Exactly 50 years ago, on Nov. 4, 1966, the river Arno burst its banks and raced through Florence in the worst flood the city had seen in centuries.
Muddy waters rushed into my family's home as well as into the homes of thousands of Florentines. The flood came with little warning, claiming the lives of 34 people. Raging torrents entered streets, houses, shops, museums, churches and libraries.
Thousands of frescoes, paintings, sculptures and rare books were destroyed or terribly damaged by slime in one of the greatest cultural disasters of modern times.
Such was the devastation that an army of young volunteers - known as "the mud angels" - came from all over Europe and America to help rescue Florence's treasures.
The prompt intervention of restorers and new methods of restoration in the following decades made it possible to salvage almost all of the damaged artworks.
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One masterpiece, however, was considered beyond saving. Giorgio Vasari's "Last Supper," a large painting on five wooden panels, remained for four decades in storage, and restorers did not even dare to touch the cracked panels.