National Geographic : 1949 Jun
U. 6. Army, mlcial The Promise: "Florentines, Your Stolen Art Works Will Come Home Again" Flanked by honor guards in medieval costume, General Hume on September 13, 1944, addressed a crowd in the Piazza Signoria after appointing a mayor of newly liberated Florence. Tapestries hang outside the Palazzo Vecchio (background). The audience cheered when he pledged that the Fifth Army would recapture the city's paintings and sculptures from the Germans and restore them to their rightful places (opposite). quarters during the campaign that finally liberated Bologna. The highway, in use since 1762, was called the "new" road by the peasants, who had doubtless heard that it replaced the ancient Via Cassia of the Romans and a "modern" Florentine road of 1361. I was now in Tuscany. Gone were the orchards and fields of Emilia Compartment; instead there were the rolling dark-green hills with vineyards, set off by the ubiquitous cypress trees. In Tuscany these trees are grown everywhere. They do not have a funereal significance as elsewhere in Italy. Soon Florence came into view, majestic and calm in the valley of the Arno. Surely no visitor has forgotten his first glimpse of this lovely place.* At Hotel Excelsior the director, Comm. Boris Skerl, whose hospitality Allied officers are not likely to forget, installed me in my old rooms as if I had not been away. The maid, who had worked on the same floor of the hotel for a mere 22 years, had moved the furniture to just the way I used to have it, and my old waiter was assigned to me. The proprietor, Signor Gerardo Kraft, Jr., and his wife, Swiss residents of Florence for many years, made me welcome. Politics Ignored by Loyal Florentines At the Palazzo Vecchio, the Old Palace, I saw my erstwhile offices and was cordially greeted by everybody. The mayor, who had been one of the city councilmen in my day, is a Communist. He assured me, however, that politics make no difference between friends and that we, as "two loyal Floren tines," would always do our best for the city. Outside the Palazzo Vecchio, the Loggia with its great pieces of sculpture, such as Ben * See "Return to Florence," by 1st Lt. Benjamin C. McCartney, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, March, 1945.