FLORENCE is preparing to commemorate 50 years since its worst flood ever engulfed the city in 1966, killing 101 people and damaging millions of works of art.
Today is the anniversary of the disaster, which occurred when the river Arno burst its banks after heavy rainfall. At its height, the floodwaters reached almost seven metres.
Immediately after the waters receded, leaving thousands homeless and much of Florence’s priceless artistic and historical heritage damaged or destroyed, thousands of volunteers from around the world descended on the city to help clean, restore, and rebuild.
These “mud angels” are being invited back to Florence as part of the commemorations, and discounted hotel reservations and restaurant prices are on offer to anyone who came to the city’s aid.
A mass led by Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, himself a mud angel, was due to be held this morning to celebrate the efforts of the mud angels, and later today, a torchlight procession throughout Florence will begin with a rally at the church of San Miniato al Monte to thank the angels.
Major restoration works on Florentine art have also been timed to conclude this month to mark the anniversary, with non-profit groups from the United States collaborating to restore paintings and drawings from the Horne Museum in Florence.
Georgio Vasari’s painting The Last Supper, which was almost entirely ruined in the 1966 flood, will be formally unveiled today by the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, after a restoration that began in 2004.