As the rain continues to pour down and the Arno continues to swell, everyone is remembering the flood of Florence in 1966. The other day we had dinner at our place with Rami’s brother and my in-laws and as another wave of downpours came in my father-in-law was telling stories of how he trudged through the deep in mud with so many others to get the books out of the libraries and museums.
“you had to take them, unstick each page from the others and layer in other materials so they’d dry out,” he remembered, and even today, they’re still restoring the same books. Much of the artwork saved is thanks to people like my father-in-law, called the Mud Angels, consisting of mostly Italian and international students that went in to save such important pieces of history. There was so much damage, and it was so recent, that there are many that still have their own stories of when the water started to rise. I read another recently that said someone was horrified at first when their grandfather said they loved the flood, but it was because of how the city came together in the aftermath of the tragedy, he said, that was incredible, and then the world noticed too, and Florence rose up out of the fango, the mud.
Since that terrible day, they’ve made many precautions and built dams and outlets so nothing like that would ever happen again. Though it did get worryingly high a few years ago, even with all the rain we’ve had recently, the river is brown and rushing, but thankfully it’s not anywhere close to being as dangerous as it was fifty-three years ago. Today the most notable traces of the flood are the little marble plaques you can find on the walls of buildings showing the height the water rose to in that part of the city. It’s just one more layer of living history you may not notice if your visit goes by too quick!