Florence in late summer, 1944

Mid-August–October 1944

New York Times reporter Herbert Matthews observed that “Florence is no longer the Florence that the world has known for 400 years. . . . the heart of Florence is gone.” Of its six bridges—San Niccolò, alle Grazie, Vecchio, Santa Trinita, alla Carraia, and alla Vittoria, only the Ponte Vecchio survived. In fact, the Germans had rigged it with demolition charges as well. Some among the Allies theorized that the Germans had changed their plans at the last minute, perhaps concerned that the debris caused by the destruction of the two-story bridge would actually have facilitated an Allied crossing by providing enough rubble to form a new foundation in the low water of late summer.

[American Monumnet’s Man, Frederick Hartt described the horrifying scenes during the initial days of liberation:]

In the city there was no water, no light. . . . the mosquitoes came in clouds from the stagnant Arno, the heat was intense and the air suffocating with the odors from the broken sewers and gas mains, the unflushable closets [toilets], and the corpses still buried under the ruins along the Arno.

Fascist snipers from windows all over the town picked off civilians at random. During this period nearly four hundred persons, mostly civilians, were killed by the German batteries which continued to shell the town sporadically from Fiesole.

Edsel, Robert M.. Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis (pp. 188-189). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

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