Help Florence, City of the World !!
In 1944, towards the end of the Second World War, a man from Friuli, a Swiss and a Frenchman succeeded in declaring Florence "Open City": The Cardinal of Florence Elia Dalla Costa, the Orchestra Conductor Igor Markevitch and the Honorary Consul of Switzerland, Karl Steinhäuslin. Thanks to the quiet but relentless pressure exerted by these three men, who were not Florentines by birth, Florence could avoid irreparable destructions which the barbarity of War could have inflicted on her.
Now a serious threat looms again on our City and the patrimony it shelters: a treasure-house of art and history that belongs to all inhabitants of the world. It is to them that we turn again for help, to preserve this patrimony from the serious consequences that will result from the implementation of an inconsiderate project.
The barbarity of the last World Conflict caused deep wounds to our City, but a kind of gentlemen's agreement between the belligerent parties prevented major and irreparable damage.
Even on occasion of that unprecedented threat the respect of the world towards our City prevailed, with the exceptional result of preserving what is universally believed to be the heritage of all mankind.
Today a more subtle, less obvious risk is again approaching our City; it is less manifest because of disinterest or perhaps vested interest by the powers that be. To repel it, to put an end to it for good will require not a quiet but this time a loud and general outcry from the whole World Community: Florence must not be damaged, Florence must not even risk to be damaged.
The danger in question is a plan which will profoundly alter the soil on which Florence stands. This plan foresees the digging and construction of a large Railway Tunnel which will traverse a good deal of our ancient City centre, in order to allow the transit of the new breed of High Speed Trains.
This tunnel will pass only a few yards away from our Cathedral, and right under ancient monuments such as the Medicean Fortezza da Basso, which by our Laws should be protected against any risk of damage.
The planners of this huge project have explicitly declared that it will cause damage to City buildings near its course, diligently listing 170 at risk. The damage may result from the excavation, from changes in the City subsoil and underground water layers, or from the vibrations caused by the operation of the High Speed Trains.
They have even carefully graded the severity of the damage expected, but have limited this calculation to only the buildings immediately above the tunnel. However the damage which may ensue from this monumental programme cannot be predicted with any certainty. This because of a multitude of variables, including changes to the underground water layers which are expected to rise by about three meters in the area where the Tunnel will be built.
Such is the risk to our City that it is planned to closely monitor both the building and the operation of this enterprise for at least 10 years.
Of the 170 buildings deemed to be at risk many are of great artistic interest. What will happen to these architectural masterpieces, to the frescoed walls painted by some of our most famous artists, is not known with any degree of certainty. We shall have to wait, monitor and see!
The Laws which we trusted were to protect these monuments should have made this high speed tunnel unthinkable. On the contrary it has already been proposed to alter these Laws.
This shows how the planners expect "understanding" from our Municipal Administration, whose role should be to protect not to let the City be harmed. They too ignore the cardinal rule that should apply to any major building project in Cities of such cultural importance, that whatever is being planned must have as a prerequisite that no damage to existing structures must occur.
The majority of the citizens of Florence are against this project, and hope that International Organisations will give them a helping hand. They too have the right if not the duty and responsibility to prevent this insensate operation, this predictable threat.
Vested interests at various levels, bring the last World War back to our memory. We hope that now as then the disinterested but fine sensitivity of foreigners will help us save our City from wanton but serious damage and destruction.
During the violent convulsions of that conflict it was the sensitivity of the belligerent powers that protected our City, when its citizens were impotent to do so on their own. The name, the artistic and historical value of our City accomplished that miracle.
World conflicts have now been happily replaced by understanding, collaboration and mutual protection at international level, which will prevent the barbarity of those days from recurring. We hope that such International Assistance will help us prevent a greater disaster which, through incompetence or disinterest, is threatening our City for the second time. Florence needs the help of the World Community for the continued preservation of its World Heritage before it is too late.
· Ing. Carlo Succi, Piazzale Donatello 13, 50132 FIRENZE, ITALIA, Tel. 00390552478457, Fax 00390552343495
· Geom. Luigi Impallomeni, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
· Associazione di volontariato Idra, e-mail email@example.com