Remembering Another Terrible Flood– November 4, 1966 Florence, Italy

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It’s the end of August 2017, and much of the world’s attention is focused on the flooding in Texas and Louisiana caused by Hurricane Harvey.

The devastation has touched me personally: my baby brother (now over 50 years old) and his family are among the thousands who were forced to evacuate their flooded home in Houston.

This reminds me another flood that happened 50 years ago when my baby brother was only four months old.

Much of the world’s attention was focused then on the Arno River, which flows through Florence and Pisa. The people of Florence awoke the morning of November 4 to the worst flooding catastrophe in its history since 1557.

Almost every church and museum, business and home in downtown Florence was inundated with filthy water.

Many people feared the Ponte Vecchio, pictured above, would be swept away by the force of the water, but it held firm, though badly damaged. The highest recorded water level in the city was 22 feet.

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Above these women is a plaque recording the high water mark in this square in Florence at 13 feet.

As devastating as this flood was, including the loss of at least 101 lives, within a year Florence was open for business.  

This was partly due to a large number of volunteers who flocked to Florence to help the victims. Not only were homes and businesses destroyed, but millions of priceless works of art and rare books as well. The volunteers, now known as “Mud Angels,” helped rescue and clean paintings and manuscripts from the mud and muck.

In less than a week, I will be in Florence, staying near Santo Spirito, an area hard hit by the flood of 1966.

My main objective in Italy is to have the time of my life.

Another objective is to research the 1966 flood. I am in the planning and plotting stages of my second book: a love story of an American Army Brat and an adorable Italian young man who fall in love while volunteering as “Mud Angels.” The story didn’t happen to me, but the way I am imagining it, I sure wish it had!

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