The Idra voluntary association

Registered at the Tuscan Voluntary Regional Register

for the promotion and protection of the environmental and cultural heritage

Via Vittorio Emanuele II, 135, 50134 Florence

Tel and fax 055 233 76 65; email




Florence, August 27, 2004



Appeal to the 32nd International Geological Congress


Open letter to the group of geologists visiting the Mugello territories

involved in the TAV (High Speed Train) works


“ Help Florence, the World’s city! ”



Dear Scholars,


We are writing to you as you are about to visit the Mugello territories that have been subjected, over the past few years, to one of the most drastic human-induced devastations in Tuscany during the last century: the attack on the hydro-geological system of the “garden of Florence” forecast, projected and carried out to construct a 70 km-long tunnel through the Appenines, planned to be used  (mostly without a parallel safety tunnel) by High Speed trains, fed by 25 kV alternating current  (which is different from the current used by the rest of the railway network).

No mention shall here be made as to the serious reservations expressed by more than one party regarding the doubtful social and transportation benefits of the undertaking (which has never been subjected to an all-round comparison with alternative projects) covering the very short distance between Florence and Bologna (whereas the ordinary, regional, metropolitan and goods railway system is in a parlous situation).

Neither will we mention the statistics regarding the giddy upsurge in public expenditure, which has increased ten fold, between the commencement of the project (in 1991) and the present.

We will also suspend all judgement as to the merits of the monitoring structures and the assignment of resources for the environmental controlling systems, which have however provided such conspicuous results, that the Florentine magistrates have forcibly closed down numerous productive activities connected with the building sites, and have ordered the courts to hold a penal trial of unusual dimensions, calling scores of people to the bar.

We want to draw your attention to a particular circumstance: the hydro-geological fragility of a city as dear to the world as Florence, which is about to be transformed into a building site for the same High Speed project. Brunelleschi’s town is supposed to be pierced by two tunnels, each 7 kms long, which are designed to drive perpendicularly through the phreatic layer flow lines; moreover a new station is supposed to be built beneath the Mugnone, the Arno’s main tributary, which last overflowed in Florence in 1992.

The terrible experience of the Mugello, where 90 million cubic ms of phreatic water have so far been lost and scores of sources, wells and streams have been dried up, the environmental effects of which appear in most cases to be irreversible or at any rate difficult to mitigate, after having been caused, seems to have taught practically nothing to the politicians who have approved this new “open heart” attack on a city whose environmental, social and health aspects have been so grievously handled, thanks to the massive pollution deriving from private transport and the numerous other building sites that have been opened or are planned for the near future.

Years have gone past, on the other hand, and nothing has been done to activate the long - awaited and promised surface metropolitan railway: quite the contrary – the Florentine stations (like the historical “Leopolda”)  have been transformed into exhibition sites.

What we are asking you to do is to provide us with a most valuable contribution, giving your authoritative opinion, so that Florence not be similarly or even more seriously damaged by this badly planned High Speed railway project than the territories that you will be able to examine in the Mugello, escorted, as you will be, by experts, who are well informed as to the genesis, history and consequences of the badly planned operation which was even more badly carried out.


To conclude, we quote a Florentine engineer, Carlo Succi, who is deeply worried by the TAV (High Speed Train) project which is planned to burrow through the fragile geological strata beneath the town of Florence and in 1999 launched an appeal to all non-Florentines, to all friends of the city, to help Florence to be saved from… itself. Our appeal to you is generated by the same hope.

“In 1944, towards the end of the war, a man from the Friuli, a Frenchman and a Swiss citizen managed to get Florence declared “open city”: the cardinal of Florence, Elia Dalla Costa, the conductor Igor Markevitch and the honorary consul of Switzerland, Carlo Steinhäuslin. Thanks to the reserved, and pressing intervention of these three non-Florentines alone, Florence escaped the irreparable destruction that the barbarian effects of war might have inflicted on the town. Serious danger now threatens our city and the great heritage it contains: a historical and artistic heritage that belongs to the citizens of the world, whom we are asking to help us to preserve the city from the dramatic consequences of an ill-considered project.”