"I preferred to assist people who had lost everything before helping to save the works of art"

An account by Franco Schiavetto (I)

"I was 19 years old and had just got my diploma at the Virgilio classical lyceum in Rome when the flood in Florence took place. My old headmaster asked me and a school friend to go to Florence and survey the situation. We returned to Rome that same evening and told him how things stood.

Several journeys were organized in the days that followed using a coach that the local parish church had given us and which we fitted out like a lorry. Every morning at 5am we filled it up with clothes, all washed, ironed and divided by size, and brand new shoes straight from the factory. We also took various unessential foodstuffs like biscuits. This was then distributed among those in need.

I stayed at Palazzo Pucci, loaned by Marquis Pucci, and led a team of people who were known as the "Big hats" because we all wore New Zealand type wide-brimmed hats. We did not use our proper names but all had nicknames. Mine was General Franz. All in all, I stayed in Florence until February 1967, working there for about two months.

Now I am a mediaevalist and work on illuminated manuscripts but, during the flood, I decided to help people; I preferred to work with people who had lost eveything although naturally I think that the loss of the art works was a terrible tragedy. I would like to meet up with some of the people I worked with during the flood, though I did see a few of them after the earthquake in Sicily and the disaster of the Po delta.

Franco Schiavetto teaches History of the Latin Language at the University of Sassari,
Via Catone, 6 - 00192 Rome - tel. 06/39737933.



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