Firenze Bella and the Great Flood of 1966: The Ruin, Rescue and Restoration of Renaissance Florence

The heart of the renaissance – that explosion of intellectual and artistic genius between 1300 and 1600 that bequeathed the world new concepts of art, politics, science and economics.
Probably the richest centre of classical paintings, frescoes, sculpture, books, manuscripts, science, music and architecture.

Yet in 1966, Italy and the world nearly lost the Renaissance city in the worst flood Florence has ever known since its first recorded flood in 1333, when overnight the river Arno burst its banks, sending torrents of filthy water racing through the ancient heart of the city and its priceless collections in churches, libraries, galleries and museums. In a few short hours, centuries of European art and a population of half a million were inundated.

Many were killed and tens of thousands made homeless; and the filthy deluge destroyed millions of ancient books and manuscripts, thousands of irreplaceable paintings, frescoes, precious sculptures, scientific innovations, and churches and ancient buildings as they were submerged beneath the foul waters.

Horrified, as it watched the disaster unfolding, the world was galvanised into immediate action: from far and wide tens of thousands poured into Florence to help the Florentine’s save whatever they could. Internationally politicians, artists and the influential raised funds; and specialists gave of their time and expertise.

And thanks to miracle of this incredible worldwide response, the city and many of its wonders were saved. And today, Florence stands once again as one of the world’s most glorious and important cities of Renaissance – ‘Firenze Bella’ indeed.