It is a profoundly dark story of a profoundly dark time and the faces we see are masks of pain. It is a story of pages, singed by fire, and of statues, silent custodians of secrets. It is a story the memory of which is fused into the few object that have survived the years and the flames: a sad rag doll, a velvet rose, a broken clock stopped since that night, that precise time, as if at that time on that night History itself had stopped.
The car bomb that in the middle of night between May 26 and May 27, 1993, exploded on via dei Georgofili, in the heart of downtown Florence, is an individual and collective wound that scars the stones and the soul, leaving behind it a wake of grief and many unanswered questions: Paolo Cagnacci and Matteo Cesari document what remains, gather clues, give a shape and imagery to the doubts and phantoms. They enter discretely into the homes of those who in the attack lost a loved one or a part of themselves, they meet with the firefighters who extracted the victims from the flames, the judges who uncovered those unpleasant truths that, behind the direct responsibility of the Sicilian Mafia, there was a long chain of connivence and conspiracy among politicians, Masonic lodges, the Mafia and the subversive far right that led straight to the massacre.
Cagnacci and Cesari, with their linear, direct and empathic approach, blow the dust off binders full of documents and consciences, reminding us of the moral obligation to remember. Photos and videos evoke presences, reveal clues, dip into the repertoire of our memory, weaving past and present, possibility and inevitability: the narrative that the two Florentine photographers have assembled around the terrorist attack of via dei Georgofili mixes testimony and reconstruction with the awareness that the photograph is, first of all, a powerful tool for the interpretation of reality.
The more complex that reality is, the more it becomes necessary to find a point of view from which to look at it; the denser the shadows are, the more the flash that Cagnacci and Cesari love to use as code in their story serves to clarify, in every sense, our vision. In UNAEZEROQUATTRO, they look History in the face, in the eco and reverberation of one of its darkest hours.
A number, an address, a book, its pages singed in the fire, a restored painting, the remains of another, destroyed and lost forever. A broken clock, stopped at the time of the explosion. Objects, what was left: things found in drawers in the houses destroyed. And people, the faces of people who have spent years searching for truth in the halls of justice, people who cherish the box of their memories and hold it close, lest they be tarnished by the light.
This experience does not show us the night when the Fiorino was detonated on via dei Georgofili in Florence, we do not see the long arms of the cranes that excavate among the ruins, nor the dead – five, and the many injured. We never see them, though they are documented in the statistics, and we hold them in our hearts.
It does not start from the damaged art of the Uffizi, or from the faces of the men of Cosa Nostra behind bars, but from darkness. From what we still don’t know, from the suspicion, the missing proof that projects its shadow to this day, even here.
The photographic exhibition of Paolo Cagnacci and Matteo Cesari takes us back thirty years, to the dust and ruins of the Torre dei Pulci where it had crumbled, unseen, to the walls of the Uffizi blindly devastated. It takes us back to the shattered glass everywhere on those narrow downtown streets called via Lambertesca and via dei Georgofili, the shards that penetrated the soles of the shoes worn by the people working behind the barriers, trying to understand the cause of the explosion, at first thought to be a gas leak, but then seen for what it was, a word much harder to say aloud: terrorism.
A Mafia massacre in the heart of Florence. The pictures and videos that we observe in this exhibition tell the story of an indefinite period of time, of daily battles, large and small and acts of courage, because getting out of bed after you have lost someone and something of your previous life is an act of courage.
The pictures that make up the exhibition UNAEZEROQUATTRO are not crystallized in the present, they are like the last pages of a book: every face, every object, every room contains a root that began to grow in the exact instant when the Fiorino exploded and set fire to the walls around it. Then came the darkness and after the darkness the hands of the rescuers, the firefighters, the police, the investigators, the magistrates, the doctors who treated the injured, the witnesses, the best, the finest, most capable hands of Florence. Seeing them, we know we can look ahead without losing even the tiniest fragment of what was.
A Mafia massacre, a war that broke out without ever being declared.
Via de' Bardi (Florence). In 2019 testimony was heard, but never examined in court, about the presence of a woman near via de' Bardi minutes before the explosion. The witness reported seeing a woman with short, dark hair, dressed in a suit, arguing heatedly with two young men who were busing unloading a heavy bag from a blue car just as a white Fiat Fiorino drove up. A woman with similar hair style and figure was mentioned by other witnesses in relation to the bombings in Milan and Rome in 1993. The witness also found a street map of Florence the two men had dropped, showing two sites circled in red.
This episode would seem to indicate that elements external to the Sicilian Mafia may have participated in some way in organizing the attack. It has been suggested that this could be the time at which someone supplied high potential military type explosive to be loaded into the Fiorino. During the investigation, experts and specialists agreed that the composition of the explosive charge on via dei Georgofili had been enriched with at least 100 kilograms of a military type explosive, and that it was just this explosive that caused the most serious devastation.
One of the 17th century artworks in the Academy of the Georgofili damaged in the blast. The dark stains on the canvas are parts of the painting that could not be recovered during the restoration. Of the 173 paintings damaged, some of which were kept at the Academy, others in the Corridoio Vasariano and adjacent Uffizi Gallery, 3 were totally lost and only now partially restored (the Adoration of the Shepherds by Gherardo delle Notti, the Card Players and the Concert by Bartolomeo Manfredi), due to the shard of rocks and glass that were violently flung against them in explosion.
Via Lambertesca seen from the Uffizi Plaza. The explosion was particularly violent in this section of the Gallery that runs parallel to via dei Georgofili. On the whole, about 25% of the works in the Galleria were damaged. The massive structure of the 14th century Torre dei Pulci absorbed most of the shock wave and this saved the works of art from greater damage. Five lives were lost, however, in the explosion: Four of them, the entire Nencioni family, lived in the Tower. According to testimony given by cooperators among the Mafiosi, a video camera installed at the corner of via Lambertesca dissuaded the terrorists from parking the Fiat Fiorino directly on the plaza in front of the Uffizi, which was probably the main target of the attack.
The ceremonial hall of Torre dei Pulci, where the Academy of the Georgofili has its headquarters, with windows facing on via dei Georgofili. The blast completely devastated the hall and caused parts of the ceiling to collapse. The Academy of the Georgofili (Georgophiles) is the only institution of its kind and is of enormous historic significance: it was the first scientific institution in the world to engage in specific studies of agriculture, economics and environmental policy, and one of the first to be officially recognized as a public research organization by a sovereign state (the Grand Duchy of Tuscany).
Paolo Lombardi, who lived on the corner of via Georgofili and via Lambertesca, though his apartment was just a few yards from the car-bomb, was only slightly injured, with his wife and children, because the corner of the building absorbed and deflected the shock wave of the explosion. Immediately after the detonation, in the chaos and darkness, he heard Walter Ricoveri calling for help. Walter lived on the floor above his and needed help to carry his disabled mother to safety. With the aid of a flashlight Walter had in the house, they were able to carry the old woman down to the first floor where they were met by the rescuers.
Mariangela Tanda lived with her husband Daniele Gabbrielli and their son at no. 6 via Lambertesca, where it intersected with via dei Georgofili. Their living room windows looked out on the Torre dei Pulci, where the car-bomb was parked. She was injured but survived thanks to the fact that at 1:04 a.m. she was in the bedroom, whose windows faced on the narrow alley behind the building.
Daniele Gabbrielli. Daniele lived with his wife and their 9 year old son at no. 6 via Lambertesca, where it intersects with via dei Georgofili, just across from the point where the Florino packed with explosives was parked. They were saved from the shock wave that blasted their home directly, because their bedroom was at the back of the building ,at some distance from the street. They were severely injured, however, by the tornado of glass and rubble caused by the explosion.
Vasco Poggi was a member of one of the two rescue teams of firefighters dispatched to via dei Georgofili. The first news that reached the headquarters of the emergency services was confusing, with calls about a generic explosion with damage and a fire in a central part of the city. The teams did not know exactly where to go, as broken glass and rubble were found at hundreds of meters from the site of the detonation. Via dei Georgofili is a narrow street parallel to the Uffizi Gallery, accessed from both sides, by passing under two arches, so that it was not easy for the hook-and-ladder trucks of the fire department to get in. The street and the entire surrounding area were pitch dark, and the men advanced with headlights and flashlights. The reports had spoken of a gas leak but the signs of devastation and a strong odor of gunpowder made the rescuers suspect something much worse. The first priority was to rescue the injured, imprisoned in the partially destroyed and damaged buildings; the firefighters put out the flames in the apartment where they recovered the charred body of the student Dario Capolicchio, and searched for any others who might be trapped in the ruins. Inspecting what remained of the Torre dei Pulci they realized that there were bodies in a bedroom. None of the rescuers there at the time thought that the Tower, headquarters of the Academy of the Georgofili was inhabited. It was a chaotic time but some of the residents spoke of a family, with two young children, who lived on the top floor of the building, which no longer existed. They began digging by hand through the rubble, as the narrow space and the partially destroyed buildings made it impossible to use heavy machinery. After a few hours the bodies of the Nencioni family were recovered and in the meantime the word began to spread of an explosion caused by a bomb. Although the rescuers had worked at many difficult and tragic sites, the experience of that awful night, 30 years ago, had a tremendous effect on their lives.
The walls of the Torre dei Pulci, home of the Academy of the Georgofili, that crumbled in the blast. During the restoration, it was decided to move the rebuilt wall back a few centimeters, to symbolize the wound left on the city, its people and the cultural heritage. The Academy of the Georgofili is a Florentine institution founded in the late 18th century to foster studies of agriculture, forestry and economic geography, which established its headquarters in the Thirties of the past century in the medieval palace known as Torre dei Pulci.
Gianfranco Bianchini was a member of one of the two rescue teams of firefighters dispatched to via dei Georgofili. …
One of the precious ancient volumes preserved at the Academy of the Georgofili, damaged by the explosion and fire that raged through the ruins of the tower. The books were recovered with the help of the firefighters and of regular citizens who, after the experience of the flood in 1966, worked to move the books to safety. The books, letters, essays and other works were all taken to the section of the Uffizi opposite the one involved in the explosion, to a large empty room known as the Magliabechiana hall, which had been a library in the past and where the precious volumes could be stored safely prior to restoration.
Mauro Marchesini was a member of one of the two rescue teams of firefighters dispatched to via dei Georgofili. …
These stairs inside the Academy of the Georgofili were discovered after the bombing. The Torre dei Pulci, where the academy has its home, is partially attached to the Uffizi Gallery. During the restoration of the tower after the bombing, a stairway was discovered behind a wall that led to a sealed room 400 meters square that no one knew even existed! At the end of the restoration, this space was transferred by the Uffizi Gallery to the Academy of the Georgofili.
Piero Montagnani was a member of one of the two rescue teams of firefighters dispatched to via dei Georgofili. …
On November 5, 1992, a Brixia model mortar shell from World War II was found at the Boboli Gardens in Florence. The shell was hidden in a black bag behind the statue of Marcus Cautius. The subsequent investigation and questioning of informants brought to light the involvement of a group of mafia members from Catania. They wanted this to be an act of intimidation to force the government to ease the pressure on the mafia families after the attack in 1992 on the two judges, Falcone and Borsellino. The institutions chose not to give any news of the episode to the media. It is significant, however, that already from October 1992 the mafia had identified the country’s artistic heritage as a valid target to blackmail the government.
Andrea Valleri was a member of one of the two rescue teams of firefighters dispatched to via dei Georgofili. …
A chair from Danielle Mosca’s apartment, with the visible damage caused by the fire that followed the explosion and devastated the small building facing the Torre dei Pulci where the student who lived on the floor below, Dario Capolicchio, died.
The cemetery at Romola. Fabrizio Nencioni and Angela Fiume grew up in Romola, a small town in the hills above Florence, amid the olive trees. They moved to the city when Angela got the job as custodian at the Academy dei Georgofili. The whole family are now buried in the town cemetery. A sculpture, a bronze olive tree, has been set at the site of the explosion in memory of the victims.
A small velvet rose was found by Walter Recoveri in the ruins of his apartment. It had been given by his father to his mother when they were young. His son has cherished it ever since the attack, considering it a sign of his deceased father's miraculous "intervention" to save the family from the explosion.
Walter Ricoveri lived with his elderly mother on the corner of via Lambertesca and via dei Georgofili. When the explosion occurred, the roof collapsed into the apartment. The only beam that remained intact was the one over the chair where he was sitting, so, although buried in rubble, he was only slightly injured. He decided to have his picture taken on the same chair, which he recovered and had restored. “My mother had gone to bed and her bedroom was on the corner with via dei Georgofili. I heard her call for help; she was saved because her bedstead was padded and fell on her, protecting her from the collapse of the wall that separated my room from hers”. Walter was the first of the victims to become a civil party in the case. He attended all the trials for the attack and was always active and informed about the developments in the investigation. This tragic event strengthened his political awareness, which had become dulled over the years, as he always wanted to understand “why, who and what was really behind that bomb”.
The torch that the lawyer, Marco Ammannato, has kept for 30 years in memory of the torchlight procession organized in Piazza della Signoria in Florence, after the attack. He was a young student back then, and participated with most of the city’s population.
Teresa Fiume, sister of Angela Fiume, sister-in-law of Fabrizio and aunt of Nadia and Caterina. This little church at Romola, the village where the Fiume and Nencioni families both lived, is one of the places where Teresa went with Nadia to play and go for walks. Her sister Angela had been living for a few years in the Torre dei Pulci because she was the custodian of the Academia dei Georgofili, while Fabrizio was an inspector of the municipal police in downtown Florence.
The poem “Il Tramonto” (Sunset) written by little Nadia 3 days before the bomb exploded. That poem became the symbol of the tragedy, also because the words, read after the fact, seem to evoke what was about to happen so soon. It was such a powerful symbol that the investigative team decided to dub the operation “Tramonto”. It eventually that led to the capture of the last and worst of the Mafia organizers of domestic terrorism attacks in 1992/93, Matteo Messina Denaro, captured at last in January of this year, 30 years exactly after the capture of Totò Riina.
Danielle Mosca in his apartment on the top floor on via dei Georgofili, where she still lives. On the night of the attack, she was in her bedroom on the top floor of the building, fortunately far from the windows shattered by the blast. The apartment below hers caught fire and the student Dario Capolicchio died. Danielle took refuge on a small terrace that faced on the roof, as escape down the stairs was impossible due to the fact that two whole flights had collapsed. She had to stay there on the roof for a time that she only remembers as “interminable”, enveloped in total darkness, hearing the voices and shouts of the injured and survivors, as the flames advanced. She would be saved by one of the rescuers who managed to reach her after she had jumped onto the landing of a neighboring building. She was the only homeowner to return, after three years of restoration and reconstruction, into her former home. She recalls that, for years, she stayed awake until after 1:04 in the morning, before she could fall asleep.
“Bubina”, the doll that Patrizia Nencioni found and took from the mountain of clothes, objects and rubble at the site of the explosion. “Fabrizio bought it to give to Angela on a trip to the United States and she had then given it to Nadia but had warned her daughter to take care of it so that her baby sister could play with it when she outgrew it”.
Leonardo Gabbrielli with his children. At the time of the massacre, he was a boy, living at no. 6,
Via Lambertesca, about 10 meters from where the Fiorino packed with explosives was parked.
He, like his parents, was saved because their bedrooms faced on a side street. “What I remember about the days that followed the attack was the aid given by the people I had around. I was just a child and soon had to go back to school, but my classmates were very kind. For me that was terrifically important to me,
because I was able to think that life would get back to normal. My main concern was to get back the things at home because I had my eighth-grade exams coming up”.
The founder of the association of victims of the massacre, Walter Ricoveri, had a clock in his apartment which stopped at the exact time of the explosion.
Luigi Dainelli is married to Patrizia Nencioni, Fabrizio Nencioni’s sister. He is the current president of the association of victims of the massacre, which for 30 years has fought to bring full light to the tragedy and ensure that it is not forgotten and that its secret organizers are brought to justice. By bringing it to the attention of the public, mainly through meetings at the schools, the association works to communicate a message of remembrance and legality.
The number on the outside of the building where the Gabbrielli family lived, on the corner of via dei Georgofili and via Lambertesca, in the midst of the devastation, just 10 meters from the site of the explosion, remained perfectly intact and was picked up and kept in memory of that tragic event.
Patrizia Nencioni, sister of Fabrizio Nencioni, sister-in-law of Angela Fiume and aunt of the little girls, Nadia, 9, and Caterina, 50 days, all of whom died in the massacre. The Nencioni family lived in Romola, a village in the municipality of San Casciano, near Florence. Patrizia often brought her little niece Nadia to this olive grove to play and help harvest olives. Her brother, Fabrizio, was an inspector of the municipal police in Florence. Two of Fabrizio's colleagues contacted her that night to tell her that something terrible had happened. They then brought her to Florence where she learned of the tragedy that had killed her brother and his entire family. It was she who identified the bodies.
Danilo Ammannato was the lawyer for the civil parties, appointed by the association of the families of the victims for the trial on the massacre on dei Georgofili. “The terrorist attacks began in 1993 and for 3 sentences were considered subversive of the constitutional order, carried out to condition the Italian people. They took place in Rome, the political capital, in Florence, the cultural capital, and in Milan, the economic capital”, “…the massacres were a terrible blow struck to stop a process then under way, or to prevent a process that might begin, so the people of Italy were forced to experience a series of attacks, intended basically to prevent the spread of a process of political independence...”.
The folders containing the documentation of the over 600 hearings of the trials were donated by the lawyer, Mr. Ammannato, to the archive of the Tuscan Region.
Marco Ammannato, son of Danilo Ammannato, lawyer for the civil parties on behalf of the Association of Victims of the Florence Massacre in the trial on the negotiations between the government and the Mafia, a process that was a grave threat to the nation and the reason for the attacks. The hearing before the Supreme Court for the third level of justice is scheduled for next April 14. In the decision on the appeal, handed down on September 23, 2021, most of the defendants charged and found guilty in the first trial were acquitted. With the sentence of appeal, the Court of Appeal of Palermo had acquitted “because the fact was not a crime”, the former senator Marcello Dell’Utri, General Mario Mori, General Antonio Subranni and the officer of the Carabinieri, Giuseppe De Donno, all three former officers of the ROS, reducing the term to 27 years for the Mafia boss Leoluca Bagarella and confirming the sentence of 12 years for the physician, Dr. Antonino Cinà.
The Archive of the Tuscan Region where the folders containing the trial documents are kept. The investigations and trials clarified that despite the harshening of penalties for mafia crimes decided by the government after the assassination of the Judge Paolo Borsellino, Riina and the heads of the families allied with the Corleone branch of the mafia decided to apply pressure to the government, threatening more attacks. The capture of Riina on January 15 did no good. It was just the negotiation between government and mafia that convinced the bosses that in the long run they could win. First came the bombs at Fauro in Rome, then via dei Georgofili in Florence, then again in Rome and after that in Milan.
The space in front of the Cemetery of Galciana (Prato). The mafia group who carried out the attack had their logistics base at the home of the Messana family, a Sicilian family related to some members of the mafia in Palermo, who had been living for many years in a district on the outskirts of Prato. The truck that carried the hidden load of explosives arrived by ferry in Livorno and delivered it to the cemetery at Galciana, where it was mixed with other explosive material and packed in black plastic bags.
In November 1992 Mazzei, a convict who had been imprisoned for some time with Bagarella and would become an affiliate of the mafia in August 1992 according to the traditional rituals, placed a mortar shell type Brixia, dating from World War II, behind the statue of Marcus Cautius in the Boboli Garden in Florence, in a black bag. The claim he made sometime later by phone was delivered excitedly by a man speaking Sicilian dialect. The operator could not understand a word and hung up. The shell was found a month later by the investigators and it took a long time to rewind the tape and sort the matter out. For a long time, no one gave serious consideration to that message from Cosa Nostra.
Via Lambertesca ends at the Uffizi Plaza, which it intersects at right angles with respect to via dei Georgofili. It received the full force of the explosion. It was decided to detonate the bomb there at night. The bomb went off at one zero four.