) .
18:00: the River Arno begins slowly to return into its levees.
Finally, a strange image of a fact happened during the flood and filmed from all the means of communication, has been considered the symbol of this tragic day, that it is the image of a group of cows gathered at the first floor of the “Casa del popolo” in the zone of San Donnino, due to the attempt to save them.
About The Rescue Work - the "Angeli del fango"
The flood was the first episode in Italy that underlined the absolute lack of an efficient body for the civil protection. In fact, in this critical situation the first official helps arrived six days after the beginning of the catastrophe.
Luckily, there were some non-official helps that tried to solve the problems caused by the flood, such as a multitude of young voluntaries of various nationalities, called “ the angels of the mud “ , who came to Florence to save the books and the works of art from the destruction. However, the damage to the artistic and historical heritage was considerable, in fact in the storerooms of the National Library, thousands of precious volumes were completely destroyed and the world famous picture by Cimabue, the “ Christ Crucified “ was destroyed at its 80%, in spite of the subsequent restoration.
The only financial help from the government was of five- thousand-lira to the traders.
Finally, we haven’t to forget the documentary about the flood by the world-famous Franco Zeffirelli , very useful in the work of sensitisation, with the sorrowful call by the English actor, Richard Burton.