The are called Angels of the Flood, Angeli del Fango in Italian.
In the days after the horrendous flood of early November 1966, they came, unbidden, from around the world. With no known places to sleep, no known sources of nutrition and with a profound sense of the cultural loss caused by the turbulent waters of the Arno, they arrived.
At first, it was five or ten. By the end of the third week of November, there were over two thousand of these ‘angels’ at work doing whatever they could to help. They did whatever they were told; whether rescuing water and oil soaked illuminated manuscripts from the basement of the National Library or digging out streets that were covered in a thick, oily ooze, they worked.
Erasmo d’Angelis’ book, Angeli del Fango, became a sensation for its collection of photographs and transcriptions of events from those who worked so hard to help.
For those interested in ordering, you can locate used copies, from time to time. The ISBN information is:
ISBN 10: 8809050134 ISBN 13: 9788809050136
Though the city was crippled as a result of the flood, and references were made to the numerous other floods that once plagued the city, this was in many ways a simpler time. The willingess to pick up and assist, the heart to want to be part of something bigger than themselves, and without any motivation other than good intent, sometimes seems a distance dream.
As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the flood, please keep in mind these willing and passionate voluteers who gave every ounce of their energy to help the city that they loved. We are all the better for the enormity of contribution that they made.
Today Florence is the city she is thanks in no small way to the angels of the mud.