Northern Italy floods leave museums submerged and ancient frescoes damaged

In Faenza, streets, museums and churches have been left full of mud.
In Faenza, streets, museums and churches have been left full of mud. Copyright Associated Press. Michele Nucci/LaPresse
By Rebecca Ann Hughes
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Museums, libraries and churches have been inundated with water.

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As Emilia Romagna begins the herculean task of clearing up after flooding that left 15 people dead, the damage to the region’s rich culture and heritage is coming to light.

Museums, libraries and churches have been inundated with water and mud ruining antique books, manuscripts and frescoes.

Prime Minister Georgia Meloni has announced a temporary increase in museum ticket prices around the country to raise funds to help the region’s cultural heritage.

Museums and libraries submerged

In Cesena, one of the worst hit areas, the historic Malatestiana Library was flooded by the rising waters. The library, which is a designated UNESCO heritage site, is home to priceless manuscripts and antique books. Reports have not yet emerged on whether these have been affected.

Nearby, the Abbey of Santa Maria del Monte recorded collapsed masonry while in Faenza, whose streets have been left full of mud, volunteers are sweeping water and silt from the church of San Francesco.

Also in Faenza, a city renowned for its ceramic artisans, the Guerrino Tramonti Museum had 1,800 ceramics and paintings in the storerooms submerged. The water also rose to 30cm in the museum rooms damaging the building and exhibits.

The city’s Manfrediana Library, which opened in 1818, was reported to be under half a metre of water. Mounds of mud-coated books now await cleaning.

In Bagnacavallo, water entered into the Museo delle Cappuccine damaging six frescoes in storage.

Library freezes books to prevent water damage

The Trisi Library in Lugo, which suffered severe flooding, is hoping to salvage some of its collection by freezing it. 

Ancient books and archives of newspapers are being placed into plastic bags and sealed in boxes before being put into a freezer at -25 degrees Celsius. 

Once all the water has frozen, it will be evaporated into gas without reliquefying through a process known as sublimination. 

The oldest artefact of the collection that has been affected is a book from 1632. 

Public gardens destroyed by landslides

Public gardens have also not escaped the flooding. In Bologna, the Giardini di Villa Spada were damaged by a landslide. The park features manicured Italianate gardens, sculptures and a neoclassical villa.

In the Apennines, significant damage to historic parks and gardens has been reported with lakes overflowing, landslides and unrooted trees.

Italy increases museum ticket prices to fund recovery

The Italian government has announced a €1 increase in museum entry fees to assist the recovery of the region’s cultural heritage.

This will only apply to state museums in Italy and will be implemented from June 15 to September 15. Although only in force for a few months, it is a period when the country sees a significant tourist influx and the highest visitor numbers to cultural institutions.

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