Living with floods
An interview with Prof. Umberto Baldini
by Sandro Pintus
In this interview Prof. Umberto Baldini, who was the Head of the Department of Restoration of the Board of Artistic Assets of Florence in 1966, explains to us what he thinks about the dangers of another flood.
Professor Baldini, as you had a personal experience of the flood and were among those who did so much to save the works of art of Florence, how do you think we can defend ourselves from the Arno if it floods?
On average we have had a bad flood in Florence once every hundred years, even though a large area of the city was also flooded in the second half of the 19th century. The most serious floods took place in 1333 and the mid 16th century, but the one in 1966 was the worst of all.
I think that the Florentines will have to get used to living with floods but people gradually tend to forget about such events. People end up by completely forgetting all about them. The young people of today have no idea about what happened in 1966 whereas it is important to make sure that people remember a fact like this. When Florence was flooded, it was a catastrophe because we were completely unprepared. We had forgotten.
Prof. Umberto Baldini (Photo FAN©1996)
How have the works of art been protected against future floods?
We have tried to avoid, where possible, to keep art works in places where they are out of reach of eventual flooding. For example, in Santa Croce, they are now kept on an upper floor. The only exception is the Cimabue Crucifix but this is protected by an alarm system that will give us time to save it.
Do you know whether anything has been done to prevent or defend ourselves against floods after 1966?
I think that so far very little has been done except to raise the parapets of the Arno. The important thing however is to show people what actually happened and what can happen to the population. This city, apart from its traffic problems and water shortages, also has a flood risk. If the same conditions as 1966 repeated themselves, the water would rise up two metres higher than the level of the last flood. The main problem is that there are no more forests to absorb the floodwaters.
* Prof. Umberto Baldini is at present Head of the InternationalUniversity of Art in Florence, Italy and director of the project for Cultural Assetsof the National Council of Research (CNR)
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