|The modern Ponte Vecchio|
Giovanni Villani (c.1276-1348) was a Florentine banker who wrote the Nuova Cronica (New Chronicles), a year-by-year account of happenings in Florence in the 14th century. He wanted to make Florence as well-documented as Rome in terms of political events, historic buildings and monuments, and natural disasters. He reports on a flood that started on 3 November 1333.
By noon on the 4th, the waters overtook the banks and spread across the plain of the church of San Salvi, 1000 feet from the riverbanks. Florence, like many cities at the time, was walled, and Villani reports that by nightfall the city wall, which had been holding back the majority of the surge, crumbled from the force of the waters, allowing the rising tide to flood the city. Supposedly, there are scratches high up on columns in the Florence baptistry that survive to this day, showing the height reached by the water. According to Villani, the water flooded the courtyard of the commune (the seat of local government) to a height of 10 feet.
Bridges on the Arno—the Carraia and the Trinità—both collapsed. The Ponte Vecchio stood a little longer, but logs and debris floating own the flood piled up against it, damming the river, which rose higher and flowed over the bridge, eventually bringing all but two central piers down.
|The Arno floods Florence again in 1966|