The Arno is a river that flows in the Italian region of Tuscany. It is the most important river in central Italy after the Tevere (the Tiber).
It is 241 kilometres long and covers 8228 square kilometres.
It crosses and neatly divides Florence into two parts, the city in which Dan Brown’s novel Inferno is set. The trails located on its shores create a unique perspective that makes the ideas of the continuity of the stream.
The Arno borns on the southern slope of Mount Falterona, in the Appennino Toscano Romagnolo (Tuscan-Romagnol Apennines) at an altitude of 1,385 metres above sea level and flows into the Tyrrhenian Sea briefly passing through Pisa.
Specifically, the Arno passes through Arezzo, Empoli, Florence, and Pisa, and has many tributaries, such as Sieve, Bisenzio, Era, Elsa, Pesa, and Pescia.
It drains the waters fom many sub-basins like the Casentino (the province of Arezzo), the Val di Chiana’s plain, the upper Valdarno (a long valley delimited from the Pratomagno massif and by the hills around Siena), the Sieve’s basin, which flows in the Arno immediately before Florence, the middle Valdarno (the plain including Florence, Sesto Fiorentino, Prato, and Pistoia), and the lower Valdarno.
The Arno is inseparably linked with the history of Florence: it has provided work for sand diggers, millers, tanners, and wool workers; it has served as a recreational tool during festivals and sporting competitions; but it has also been a source of destruction and death on account of its flash floods.
Since ancient times the Arno river has been a transit route between the mouth of the sea and the Apennines, from which stemmed wood needed for architectural works.
Between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, the Arno had great merit with regard to the economic development of Florence.
Many activities required water, and mills generated energy from currents through dams even in periods of low water or drought. This greatly reduced its navigability, which was permanently discontinued in 1333.
Thus, the Arno was an important means of river transportation until the construction of the railroad from Firenze to Livorno in the nineteenth century.
The river generally flows at its highest during spring and autumn of every year, when rainfall in the Apennines is at its greatest.
One of the worst floods in the history of the city of Florence since 1557 was the 1966 Flood of the Arno river.
On November 4, 1966, the Arno overflowed from its embankments invading large areas of the Casentino, the plains of Pisa and Empoli, and over the entire historical center of Florence, causing dozens of deaths and untold damage to the city’s monumental and artistic heritage. When visiting Florence, it is possible to see the plates that recall the level reached by the water in 1966.
On that day residents were set to celebrate their country’s World War I victory over the Austrians. In commemoration, businesses were closed and many employees were out of town for the public holiday. As a result, many lives were likely spared.
The flood has had a lasting impact on Florence, economically and culturally: 5,000 families were left homeless by the storm, and 6,000 stores were forced out of business. Countless damage was done to the Uffizi Gallery storage.
Approximately 600,000 tons of mud, rubble, and sewage severely damaged or destroyed numerous collections of books and ancient documents guarded in The National Central Library, as well as works of art like the Gate of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghiberti or the Crucifix, a painting by Giovanni Cimabue.
In the days following the flood, thousands of people of all nationalities voluntarily came to Florence, known as Angeli del Fango (Mud Angels), to help clean the city of garbage, mud, and oil, and retrieve works of art, books, and other materials from flooded rooms.
Experts from around the world volunteered their time and knowledge in the conservation of the aforementioned materials.
With the combined efforts of Italian citizens, foreign donors and committees, many of these fine works have been restored even if much work remains to be done.
After the flood in Florence the river’s banks were raised, and in 1984 the Bilancino Dam was built near Florence to protect the area from future flooding.
Pictures by Wikipedia (The Arno River) and by icancauseaconstellation (The 1966 Flood of the Arno River in Florence)