An account by Andrea Anichini (I)
"We had always known that the Arno was not just a silver stream, but we would never have dreampt that it could do so much damage. I was 14 years old. I remember walking with my father that morning all the way along the Lungarno from Ponte alla Vittoria to Ponte Vecchio. The situation in that area had not as yet become serious and we stopped several times to stare curiously and with amazement at the fine jets of water spouting out from some of the cracks in the parapets, the pile-up of tree trunks crashing against Ponte Vespucci and the river that was gradually rising in the roads around Ponte S.Trinita. We returned home carrying our shoes in our hands.
Obviously, and to my delight, all the schools were closed for a month (I was about to start the upper middle schooI), and I went, I don't remember how, to work as a volunteer at the State Archives. What a lot of books seemed to have been utterly destroyed! Who was with me? I can't remember the names or the faces of all those boys and girls anymore, but I do remember their unexpressed belief that we had to do something, we could not just stand and watch.
After all, the Florentines have always thought of themselves as being part and parcel of their city: the stones, the light, the cypress trees, the monuments and therefore, the ancient books, as well, are part of something that is not simply an exterior thing but something within them, which must be defended. This simple principle, in other words, that a cultural and artistic heritage will stay alive if it is considered as the heritage of all, was the stimulus that was also to encourage so many young people to come here from other cities and other nations.
I have to say that I remember that period with great pleasure: it was my first adventure outside home. I remember the humane atmosphere and can still picture many of the sights I saw at the time: the chains of people passing on the books from the shelves, the things we youngsters talked about (the 1968 protests were already in the air), the journeys we made on the American lorries to take the books away. On one of those truck journeys, I remember being welcomed by the monks, I think at the convent of Vallombrosa, and the pasta with meat sauce cooking in an enormous saucepan in the kitchen of the convent...
I no longer live in Florence, I have had to live elsewhere for the past 15 years because of my job. At times I think about that period: I wonder what happened to all those books with the tissue paper between their pages? Was our contibution to save that heritage really useful? Is there any danger of another flood? Perhaps your initiative will give us the chance to find out".
Andrea Anichini Milan E-mail: Anichini@icil64.cilea.it
FAN-Florence ART News
a cura di
Silvia Messeri & Sandro Pintus