FLORENCE AND THE ARNO: MEMORIES OF THE “HOUSE OF THE FLOOD”

When it was built, around the Fifteenth Century, probably no one imagined that the beautiful building between Piazza Santa Croce and Via Verdi would become famous as the House of the Flood. Its name was earned, unfortunately, on September 13, 1557 when the Arno overflowed its banks.

Measuring the Water

It was not the first flood for Florence that still remembered one in particular, in 1333, when almost all of the bridges gave way, including the Ponte Vecchio. At the time, the city had no protection from the Arno’s overflowing. In 1557, after two centuries, Florence was much bigger and better organized, but not enough to stand up to the new flood.

Where the water flowed with greatest violence was precisely at Santa Croce. Via de’ Benci that passes in front of the piazza was built on the moats that ran around the old city walls and which, even after they had been filled, still remained at a level that was lower than that of the Arno. Thus this is the lowest point of the city. The flood was a disaster and destroyed many frescoes in the Basilica of Santa Croce, provoking enormous damage to all of Florence.

The inhabitants of the neighborhood marked the level the water had reached right on the corner house, etching the line well onto the wall: a good 3.62 meters, above the front door to the building. The building was thus called the House of the Flood and the Via del Diluvio (or street of the flood) became the name of the segment of street that passed in front of it.

Plaque on Plaque

The old inscription, consumed over time, was substituted in the 19th century by the plaque in marble that is still today visible on the corner wall, with the writing “On the day of September 13, 1557, the waters of the Arno reached this height.” But the house of the Flood was destined to witness an even more dramatic event: the flood of 1966, which was a real catastrophe for Florence. The city was covered by millions of tons of water and mud. On the same wall of the building, but decidedly higher up, another plaque marks the level the waters of the Arno reached on November 4, 1966: almost 5 meters, just under the windows of the second floor.

Via del Diluvio (the street of the flood) then changed names and became Via Verdi in 1902, in memory of the great composer who had died one year earlier. The house, on the other hand, still bears that name. It was declared a place of historical interest for its architectural characteristics that are typically Florentine, but it remains permanently linked to the history of the Santa Croce neighborhood and its inhabitants for more than just architecture.

The Place: Casa del Diluvio, Piazza Santa Croce 2, corner of Via Verdi

The House of the Flood (Casa del Diluvio) is just a few steps away from Canto degli Aranci, and ‘Diluvio’ is the name of one of our rooms. Visit it on our site!

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