"We ran through the Vasari corridor above the Ponte Vecchio to try and take the paintings to safety. The bridge shuddered and we thought it was going to fall down"

An account by Prof. Umberto Baldini (I)

I was head of the Department of Restoration of the Board of Artistic Assets at the time and Dr. Procacci, then head of the Board, warned me about the flood at 7.15 in the morning. I rushed over to the restoration centre but luckily there was no sign of any water there, so I went immediately on to the Uffizi; when I arrived in Via della Ninna I saw that the water had already nearly reached the height of a trolley-bus. The water was nearly a metre and a half deep in Piazza Duomo and the situation was already serious in Piazza della Signoria as well. I managed to get inside the Uffizi but the water was already up to my waist.

Inside the Uffizi we tried to remove as many paintings as we could to safety: these included works by Giotto, Tiepolo, Mantegna, as well as the "Virgin" by Filippo Lippi. We also managed to lift the "Coronation of the Virgin" by Botticelli high enough to prevent the water from touching it, because it was too big to go through the door.

Once we had got the paintings to safety, Dott.ssa Bechelucci , Dr. Fossi and I headed for the Vasari corridor above the Ponte Vecchio to try to save the paintings that were in danger there. The bridge shuddered and we thought it was going to fall down. We managed to remove the paintings and immediately returned to the Uffizi from where we were able to see the fury of the Arno from the upstairs windows. We could see that that the Ponte Vecchio was likely to fall down at any minute, then it was given a violent blow by a lorry that had been carried away by the terrifying floodwaters, which caused the walls to collapse like a pack of cards. This terrible impact made an enormous hole in the bridge but also created a path for the floodwaters. That blow was what saved the Ponte Vecchio.

It was 3.30 in the morning when the waters finally went down and the city was left in total darkness.



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