Interview with Mario Primicerio,
the Mayor of Florence.
Seen thirty years later, what effects do you think the flood in Florence had on the history of the city?
There are some events in the history of a city that have the effect of a watershed: the 1966 flood was certainly one of these. Although 30 years have passed, it is almost impossible to forget this event, not simply from the historiographical point of view, but because it brings back many rather special memories. There is no doubt that it was a really tragic event but it was the answer to the calamity that was to become so very important and this has remained engraved forever in the memories and hearts of the Florentines.
What can you remember of the time of the flood, what were you doing and what seemed particularly important at the time?
At the time of the flood, I was a young University professor and worked alongside my students to lend what assistance we could, remove both the everyday and valuable objects from the mud and comfort those who had lost everything they loved.
Our experience of this period was marked by three characteristics. The first of these was an intertemporal joint responsibility, in other words, the duty towards the future generations. The second was a feeling of internationality, an atmosphere that surrounded our every movement. The third was an experience of solidarity and brotherhood.
Although it was not at all clear at the start, while we working away with our hands in the mud we gradually realised, and this became clearer every day, that we were not working for ourselves but for the Florence of our grandchildren. In other words, what we were doing was dictated by the desire to give back the traces of the history of the past to future generations, so that it could be used for the spiritual growth of people who perhaps had yet to be born.
The other important aspect was purely cosmopolitan because, in a situation like that, every single one of us lost all perception of our personal geographical limits. Italians, French, Germans or Americans no longer existed: it was the international community that worked to try to save Florence, this unique patrimony which belonged to the whole world.
The third element, which was the consequence of the second, was the feeling of solidarity that united us in our work of reconstruction and restoration.
People say that the reconstruction that takes places after particularly terrible calamities is equally important to the history of the city and the country. We can see this from Italy's reconstruction after the catastrophe of the Second World War; and the "reconstruction" of Florence after the flood in 1966 is yet another example of this.
How much has Florence changed over the last 30 years?
The city has above all developed its industrial and technological qualities although it has still, in a rather special way, remained faithful to its status as a historic monument of the past. As for this second aspect, we should recognize that it is thanks to the "Mud Angels" that this patrimony did not decline; by giving it back to us in such good condition they made it possible the city to start again and reach the high level of development of today.
What initiatives are being organized by the Florence City Council for the thirtieth anniversary of the flood?
Remembering is extremely important and, in the case of the flood in Florence, remembering also makes us realise that today's development is indebted, in some way, to the recovery of thirty years ago. A series of study conventions will be held, in collaboration with the University, as well as a documentary exhibition on the flood and the reconstruction. However, we would, above all, like to rediscover the values I mentioned earlier; that is why we welcomed the chance to invite all these young people to Florence - the "Mud Angels" - who, at the time, did so much to clean up all the mud that had buried the city and with such a wonderful sense of solidarity and self-sacrifice.
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