Friday, May 26, 2023

The 1993 Florence Bomb Blast: A Memoir

Florence was experiencing a precocious heat wave in late May, 1993, so much so that I was outside on my home terrace on at 1:04 am on May 27 when a bomb planted in a car went off on via dei Georgofili near the Uffizi Gallery.  Living just beyond the historic center past Porta Romana, I did not hear the explosion, but artist Charles Cecil on via Pandolfini did, remembering that it was followed by the sound 
of sirens screaming all night long.

When dawn broke, the Torre dei Pulci (Pulci Tower) on via dei Georgofili was heavily devastated, and five of its inhabitants -- the Nencioni family: mother, father, their nine-year-old daughter Nadia in addition to daughter Caterina, less than two months old -- plus a neighbor who lived across the street, 
student Dario Capolicchio -- were dead.
Also damaged was the library and archives of the Georgofili Academy (Accademia dei Georgofili), an institution devoted to the study of agriculture and the science of soil management and crop production since its establishment at that location in 1753.  Not to mention the 173 paintings and 56 sculptures at the Uffizi Gallery, the near destruction of the Antica Fattore trattoria on via Lambertesca, and the slivers of glass shattered from windows that lodged in the works on display at Ken's Art Gallery on the same street.

It was assumed that that the cause of the tragedy was a gas leak.  It was not until 12 noon on May 27 that word spread throughout Florence that what triggered the tragedy was a bomb.  As I well remember, 
the atmosphere in Florence turned into one of lead, gray and weighty.

In this surreal moment, I reported to work as usual to La Repubblica's editorial offices (then on via Maggio) at 6 pm, to write my daily column in English published by the newspaper.
I received two phone calls:  one from the BBC in London, and the other by a Sunday Telegraph journalist who had just arrived in town, like others of the international press.

The upshot was that at 8 pm, first I did a rehearsal then a one-minute live broadcast on the bomb blast for BBC World Service.  A surprise question at the end threw me off but I kept my composure to answer it.
"Who was responsible?"  
As always, I spoke the truth: "it is believed to be the Mafia."
I was immensely relieved later when it was revealed that indeed was the case.

Those at the BBC news service kindly sent me a cassette of my coverage.
I have always kept it in the office, but never, have brought myself to listen to it: it is too harrowing to listen to my voice narrating a tragedy.

After a quick dinner, I met the Sunday Telegraph reporter for what I assumed would be a quick drink at Harry's Bar in order to be his source for the article.

Well, the talk lasted nearly an hour and a half.  The English journalist, living up the reputation of press from the UK, knocked back four doubles in front of my incredulous eyes.  
While answering his questions, I slowly drank two gin and tonics. The barman, who was Lio at that time, was impassible, continuing to mix drinks.
At the end of our conversation, the journalist said; "I am going back to my hotel room as I need to send in the story by 4 am."  I thought, "buddy, in your hotel room 
you are going to fall on your face."

I'm not sure whether he made the 4 am deadline, but in any case the article ran the following Sunday, May 30, 1993, in the Telegraph.  It was impeccable reporting; in addition, I was quoted accurately.  
I should know -- he sent me a copy.  

On the 30th anniversary of the bomb blast, Florence is hosting many events to remember the tragedy triggered by the Mafia's desire to destabilize the government, which had organized
unrelentless investigations and arrests.

My homage to the 30th anniversary of the Georgofili bomb blast is to show my gentle readers 
an all-too-prophetic poem written by nine-year-old Nadia Nencioni in school a few short weeks before her death:


The afternoon is on its way

Sunset is approaching

– a moment of wonder

The sun is heading to bed

It is already night, all is finished

                        -- reporting live from Beautiful Florence
                                                -- Rosanna