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Arno, 4th November 1966

It is fifty years to the day since the flood of Florence destroyed thousands, many thousands of works of art. The river Arno was not responsible, we were.

The cellars of Florence in particular where inundated, where the little shops of all things dear were, and treasures were be be found.

Dr George Venturini’s memories of Florence are captured in “MIRRORS – Stories of almost everyone” by Eduardo Galeano (Nation Books, New York 2009). A book of mini-lessons, observations, and pearls. All of them and more, wrapped in one. 5.000 years of history in less than 400 pages.

“One of them” writes Dr Venturini, “is sculpted in my mind”:


Nature had not yet been committed to the insane asylum, but it already suffered from periodic nervous breakdowns that warned of things to come.

At the end of 1966, the Arno River’s dream of having a flood all its own came true, and the city of Florence faced the worst inundation in its entire history. In a single day, Florence lost more than it had in all the bombing of the Second World War.

Soon after, Florentines knee-deep in mud set to rescuing whatever mght have survived the shipwreck. There they were, men and women, dripping wet, working, cursing the Arno and all its relatives, when a long truck came barreling past.

The truck carried an enormous body mortally wounded by the flood: the head bounced along over the rear wheels and a broken arm hung over the side.

As the wooden giant passed, men and women put aside their shovels and pails, uncovered their heads, crossed themselves. And in silence they watched it disappear from view.

He too was a son of the city of Florence.

The Jesus crucified, Jesus broken, had been born here seven centuries ago from the hand of Giovanni Cimabue, teacher of Giotto.


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  1. Michael Taylor

    Walking around Florence now, just a short walk from the river, towering over our heads were markers on buildings showing the flood levels.

  2. Florence nee Fedup

    Florence is a beautiful city indeed. Even it’s central rail station. Reminds one little of Central in Sydney.

    Pauline Hanson doesn’t want toi visit, toilets are holes in the floor.

  3. helvityni

    I have not been to Venice yet, so that was on my agenda next. Talking to my brother-in-law a couple days ago ,I might have to change my mind… According to him I should go Florence instead. Unlike our PM, his judgement is usually pretty spot on, so I might just follow his advise. I usually like to see one place properly rather than rushing through too many places in one trip….

    Michael, please tell us more when you get back, you have wetted my appetite…

  4. Michael Taylor

    helvityni, I’m back! We were walking around the streets of Florence last year.

    You should go to Venice though (mind you, it’s hard to walk around the ‘streets’ ?). Of all that Venice has to offer, the first thing Carol and I would do if/when we return is head straight back to where we found some pizzas to die for. If you’re ever in Venice, go through the little lane at the end of St Marks Square, take the first lane on the right, and it’s the second eatery on the left. (If you eat outside, you can even log-in to the free WiFi from the adjoining eatery).

  5. Denis Bright in Brisbane

    Appropriate reminder of recovery from the floods of 1966, Michael.

    Italy is very accessible and affordable.

    17oC this afternoon in Florence but 23 or 24oC further south in Sicily. Not bad for this time of year.

    I like the Pozzallo (Sicily) to Malta Ferry which only takes a couple of hours. There are connections back to Australia via Dubai from Malta with a optional stop in Greek Cyprus.

    YHA (HI in Europe) Hostels are of a high standard in Italy.

    You won’t be without train information anywhere in Europe through the use of the German DB Timetable Online: https://www.bahn.com/i/view/GBR/en/. Unlike most other online timetables, the details extend beyond one country.

  6. Matters Not

    helvityni, MT advises to go to the back of St Marks Square, and then turn …

    Here’s another option. Exit St Marks towards the ‘front’ – (in the direction of the main canal.) Turn left. (You are now leaving the main tourist area.) Proceed for 1 to 2 kilometres (can’t remember exactly how far) and check out the bars/cafes on the left. So much more affordable than the prices charged in the main square which are ‘extreme’.

    Observe the children playing in the street (no cars allowed) relatively late at night. Speak to the locals. These kids have never walked or played on what we would call a ‘soft’ surface. No grass. No soil. Plenty of ‘cobble’, concrete, pavement and the like. All hard surfaces.

    Accordingly they ‘play’ differently. With that ‘understanding’ in mind you might be surprised.

    Whet your appetite. Take my advice. And wet your thirst at the bar(s).

  7. Michael Taylor

    Matters Not, that’s the secret in Italy. Get away from the ‘main spots’ and you’ll always find better and more reasonably priced food. Though in the case of the pizzas Carol and I had, you couldn’t have found anything better for €9. I insist that should helvityni ever get to Venice that she take my advice. So should you. You’ll thank me for it. ?

  8. Kaye Lee

    One of my fondest memories is arriving in Venice and heading straight for Piazza San Marco. There was a full moon and a small orchestra was playing at a cafe in the square. We KNEW it would be expensive but just had to have the experience so we sat down and ordered two drinks. Normally they just run a tab but we obviously weren’t their usual clientele (young Aussie backpackers) so a very snooty waiter presented hubby with the bill with the drinks. To my great amusement, hubby didn’t even look at it and just said “Same again thanks mate”. It cost us an arm and a leg but it was soooo worth it both for the magnificent surroundings and for the putdown 🙂

  9. Michael Taylor

    Kaye, rudeness is a trademark of many of the shops.

  10. John Brame

    You better get in to check out venice before climate change turns venice into a submarine. Venice will need sonar.

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