Scattered among Tuscan villas' garrets and stores, hundreds of frescos, paintings, statues and pieces of wooden furniture have lingered for nearly 40 years.
They have been there since teams of experts and volunteers rescued them from the waters of a 1966 flood in Florence. Now, an art historian is seeking to rescue them once again.
"What I'm trying to do is to restore and give these artworks back to where they belong, mainly Florentine churches," said Maria Matilde Simari, who works for the city's office that oversees its artistic and historical heritage.
Simari, who has been in charge of the recovery for more than three years, said most of the artworks are from the 16th to the 18th century.
Since she started on the project, Simari has been busy locating and archiving the works and looking to finance the restorations.
On Nov. 4, 1966, floodwaters and mud swept through Florence after the rain-swollen river Arno overran its banks and burst into the museums and churches, heavily damaging some of Italy's greatest art treasures.
Since then, thousands of paintings, frescoes and rare books have been restored, many remarkably well, while thousands others waited their turn for years.
"There shouldn't be footlights for some artworks and the darkness of garrets for some others," said Stefano Sieni, a Florence-based art historian who is not involved in the project. Sieni said the artworks that are waiting to be restored represent an "immense precious heritage."
Simari said floodwaters reached 6 meters (19 feet) in some churches. "It was a very dramatic situation, in some churches water remained for a week," she said.
The rescued artworks include Vasari's Last Supper, a painting on wood from the 16th century that is being restored in the Florentine laboratories in the cavernous Fortezza da Basso, a Renaissance fortress built for the Medici family.
Among the most famous recoveries at the time was the 14th-century Cimabue's crucifix, a painted wooden cross that was scarred so badly it became the symbol of the tragedy.
Now the crucifix is back in the old refectory now a museum of Santa Croce Church, AP reports. P.T.