During the night the Arno began to be in flood, although there had not been a drop of rain but the snow had melted suddenly, so that the river entered the town and flooded it as far as the Canto a Monteloro, and benches from the Church of Santa Croce floated across to that point.
And the water went into the Piazza del Grano, reaching more than half-way up the door of the apothecary's shop and past the Palagio del Podesta. The river overflowed its banks opposite Messer Bongianni's houses, and filled the Prato and the Via della Scala. Many mules and horses were drowned in their stables, and all the wine-casks went floating about, mostly towards the Arno. This flood had come suddenly.
Leonardo da Vinci produces a pen and ink drawing of the Arno valley that is dated to this day. It is said to be one of the earliest Italian landscape drawings that focuses on the particular character of the location.
At about 20 in the evening (4 p.m.), some boys disinterred it (the body of Messer Jacopo) a second time, and dragged it through Florence by the piece of rope that was still round its neck; and when they came to the door of his house, they tied the rope to the door-bell, saying: "Knock at the door!" and they made great sport all through the town. And when they grew tired and did not know what more to do with it, they went to the Ponte al Rubiconte and threw it into the river.(1) And they sang a song with certain rhymes, amongst others this line: "Messer Jacopo is floating away down the Arno." And it was considered an extraordinary thing, first because children are usually afraid of dead bodies, and secondly because the stench was so bad that it was impossible to go near it; one may imagine what it was like, from the 27th April till the 17th May! And they must have had to touch with with their hands to throw it into the Arno. And as it floated down the river, always keeping above the surface, the bridges were crowded with people to watch it pass. And another day, down towards Brozzi, the boys pulled it out of the water again, and hung it on a willow, and then the beat it, and threw it back into the Arno. And it is said that it was seen to pass under the bridges of Pisa, always above the surface.
(1) History says that the magistrates had the body thrown into the Arno, to put a stop to the boys' treatment of it. (Trans.)
A peasant of the neighbourhood, belonging to the Popoleschi, was found dead in his house, having hung himself with a towel.
And the plague was also causing much mortality; it pleased God to chastise us.
And at this Christmas-time, what with terror of the war, the plague, and the papal excommunication, the citizens were in sorry plight. They lived in dread, and no one had any heart to work. The poor creatures could not procure silk or wool, or only very little, so that all classes suffered.
During this August of 1483, the Duke of Calabria captured many fortresses in Lombardy from the Venetians,(1) and crushed the Venetian troops in such a manner that they could not hold out any longer. This occurred because the Church had excommunicated all those who gave aid to the Venetians, which prevented them having soldies from beyond the Alps. And the fleet of the King of Naples came into the port of Ancona, and that of the Venetians set out to find it. But on the 5th September, the king's fleet sailed away without waiting for their opponents. Great things had been expected if they had encountered each other.
(1) From the 12th December, 1482, the Pope had made peace with the League, and then associated himself with it in the war against Venice.
The Arno froze entirely, so that the "palla"(1) was played upon it, and bonfires were made; the cold was great.
(1) Here equivalent probably to a kind of tennis.
This night there began, and continued until the 18th, a certain fine rain, which froze whilst it fell, and made icicles upon the trees. There was such a quantity of it, that the weight bowed the trees down to the ground and broke the branches. Note, by the way, that this was on the hills. For about half a mile near the river it did no injury. It began at Fiesole, and extended to the Mugello; and at San Godenzo and Dicomano it did much harm. On my land at Dicomano it tore from the roots several chestnut-trees and oak-trees, and broke nearly all the branches of the olive-trees and every other kind of wood, so that at one of my farms the branches alone made twenty piles of wood; and some of the broken limbs of the chestnuts were more than two feet thick, such as was never seen before. Those who chanced to be in the woods, thought that the world was coming to an end, when they heard everything cracking, and the deafening noise overhead. There was such a heap of grass that it weighed several pounds; and the stubble of the corn in the fields looked like organ-pipes. The stacks appeared to be roofed with glass, and it was too dangerous for anyone to walk in the country. The farms were ruined for many years, the fruit-trees not bearing fruit, the olives remaining like suckers, and the oak-trees being all spoilt. It was incredible, but true.
The Arno rose very high, and ruined the mill of the Ponte a Rubiconte, next to Santa Maria delle Grazie, and a porter was drowned there. The mill was a spinning-mill. The river overflowed its banks in several places.
The Arno overflowed its banks, and many cornfields were inundated, much damage being caused both above and below Florence. It was the worst flood within anyone's recollection, and began in the evening. The corn, which was almost ripe, suffered greatly.
We heard that the Pisans had risen and taken possession of the city; and pulling down a certain marble marzocco, had dragged it all over Pisa, and then thrown it into the Arno, crying, "Liberta!" We also heard that Piero and his brothers were at Bologna; and such a crowd of French and Swiss were coming into Florence, that there was great confusion and alarm and suspicion amongst all classes. You may think what it was to have all this crowd in our houses, and everything left as usual, with the women about, and to have to serve them with whatever they needed, at the greatest inconvenience.
Entry from "A Florentine Diary" by Luca Landucci:
The rest of the king's troops which were in Romagna went past here, coming from San Godenzo to Dicomano and to the Ponte a Sieve, and then going along the upper valley of the Arno, doing much damage. At Corella they slew about eleven men, and took others prisoners and placed ransoms upon them; ruining all the country like a flame of fire. The wall of my house at Dicomano was broken, and also all the locks, whilst my farm was entered forcibly, and suffered not a little, the wine and corn being consumed, and any household goods to which they took a fancy being carried off. Those whom they slew at Corella were certain old men who had come to receive them, but there was a misunderstanding. It is true that at first certain young men had come out and tried to force them back, but these old men caused the others to desist; these brutes of Frenchmen, however, struck them on the head and left them lying dead in the fields; and they committed cruelties on all sides.
Landucci, Luca, trans. Alice de Rosen Jervis, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1927. "A Florentine Diary", pp. 72-3.
Fra Girolamo Savonarola, Fra Domenico, and Fra Silvestro Maruffi are led out in the morning into the main square where, before a tribunal of high clerics and government officials, they were condemned as heretics and schismatics, and sentenced to die forthwith. Stripped of their Dominican garments in ritual degradation, they mounted the scaffold in their thin white shirts. Each on a separate gallows, they were hanged, while fires were ignited below them to consume their bodies. To prevent devotees from searching for relics, their ashes were carted away and scattered in the Arno.
In Florence, Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolò Machiavelli become involved in a scheme to divert the Arno river, cutting the water supply to Pisa to force its surrender: Colombino, the project foreman, fails to follow da Vinci’s design, and the project is a major failure.
Michelangelo had scarcely been chosen to control the general scheme of fortifying Florence, when the Signory began to consider the advisability of strengthening the citadels of Pisa and Livorno, and erecting lines along the Arno. Their commissary at Pisa wrote urging the necessity of Buonarroti's presence on the spot. In addition to other pressing needs, the Arno, when in flood, threatened the ancient fortress of the city. Accordingly we find that Michelangelo went to Pisa on the 5th of June, and that he stayed there over the 13th, returning to Florence perhaps upon the 17th of the month.