On the afternoon of August 8, the partisan military command in Florence, knowing of the imminent the escape of the Nazis, issued the state of alarm to their teams, telling them to be ready for the insurrection.
The escape of the Germans began on the night of August 10. The Insurrection was begun as planned by the Allied Military Command and the CTLN. It was announced by the ringing of the Martinella, the bell of the tower of Palazzo Vecchio at 6:45 a.m. on August 11. Shortly after, the bell of Bargello rang too. The patriots were instructed to attack the German rearguards.
Simultaneously, the CTLN put up this poster in the streets:
The National Liberation Committee, has assumed, starting from today, August 11 at 7:00 a.m., all the powers of temporary government that are due to it, as representative body of Tuscan people and for delegation of the democratic government of freed Italy. The CTLN have occupied the city since this morning and, standing in defense of the city itself, fight against the Germans, the Fascists and the snipers.
All the citizens must contribute with all their strength to the liberation of the city, giving all available moral and material help to our courageous patriots. The heavy sufferings of the population are coming to an end with our victory. We greet the victorious Allied Armies and we prepare to welcome them, with the fraternity that we feel for all the comrades in arms fighting for the same cause. Let’s conquer the right to be free people, fighting and dying for freedom.
The Tuscan Comitate of National Liberation.
The insurrection had begun.
About 7:00 a.m., the CTLN left via Condotta and entered in Palazzo Medici Riccardi, surrounded by the crackling of machine guns.
People started to leave their homes.
In a semi-deserted via Cavour there was spontaneous applause and some timid invocation from about ten people: “Viva il Comitato di Liberazione” (Long live the Comitate of Liberation). Military command was settled in Palazzo Medici Riccardi. The battle of Florence lasted from August 11 to September 1, 1944.
There were 205 killed in action, 400 injured, 18 missing, from August 3 to September 2. Overall, in the province of Florence, there were 1530 partisans deported or executed by firing squad.
And then Florence was free.
Henri Matisse, towards the end of his life in art.
On August 6, 1944, a bulletin from the Nazi command allowed the women and boys in Florence to leave home during pre-determined hours of the day to gather supplies of water and food. But the lack of electricity, gas, and manpower forced the bakers to distribute flour instead of bread, or even just wheat and corn grain, since the mills had either been destroyed or were unavailable.
A Proclamation of Emergency allowed Red Cross personnel and physicians to circulate freely throughout the city. Exploiting this, the Italian resistance commanders started to produce false medical IDs.
Thanks in particular to the audacity of the partisan Enrico Fischer from the Partito d’Azione, who headed the Third Company of the Third Zone of the city, it had been possibile since August 4 to communicate between the partisans and Allies to communicate. The partisans were located on the right side of the Arno, and the Allied Command was established in the Oltrarno.
Fischer achieved this extremely helpful feat by gaining access to the famed Vasari Corridor shortly after the Germans demolished the cities main bridges. It was an especially amazing feat because the Nazis were still occupying a part of Palazzo Vecchio. By accessing the Corridoio Vasariano, Fishcer was able to connect operations in the Uffizi to the operations in the Palazzo Pitti on other side of the river.
Assisted by some municipal guards, Fischer managed to drag a telephone wire along the corridor, linking the opposite riverside with a partisan guardhouse established in Palazzo Vecchio.
Thus, with a direct link connecting the military command in Palazzo Strozzi, the CTLN in via Condotta and the partisans in Palazzo Vecchio, it was now possible to inform the Allies about all the operations occurring on the right side of the Arno, including the visible conditions of the Germans and their suspected intentions.
In the Occupied Zone, the population conditions were becoming ever more difficult: there was almost no food and only a small ration of flour was available for the population (never higher than 100 grams per person). As an example, on August 9 only 65 grams of flour per person was distributed.
More than food, the very little water was available, and it was now being sold at extremely high prices.
Furthermore, it was impossible to care for the sick or to bury the dead. There was a torrid August temperature, and no one in the city was able to remove garbage from the streets.
The Allies informed the CTLN, using the above cited telephone line passing through Ponte Vecchio, that they would cross the river with two columns, upstream and downstream of the city, to avoid further destructions. Also, they assured that they would not bombard the city’s center.
The military command, after having transferred the key point from the Cupola del Duomo to the tower of Palazzo Vecchio, so to be nearer to the telephone unit, was continuously informing the Allied command about the dislocation of German troops.
Finally, the Nazis knew that the time to escape had arrived.