for more, see:
Firenze, 3 agosto 1944
All the bridges in Florence over the Arno, except for the Ponte Vecchio, were destroyed by Germans as the Allied Forces took Florence. While they didn’t destroy the Ponte Vecchio, they bombed the north and south ends of the bridge, destroying everything.
Un ufficiale Inglese osserva i danni sul Ponte Vecchio. An English officer observes the damages wrought by German forces as they were driven out of Florence.
È finita la guerra
La resa della Germania all’America, all’Inghilterra,alla Russia
Mostra il Corriere.
Impruneta, passaggio del fronte.
A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of visiting a famous villa in Fiesole, the Villa Saliviati.
Of course the villa has its own (gorgeous) chapel; here is a detail of the ceiling:
And the villa also has a grotto:
There is a lot of interesting interior detailing:
In the 14th century, the castle of the Montegonzi was built on this property land already belonged to the Del Palagio. In 1445, Arcangelo Montegonzi sold it to Alamanno Salviati , the man who introduced the cultivation of salamanna and jasmine grapesin Tuscany.
Alamanno commissioned Mielcozzian workers to reduce the castle to a villa, with a garden and woods . In 1490, the nephews of Alamanno, dividing their uncle’s assets, and gave the villa to Jacopo, who was related to Lorenzo de ‘Medici.
Giovan Francesco Rustici also took part in the works. Between 1522 and 1526 he created for the villa a series of terracotta roundels with mythological subjects (such as Apollo and Marsyas or Jupiter and Bellerophon ).
In 1529, the house was sacked by the anti-cult faction and between 1568 and 1583 Alamanno di Jacopo Salviati and his son Jacopo further enlarged and embellished the villa, with the gardens ( 1570 – 1579 ) and the buildings that border the northern border and create a scenic backdrop connected to the villa.
New Year’s eve, 1638, was an event to remember. That evening, in this villa, the severed head of the lover of Caterina Canacci, was brought to the villa, hidden under the linen that the wife of Salviati, Veronica Cybo, sent him weekly.
During the WWII, the grotto was used as the post of an allied command: Lensi Orlandi recounted the memory of nocturnal visits of “kind and rich Florentine, often mature matrons”, who “crossed the threshold of those rooms to give honor to the admired winners” [2 ] .
In 2000 the monumental complex, together with its gardens, was purchased by the Italian Government to be destined for the European University Institute , which made it the seat of the Historical Archives of the European Union ; one can mention, among the various documents contained in them, the personal papers of the founding fathers, such as Alcide De Gasperi , Paul-Henri Spaak , Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi .
This villa was in communication with Villa Emilia (which was higher up) – which in ancient times was a convent of Cistercian nuns suppressed in 1453 – through an underground gallery : hence the other name with which the villa is known, “del Ponte at the Badia “.
The main body of the villa reveals its military origins, especially in the two crenellated turrets, in the corner, and in the crowning with the walkway on corbels , very similar, for example, to that of the villa of Careggi . It is made up of two adjacent buildings, but with similar architectural features: the east one is more massive and tall, the west one is of smaller volume and height.
The building is arranged around the central courtyard, portico on three sides with columns in pietra serena with Corinthian capitals ;the entablature towards the inside is decorated with graffito friezes, with the rounds of the Rustici inserted into this strip in correspondence with the round arches.
You get to the south facing of the villa through a long cypress avenue that once led to the Via Faentina and that after the construction of the railway was modified, creating a passage on it.
The Italian garden , in front of the villa, is built on three terraces at different levels and, although it is being restored, it is made up of geometric flower beds in boxwood with flowery essences. The property is then surrounded by a large English park , where there are, among other things, a bamboo grove, two ponds and, scattered here and there, various items of furniture, such as statues, temples, caves, fountains, pavilions and more.
“Trapani! Trapani, don’t you see?” [British] Capt. Edward Croft-Murray exclaimed as the skyline of the Sicilian coastal town first appeared through the porthole of the Allied aircraft. [The Brit] Sitting next to him, Maj. Lionel Fielden, who had been drifting off into daydream for much of the flight from Tunis, opened his eyes to the landscape below. “And there, below us,” Fielden later wrote, “swam through the sea a crescent of sunwashed white houses, lavender hillsides and rust red roofs, and a high campanile whose bells, soft across the water, stole to the mental ear. No country in the world has, for me, the breathtaking beauty of Italy.”
…As soon as the first Monuments Officers reached Sicily, the implications of such a mandate [to preserves as many cultural works as possible] proved as difficult as its scope was vast. The Italian campaign, predicted to be swift by Allied commanders, turned into a 22-month slog. The whole of Italy became a battlefield. In the path of the Allied armies, as troops slowly made their ascent from Sicily to the Alps, lay many beautiful cities, ancient little towns and innumerable masterpieces. As General Mark Clark declared with frustration, fighting in Italy amounted to conducting war “in a goddamn museum.”
From the safe distance of 2018, it is interesting to think back to the situation in Florence during WWII, especially after the Allied Forces liberated the Renaissance citta’.
The leaders and troops of the Allied Forces are my heroes. There are many to name. General Dwight D. Eisenhower is foremost among them. I recently wrote a post on his directive, which saved many cultural monuments in Italian. Here is a picture of Ike in Italy:
As the Allies liberated region after region in Italy, starting from the southern tip and working their way north, thanks to the farsighted leaders, as many cultural works as were possible were saved.
These wonderful postcards, with their simple illustrations of the Florentine architectural masterpieces, tell a poignant story.