The wonders of Padua (Padua, part 3)

Padova or Padua is a big subject! I’ve recently posted 2 times about it, here, here, here and here.  And, still, I am far from done!

This post includes a list of the major features that grace this lovely, historic town. But first, a sweet little video about the town itself:

 

Undoubtedly the most notable things about Padova is the Giotto masterpiece of fresco painting in the The Scrovegni Chapel (Cappella degli Scrovegni).  This incredible cycle of frescoes was completed in 1305 by Giotto.

It was commissioned by Enrico degli Scrovegni, a wealthy banker, as a private chapel once attached to his family’s palazzo. It is also called the “Arena Chapel” because it stands on the site of a Roman-era arena.

The fresco cycle details the life of the Virgin Mary and has been acknowledged by many to be one of the most important fresco cycles in the world for its role in the development of European painting. It is a miracle that the chapel survived through the centuries and especially the bombardment of the city at the end of WWII.  But for a few hundred yards, the chapel could have been destroyed like its neighbor, the Church of the Eremitani.
The Palazzo della Ragione, with its great hall on the upper floor, is reputed to have the largest roof unsupported by columns in Europe; the hall is nearly rectangular, its length  267.39 ft, its breadth 88.58 ft, and its height 78.74 ft; the walls are covered with allegorical frescoes. The building stands upon arches, and the upper story is surrounded by an open loggia, not unlike that which surrounds the basilica of Vicenza.

The Palazzo was begun in 1172 and finished in 1219. In 1306, Fra Giovanni, an Augustinian friar, covered the whole with one roof. Originally there were three roofs, spanning the three chambers into which the hall was at first divided; the internal partition walls remained till the fire of 1420, when the Venetian architects who undertook the restoration removed them, throwing all three spaces into one and forming the present great hall, the Salone. The new space was refrescoed by Nicolo’ Miretto and Stefano da Ferrara, working from 1425 to 1440. Beneath the great hall, there is a centuries-old market.
In the Piazza dei Signori is the loggia called the Gran Guardia, (1493–1526), and close by is the Palazzo del Capitaniato, the residence of the Venetian governors, with its great door, the work of Giovanni Maria Falconetto, the Veronese architect-sculptor who introduced Renaissance architecture to Padua and who completed the door in 1532.

Falconetto was also the architect of Alvise Cornaro’s garden loggia, (Loggia Cornaro), the first fully Renaissance building in Padua.

Nearby stands the il duomo, remodeled in 1552 after a design of Michelangelo. It contains works by Nicolò Semitecolo, Francesco Bassano and Giorgio Schiavone.

The nearby Baptistry, consecrated in 1281, houses the most important frescoes cycle by Giusto de’ Menabuoi.

The Basilica of St. Giustina, faces the great piazza of Prato della Valle.

The Teatro Verdi is host to performances of operas, musicals, plays, ballets, and concerts.

The most celebrated of the Paduan churches is the Basilica di Sant’Antonio da Padova. The bones of the saint rest in a chapel richly ornamented with carved marble, the work of various artists, among them Sansovino and Falconetto.

The basilica was begun around the year 1230 and completed in the following century. Tradition says that the building was designed by Nicola Pisano. It is covered by seven cupolas, two of them pyramidal.

Donatello’s equestrian statue of the Venetian general Gattamelata (Erasmo da Narni) can be found on the piazza in front of the Basilica di Sant’Antonio da Padova. It was cast in 1453, and was the first full-size equestrian bronze cast since antiquity. It was inspired by the Marcus Aurelius equestrian sculpture at the Capitoline Hill in Rome.

Not far from the Gattamelata are the St. George Oratory (13th century), with frescoes by Altichiero, and the Scuola di S. Antonio (16th century), with frescoes by Tiziano (Titian).

One of the best known symbols of Padua is the Prato della Valle, a large elliptical square, one of the biggest in Europe. In the center is a wide garden surrounded by a moat, which is lined by 78 statues portraying illustrious citizens. It was created by Andrea Memmo in the late 18th century.

Memmo once resided in the monumental 15th-century Palazzo Angeli, which now houses the Museum of Precinema.

The Abbey of Santa Giustina and adjacent Basilica. In the 5th century, this became one of the most important monasteries in the area, until it was suppressed by Napoleon in 1810. In 1919 it was reopened.

The tombs of several saints are housed in the interior, including those of Justine, St. Prosdocimus, St. Maximus, St. Urius, St. Felicita, St. Julianus, as well as relics of the Apostle St. Matthias and the Evangelist St. Luke.

The abbey is also home to some important art, including the Martyrdom of St. Justine by Paolo Veronese. The complex was founded in the 5th century on the tomb of the namesake saint, Justine of Padua.

The Church of the Eremitani is an Augustinian church of the 13th century, containing the tombs of Jacopo (1324) and Ubertinello (1345) da Carrara, lords of Padua, and the chapel of SS James and Christopher, formerly illustrated by Mantegna’s frescoes. The frescoes were all but destroyed bombs dropped by the Allies in WWII, because it was next to the Nazi headquarters.

The old monastery of the church now houses the Musei Civici di Padova (town archeological and art museum).

Santa Sofia is probably Padova’s most ancient church. The crypt was begun in the late 10th century by Venetian craftsmen. It has a basilica plan with Romanesque-Gothic interior and Byzantine elements. The apse was built in the 12th century. The edifice appears to be tilting slightly due to the soft terrain.

Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico)

The church of San Gaetano (1574–1586) was designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, on an unusual octagonal plan. The interior, decorated with polychrome marbles, houses a Madonna and Child by Andrea Briosco, in Nanto stone.

The 16th-century Baroque Padua Synagogue

At the center of the historical city, the buildings of Palazzo del Bò, the center of the University.

The City Hall, called Palazzo Moroni, the wall of which is covered by the names of the Paduan dead in the different wars of Italy and which is attached to the Palazzo della Ragione

The Caffé Pedrocchi, built in 1831 by architect Giuseppe Jappelli in neoclassical style with Egyptian influence. This café has been open for almost two centuries. It hosts the Risorgimento museum, and the near building of the Pedrocchino (“little Pedrocchi”) in neogothic style.

There is also the Castello. Its main tower was transformed between 1767 and 1777 into an astronomical observatory known as Specola. However the other buildings were used as prisons during the 19th and 20th centuries. They are now being restored.

The Ponte San Lorenzo, a Roman bridge largely underground, along with the ancient Ponte Molino, Ponte Altinate, Ponte Corvo and Ponte S. Matteo.

There are many noble ville near Padova. These include:

Villa Molin, in the Mandria fraction, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi in 1597.

Villa Mandriola (17th century), at Albignasego

Villa Pacchierotti-Trieste (17th century), at Limena

Villa Cittadella-Vigodarzere (19th century), at Saonara

Villa Selvatico da Porto (15th–18th century), at Vigonza

Villa Loredan, at Sant’Urbano

Villa Contarini, at Piazzola sul Brenta, built in 1546 by Palladio and enlarged in the following centuries, is the most important

Padua has long been acclaimed for its university, founded in 1222. Under the rule of Venice the university was governed by a board of three patricians, called the Riformatori dello Studio di Padova. The list of notable professors and alumni is long, containing, among others, the names of Bembo, Sperone Speroni, the anatomist Vesalius, Copernicus, Fallopius, Fabrizio d’Acquapendente, Galileo Galilei, William Harvey, Pietro Pomponazzi, Reginald, later Cardinal Pole, Scaliger, Tasso and Jan Zamoyski.

It is also where, in 1678, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia became the first woman in the world to graduate from university.

The university hosts the oldest anatomy theatre, built in 1594.

The university also hosts the oldest botanical garden (1545) in the world. The botanical garden Orto Botanico di Padova was founded as the garden of curative herbs attached to the University’s faculty of medicine. It still contains an important collection of rare plants.

The place of Padua in the history of art is nearly as important as its place in the history of learning. The presence of the university attracted many distinguished artists, such as Giotto, Fra Filippo Lippi and Donatello; and for native art there was the school of Francesco Squarcione, whence issued Mantegna.

Padua is also the birthplace of the celebrated architect Andrea Palladio, whose 16th-century villas (country-houses) in the area of Padua, Venice, Vicenza and Treviso are among the most notable of Italy and they were often copied during the 18th and 19th centuries; and of Giovanni Battista Belzoni, adventurer, engineer and egyptologist.

The sculptor Antonio Canova produced his first work in Padua, one of which is among the statues of Prato della Valle (presently a copy is displayed in the open air, while the original is in the Musei Civici).

The Antonianum is settled among Prato della Valle, the Basilica of Saint Anthony and the Botanic Garden. It was built in 1897 by the Jesuit fathers and kept alive until 2002. During WWII, under the leadership of P. Messori Roncaglia SJ, it became the center of the resistance movement against the Nazis. Indeed, it briefly survived P. Messori’s death and was sold by the Jesuits in 2004.

Paolo De Poli, painter and enamellist, author of decorative panels and design objects, 15 times invited to the Venice Biennale was born in Padua. The electronic musician Tying Tiffany was also born in Padua.

 

The history of Padua, including the city walls, part 2

The rich history of Padua was only partially discussed here.  This post continues the story.

Beginning with the 12th Century in Padova:

 

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The Carrara Family, also called Carraresi, was a medieval Italian family who ruled first as feudal lords about the village of Carrara in the countryside near Padua and then as moderately enlightened despots in the city of Padua.

Having moved into Padua itself in the 13th century, the Carraresi exploited the feuds of urban politics first as Ghibelline and then as Guelf leaders and were thus able to found a new and more illustrious dominion. The latter began with the election of Jacopo da Carrara as perpetual captain general of Padua in 1318 but was not finally established, with Venetian help, until the election of his nephew Marsiglio in 1337.

For approximately 50 years, the Carraresi ruled with no serious rivals except among members of their own family. Marsiglio was succeeded without incident by Ubertino (1338–45), but Marsigliello, who succeeded Ubertino, was deposed and murdered by Jacopo di Niccolò (1345–50).

Jacopo was then murdered by Guglielmino and succeeded by his brother Jacopino di Niccoló (1350–55), and Jacopino in turn was dispossessed and imprisoned by his nephew Francesco il Vecchio (1355–87). Such a nice family to call your own.

Despite this chaos, the Carrara court was one of the most brilliant in all of the Italian peninsula. Ubertino in particular was a patron of building and the arts, and Jacopo di Niccolò was a close friend of Petrarch.

Only with the exception of a brief period of Scaligeri (the ruling family in Verona) overlordship between 1328 and 1337 and two years (1388–1390) when Giangaleazzo Visconti held the town, Padua was pretty much owned by the Carraresi.

The many advances of Padova in the 13th century naturally brought the commune into conflict with Can Grande della Scala, lord of Verona. In 1311, Padua had to yield.

But, even under the Carraresi, it was a long period of restlessness, for the Carraresi were constantly at war. Under Carraresi rule, the early humanist circles at the University of Padua were effectively disbanded: Albertino Mussato, the first modern poet laureate, died in exile at Chioggia in 1329, and the eventual heir of the Paduan literary tradition went to the Tuscan Petrarch.

In 1387, John Hawkwood won the Battle of Castagnaro for Padua, against Giovanni Ordelaffi, for Verona.

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The Carraresi period finally came to an end as the power of the Visconti and of Venice grew in importance. Padova came under the rule of the Republic of Venice in 1405, and mostly remained that way until the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797.

There was just a brief period when the city changed hands (in 1509) during the wars of the League of Cambrai.  Padova was held for just a few weeks by Imperial supporters, but Venetian troops quickly recovered it and successfully defended Padua during a siege by Imperial troops (Siege of Padua).

As a part of the Venetian Republic, Padova was governed by two Venetian nobles, a podestà for civil affairs and a captain for military affairs. Each was elected for 16 months. Under these governors, the great and small councils continued to discharge municipal business and to administer the Paduan law, contained in the statutes of 1276 and 1362. The treasury was managed by two chamberlains; and every five years the Paduans sent one of their nobles to reside as nuncio in Venice; this elected official was in place to watch out for the interests of his native town.

 

The City Walls:

For more information see: https://digilander.libero.it/clapad5/padova/mura.html

1. The Romans would seem to be the first to surround Padova with walls. Of the walls built during the ancient Roman era, the only traces to survive are those incorporated into the foundations of certain palazzi. The route of these walls corresponded to a meandering line formed by the river Medoacus (now the Brenta). Inside the walls, Padua’s first urban center developed.

2.   The Mura Duecentesche (“13th century walls”; aka the mura comunali or mura medievali) were built at the start of the 13th century by the Comune of Padua. Their route was delimited by the two branches of the Bacchiglione, the Tronco Maestro and the Naviglio Interno, which came to be used as defensive ditches. There are several remains of them around the Castello and near Porta Molino. More minor remains are to be found in the Riviera Tito Livio and Riviera Albertino Mussato; the only gates to remain from this wall are the main north gate, Porta Molino (or Molini, after several mills in the area which functioned up to the early 20th century), and the main west gate, Porta Altinate (named after the road to Altino which began here).

(The Porta Molino‘s upper stories were used at the end of the 19th century as a reservoir for the town’s first drinking water system; tales of the tower being used as an observatory by Galileo Galilei during his time in the city are probably false. The Porta Altinate fronted onto the Naviglio Interno, crossed by an ancient Roman three-arch bridge, and in 1256 this gate was stormed and destroyed by crusaders fighting against Ezzelino da Romano [as recorded in an inscription recorded by Carlo Leoni].  It was rebuilt in 1286. The Naviglio and the bridge were buried in the 1960s.)

3. 14th century, the Mura Carraresi were built by the Carraresi in the 14th century and followed a route that would be followed almost by the later 16th century wall. Almost nothing remains of them the Mura Carraresi, since they were demolished during the War of the League of Cambrai to create the Renaissance wall.  However, some sections can be seen in via delle Dimesse, near the Prato della Valle.

4. The Mura Cinquecentesche (16th century Walls; aka the Mura rinascimentali or Mura Veneziane) were built to protect Padova by the Venetian Republic during the first decades of the 16th century. It was a project of the condottiero Bartolomeo d’Alviano.

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Canaletto, View of Padua from outside the city walls with the Church of San Francesco and the Palazzo della Salone

The Mura rinascimentali  were protected on their west flank by a canal known as the fossa Bastioni, which still exists. The Renaissance walls survive to this day, almost entirely unbroken apart from sections demolished in the 1960s to build the new Ospedale Civile.

 

The City Gates:

Nearly all the walls’ gates survive.  For even more information, see: http://digilander.libero.it/clapad5/padova/porte.html

Porta Savonarola – Completed in 1530. Designed by the architect Giovanni Maria Falconetto, this gate was built with a frieze showing the Lion of Saint Mark, symbol of the Venetian Republic, which still survives. Picture below:

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Porta san Giovanni – Completed in 1528. Designed by the architect Giovanni Maria Falconetto, this gate originally had a frieze showing the Lion of Saint Mark, symbol of the Venetian Republic (the frieze here was destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars). Picture below:

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Porta Ognissanti (or Portello, Portello Nuovo or Portello Venezia) – Originally entitled Portello or Little Port, the gate was built at the terminus for the river trade along the Brenta between Padua and Venice. The present building replaces the Portello Vecchio, on what is now via San Massimo, but is rather different from the city’s other gates of this date – the external facade is adorned with shining rocks from Istria, with four pairs of columns surmounted by an architrave embellished with four trachyte cannonballs. The three-arch bridge carrying the road over the Canale Piovego and through the gate is guarded by two white stone lions. Stones in the gate (still legible today) commemorate the ancient origins of the town, speaking to “its good governance.” Since 1535, a clock stands out from the gate in Nanto stone. Traces of frescoes can also be seen inside the gate. 5 pictures below:

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Porta Liviana – Begun in 1509, it was completed in 1517 and named in honour of Bartolomeo d’Alviano himself.

Porta Santa Croce – On the site of a gate in the Carraresi wall, the present gate was begun in 1509 and was originally defended by a tower, demolished in 1632.

(For a walk to view the city walls, you can start from Piazza Garibaldi, where there is the medieval Porta Altinate (1286), one of the 3 oldest city gates,  with short sections of walls still visible at various points of the Ponte Romani and Tito Livio rivers, then walk along via San Fermo (with the church of the same name leaning against the city walls). Walk from the Largo Europe and the Riviera Mugnai until you reach the intersection with via Dante, then you arrive at the 2nd medieval gate, Porta Ponte Molino, with its large pointed arch surmounted by a mighty tower.)

 

The End of the Venetian Republic: 

In 1797, the Venetian Republic came to an end with the Treaty of Campo Formio, and Padua, like much of the Veneto, was ceded to the Habsburgs. In 1806, the city passed to the French puppet Kingdom of Italy until the fall of Napoleon, in 1814, when the city became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, part of the Austrian Empire.

Austrian rule was unpopular with progressive circles in northern Italy, but the feelings of the population (from the lower to the upper classes) towards the empire were mixed.

In Padua, the year of revolutions of 1848 saw a student revolt which on 8 February turned the University and the Caffè Pedrocchi into battlegrounds where students and Paduans fought side by side. The revolt was, however, short-lived and there were no further episodes of unrest under the Austrian Empire (nor previously had there been any), as in Venice or in other parts of Italy. The opponents of Austria were forced into exile.

Under Austrian rule, Padua began its industrial development; one of the first Italian rail tracks, Padua-Venice, was built in 1845. In 1866, the Battle of Königgrätz gave Italy the opportunity, as an ally of Prussia, to take Veneto, and Padova was also annexed to the recently formed Kingdom of Italy.

At that time, Padova was at the center of the poorest area of Northern Italy, as the Veneto was until the 1960s. Despite this, the city flourished in the following decades both economically and socially, developing its industry, being an important agricultural market and having a very important cultural and technological center as the University. The city hosted also a major military command and many regiments.

 

The 20th Century:

When Italy entered World War I on 24 May 1915, Padova was chosen as the main command of the Italian Army. The king, Vittorio Emanuele III, and the commander in chief, Cadorna, lived in Padua for the period of the war.

After the defeat of Italy in the battle of Caporetto in autumn 1917, the front line became the river Piave, only about 35 miles from Padua. This put the city in the range of the Austrian artillery. However, the Italian military command did not withdraw. The city was bombed several times, with about 100 civilian deaths. A memorable feat was Gabriele D’Annunzio’s flight to Vienna from the nearby San Pelagio Castle airfield.

In 1918, the threat to Padua was removed. In late October, the Italian Army won the decisive Battle of Vittorio Veneto, and the Austrian forces collapsed. The armistice was signed at Villa Giusti, Padua, on 3 November 1918.

During the war, industry grew rapidly, and this provided Padua with a base for further post-war development. In the years immediately following WWI, Padua grew outside the historical town, despite the fact that labor and social strife were rampant at the time.

As in many other areas in Italy, Padua experienced great social turmoil in the years immediately following World War I. The city was shaken by strikes and clashes, factories and fields were subject to occupation, and war veterans struggled to re-enter civilian life. Many supported a new political way, fascism.

As in other parts of Italy, the National Fascist Party in Padua soon came to be seen as the defender of property and order against revolution. Padua was  the site of one of the largest fascist mass rallies, with some 300,000 people reportedly attending one speech by Benito Mussolini.

 

New buildings, in fascist architectural style, sprang up in the city. Examples can be found today in the buildings surrounding Piazza Spalato (today Piazza Insurrezione), the railway station, the new part of City Hall, and part of the Palazzo Bo hosting the University.

Following Italy’s defeat in WWII on 8 September 1943, Padua became part of the Italian Social Republic, which was a puppet state of the Nazi occupiers. The city hosted the Ministry of Public Instruction of the new state, as well as military and militia commands and a military airport.

The Resistenza, the Italian partisans, was very active against both the new fascist rule and the Nazis. One of the main leaders of the Resistenza in the area was the University vice-chancellor Concetto Marchesi.

Toward the end of the war, as the Allied Command freed Italy from German occupation moving from south to north, Padua was unfortunately bombed several times by Allied planes. The worst hit areas were the railway station and the northern district of Arcella. Because of the location of the German command center in Padua, it was during one of these bombings that the Church of the Eremitani took a direct hit.  It was a miracle of sorts that the nearby Scrovegni Chapel was not hit as well.

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You can see on the map below how close the Scrovegni is to the church (Chiesa degli Eremitani on the map).

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Tragically, the Church of the Eremitani was graced with some of the finest frescoes by Andrea Mantegna and they were almost complete obliterated. This is considered by some art historians to be Italy’s biggest wartime cultural loss.

Art conservators have been able to do the almost impossible and stitch together the remnants of the frescoes as seen in the next picture. I’ll be posting about the frescoes soon.

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The city was liberated by partisans and the 2nd New Zealand Division of the British Eighth Army on 28 April 1945. A small Commonwealth War Cemetery is located in the west part of the city, commemorating the sacrifice of these troops.

After the war, the city developed rapidly, reflecting Veneto’s rise from being the poorest region in northern Italy to one of the richest and most economically active regions of modern Italy.

The subject of Padua is vast.  I’ll be posting yet more very soon.

August 12, 1944, in the mountains outside of Lucca

The Sant’Anna di Stazzema massacre was a Nazi German war crime, committed in the hill village of Sant’Anna di Stazzema in Tuscan, in the course of an operation against the Italian resistance movement during the Italian Campaign of World War II.

On the morning of August 12, 1944, the German troops entered the mountain village of Sant’Anna di Stazzema, accompanied by some fascists of the 36th Brigata Nera Benito Mussolini based in Lucca, who were dressed in German uniforms.

The soldiers immediately proceeded to round up villagers and refugees, locking up hundreds of them in several barns and stables, before systematically executing them. The killings were done mostly by shooting groups of people with machine guns or by herding them into basements and other enclosed spaces and tossing in hand grenades.

At the 16th-century local church, the priest Fiore Menguzzo (awarded the Medal for Civil Valor posthumously in 1999) was shot at point-blank range, after which machine guns were then turned on some 100 people gathered there. In all, the victims included at least 107 children (the youngest of whom, Anna Pardini, was only 20 days old), as well as eight pregnant women (one of whom, Evelina Berretti, had her stomach cut with a bayonet and her baby pulled out and killed separately).

After other people were killed through the village, their corpses were set on fire (at the church, the soldiers used its pews for a bonfire to dispose of the bodies). The livestock were also exterminated and the whole village was burnted down.

All of this was accomplished in three hours. The SS men then sat down outside the burning Sant’Anna and ate lunch.

These crimes have been defined as voluntary and organized acts of terrorism by the Military Tribunal of La Spezia and the highest Italian court of appeal.

However, extradition requests from Italy were rejected by Germany. In 2012, German prosecutors shelved their investigation of 17 unnamed former SS soldiers (eight of whom were still alive) who were part of the unit involved in the massacre because of a lack of evidence.

The statement said: “Belonging to a Waffen-SS unit that was deployed to Sant’Anna di Stazzema cannot replace the need to prove individual guilt. Rather, for every defendant it must be proven that he took part in the massacre, and in which form.”

The mayor of the village, Michele Silicani (a survivor who was 10 when the raid occurred), called the verdict “a scandal” and said he would urge Italy’s justice minister to lobby Germany to reopen the case. German deputy foreign minister Michael Georg Link commented that “while respecting the independence of the German justice system,” it was not possible “to ignore that such a decision causes deep dismay and renewed suffering to Italians, not just survivors and relatives of the victims.”

Sources, Wikipedia and http://paradiseofexiles.com/liberation-day-in-italy/

August 4, 1944: Florence, Italy and Anne Frank in Amsterdam

As the Allied Forces entered Florence in the early hours of August 4, 1944,  the brigade Sinigaglia, the division Arno, and the brigade Lanciotto were enthusiastically welcomed into the Oltrarno district. The Allies allowed the partisans to keep their weapons; the Florentine men then started a roundup, searching for the German snipers that were firing at the unarmed populace. These snipers wanted to terrify the population and to slow the progression of the Allies, particularly in the districts of San Frediano, Conventino, and San Niccolò.

Meanwhile, the Nazis were still on the right or north side of the Arno. The military base of the partisans, the CTLN (Comitato Toscano di Liberazione Nazionale, Tuscan Comitate of National Liberation), was installed in the society Larderello, in Piazza Strozzi n. 2.

At first, the command of the third zone in via Roma n. 4, led by the Partito d’Azione, acted as the connection center. In order to follow both the Germans and Allied movements, a sentry was stationed atop the Cupola del Duomo. The personnel stationed there included a deputy commander, a political commissar, and a chief from the first commander corps.

As for the Florentines, on August 4, only a few of them attempted to leave home. But the following day, without food or water, women and boys started to queue in front of the town’s water fountains and doorways with available wells, as well as in front of the bakeries. The few peddlers selling fruit and vegetables were extremely busy.

To be continued.

Sources:

http://diariodiunfiorentino.altervista.org/liberation-florence-11-august-1944/?doing_wp_cron=1564842755.6783099174499511718750

http://diariodiunfiorentino.altervista.org/the-insurrection-of-florence/?doing_wp_cron=1564846863.0551791191101074218750

 

Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, a place also occupied by the Nazis, on August 4, 1944, after 25 months in hiding, Anne Frank and the seven others in their secret hiding place were discovered by the Gestapo. The German secret state police had learned about the hiding place from an anonymous tipster, who has never been definitively identified.

After their arrest, the Frank family and their fellow Jewish associates, were sent by the Gestapo to Westerbork, a holding camp in the northern Netherlands. From there, in September 1944, the group was transported by freight train to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination and concentration camp complex in German-occupied Poland. Anne and her sister, Margot Frank, were spared immediate death in the Auschwitz gas chambers and instead were sent to Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp in northern Germany.

In February 1945, the Frank sisters died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen; their bodies were thrown into a mass grave.

Several weeks later, on April 15, 1945, British forces liberated the camp.

https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/anne-frank-1

The Gothic Line, WWII

After the liberation of Rome on June 5, 1944, it took nearly 11 months of fighting before U.S. troops reached the Po River on April 22, 1945.

This was the most intense historical period of interaction between Americans and local Italians and Sammarinesi, a period that generated millions of individual stories, some tragic and some joyful.

vernio6-e1527778271989 A flour sack that contained flour donated to Italy by the U.S.A.

On the American side were hundreds of thousands of troops making their way north. On the Italian and Sammarinesi side were millions of soldiers fighting alongside the Americans and civilians trying to survive the chaos and carnage of war.

Some of the most violent chapters of this story occurred along the so-called Gothic Line, the Nazi’s series of 2,000 fortified positions that ran through the mountains from Carrara to a point on the Adriatic south of Ravenna.

As part of the American Consulate’s bicentennial outreach, they recently visited two points along the Line: Carrara on the Ligurian Sea and Vernio in the Val di Bisenzio, north of Prato.

In both cities, the memory of the Gothic Line and of the American and Allied troops who fought and died there remains vivid. In both cities, the local government is keen to develop educational materials and touristic itineraries to keep this memory alive for future generations. We look forward to working with both cities as they explore and explain this piece of our shared history.

 

A German hero in Florence during WWII

When I walk across the Ponte Vecchio, I often notice this marble plaque.

Who, I always wonder, was Gerhard Wolf?

 

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Knowing that Germany occupied Florence during the war, I’ve been puzzled to find a German commemorated on the one bridge in Florence that wasn’t destroyed by German forces when they departed the city as the Allied Forces moved ever northward during the war.

It turns out that Wolf was the Consul in Florence and was a reluctant member of the Nazi Party.  I read that he only joined the Party because it was necessary in order to be in the diplomatic corps.

Despite being German and a Nazi, Wolf risked his life while he rescued political prisoners and Jews during the barbarism of the War.  Apparently he assisted the famous American, Bernard Berenson, who was Jewish, making it possible for Berenson to successfully hide from the Nazis. The plaque also says that Wolf was instrumental in the saving of the Ponte Vecchio.

Interestingly enough, I’ve read quite a lot about Florence during the war and, outside of this plaque, I’ve never read anything about the fact that Gerhard Wolf helped  Berenson specifically or that he played a role in saving the Ponte Vecchio when the retreating Germans blew up all of the other Florentine bridges.  I have no reason to not believe Wolf’s role in these things, but I am surprised I’ve never found this information anywhere else.  Oh, well…live and learn.  I’ll keep my eyes pealed for future references.

So, here’s a translation of what the plaque says: “Gerhard Wolf (1886–1971). German consul, born at Dresden—subsequently twinned with the city of Florence—played a decisive role in saving the Ponte Vecchio (1944) from the barbarism of WWII and was instrumental in rescuing political prisoners and Jews from persecution at the height of the Nazi occupation. The commune places this plaque on 11 April 2007 in memory of the granting of honorary citizenship.”

Here’s what Wikipedia adds to the Wolf story:

Wolf was born in Dresden, the 7th child of an attorney of family law. After serving in the military, he studied philosophy, art history and literature, and completed a doctorate in philosophy. In 1927, he joined the foreign ministry and was posted to Rome at the time Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. He was first invited to join the Nazi Party that year, but he declined and did not join until 1 March 1939, after it became clear that his diplomatic work would be impossible otherwise.

Between 1940 and 1944, Wolf was the German Consul in Florence. After the German occupation of Italy in 1943, he worked to save many Jews from the Holocaust, including the famous art historian Bernard Berenson, who testified to that in 1946. In his efforts, he was supported by Rudolf Rahn, the deputy ambassador at Rome. Wolf, along with Ludwig Heinrich Heydenreich, director of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, also saved many artworks from being spirited off to Germany. He also prevented the Ponte Vecchio from being destroyed.

In 1955, Wolf was made an honorary citizen of Florence. Ten years after his retirement, he died in Munich. In 2007, a marble plaque in his honour was unveiled on the Ponte Vecchio by the acting mayor of Dresden.

The history of the American consulate in Florence and #Insieme200

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The American Consulate in Florence is part of the United States Mission to Italy and is located at Lungarno Vespucci 38, in the former Palazzo Calcagnini (built 1876-77). This palazzo was purchased in 1949 by the American government, to serve as the site of the Consulate General.

Long before the United States acquired the palazzo however, its presence was already in Tuscany.  The first American consulate to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was established in Livorno (then known in English as Leghorn), with consular agent Phillip Felicchi being appointed on 29 May 1794.

For some reason, Tuscany would not recognize any consulates posted in Florence, so the first U.S. Consular Agent to serve Florence was Vice Consular Agent James Ombrosi, who was under mandate from the U.S. Consulate at Leghorn (Livorno). Ombrosi was accredited on May 15, 1819.

In the years after the U.S. Civil War and the transition of the capital of the Kingdom of Italy from Florence to Rome, the U.S. Consul General was James Lorimer Graham. Graham was a New York banker and art collector; he and his wife Josephine lived in a building that is now known the Palazzo dei Congressi.

In the early 1870s, Florence was suffering the grave economic consequences of the sudden transfer of the capital, a move that left the city deeply in debt and had bankrupted many investors when boom turned to bust in “Firenze Capitale.”

Resulting higher taxes and slower growth led to widespread poverty. Mrs. Graham was a committed philanthropist back in New York, and so responded to this situation in a way familiar to her. She rallied members of the “American Colony” and started selling mistletoe baskets and Christmas trees to raise funds for the poor.

Then there was the more fraught holiday season of December of 1944. Though Florence had been liberated by the Allied Forces in August of that year, there was little rejoicing along the Gothic Line—the German defensive line that stretched from Carrara to Pesaro—as fighting raged and civilian and combatant casualties mounted.

In the early morning hours of a bitterly cold December 26, Axis forces launched a counter-offensive in the Garfagnana region of Lucca province, focused on and around the town of Barga.

The first target was the hilltop village of Sommocolonia, garrisoned by several hundred African-American “Buffalo Soldiers” and a handful of local partigiani.

During the fighting, German forces drove the Allied troops back. To avoid a complete rout, Army Lieutenant John R. Fox remained in his position in the Sommocolonia bell tower, calling in artillery strikes on the town and finally on his own position in order to slow the Axis advance. For Fox’s bravery and self-sacrifice, he was posthumously awarded the U.S.’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor.

Today the American International League of Florence (AILO), organizes annual events to collect thousands of euro each year that are then donated to local charitable organizations.

Incidentally, the United States also has 5 other representations in Italy: American Consulate in Palermo; American Consulate in Naples; American Consulate in Milan;
American Consulate in Genoa; and the American Embassy in Rome.

The American Consulate in Florence represents one of 402 foreign consular and diplomatic representations from around the world in Italy.

 

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2019 marks 200 years of American presence in Florence

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Do you have personal experiences or stories that were passed on to you about historic events that occurred in Tuscany, Emilia Romagna or the Republic of San Marino? Were you a Mud Angel? Did you have relatives who worked with the American Red Cross during World War I or witnessed the 5th Army’s fight along the Gothic Line in World War II? Are you doing something now that is strengthening the U.S.-Italy partnership? If so, the U.S. Consulate General in Florence would love to hear from you!

The Florence American consulate is collecting stories in anticipation of the bicentennial of its diplomatic presence in Florence in 2019.

Throughout that year, we hope to see a series of events across Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna and the Republic of San Marino exploring all facets of our past, present, and future together.

These commemorative events and related information will be highlighted on the Consulate’s social media platforms with the #Insieme200 (#Together200) hashtag.

Our 200 years here are built on a foundation of millions of personal and organizational ties, so we need your help to properly celebrate our bicentennial!

If your organization has an idea for a 200th anniversary commemorative event—large or small—or wants to get involved with the events being organized by the Consulate, please let us know:CGFIProtocol@state.gov.

To receive updates on the Consulate’s 200th anniversary and more, join the Consulate’s community by liking its Facebook page @USCGFlorence or following on Twitter!