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The date was 27th October 1954 and the place was the Stadio Artemi Franchi. The mighty Fiorentina were playing against local rivals Pistoises when the stadium fell silent and eyes turned from the pitch to the skies. According to witnesses and reported in no less than the BBC, what the fans saw in the sky that day was a UFO. So what happened when a UFO stopped football match in Florence?
The match was just over half way through and the half-time break had finished. The fans had stopped chanting and shouting at the players and were silently regarding the sky. Even the players had stopped their passes and ball trickled between them as they stared at the sight in the sky.
According to one player, Ardico Magnini, what they saw in the sky looked like an egg that was moving very slowly. Magnini was a club legend and even played for Italy in the 1954 World Cup. He clearly recalled the incident with everyone in the stadium looking up at the strange sight. He also recalled the silver glitter that was falling from the sky. He admitted being shocked and having never seen anything like it before.
The match was suspended, according to referee’s report, because spectators saw something in the sky. Among the spectators was lifelong Fiorentina fan Gigi Boni. He saw not one but a number of the objects from where he was sitting and likened them to Cuban cigars. They were moving very fast then suddenly stopped.
Another player, Romolo Tuci, is certain what they saw was extra-terrestrial. Now in his 70’s, he has clear memories of the incident and knew what he had seen was real. He is still adamant that the craft in the sky was a UFO.
The incident in the stadium would doubtless have been discounted as some sort of mass hysteria had not there been a number of UFO sightings across Tuscany that day. Witnesses saw white lights in the sky in Prato, north of Florence among other reports.
Roberto Pinotti is the president of Italy’s National UFO Centre and has written a number of books on the subject. He has newspaper clippings from the time showing journalists talking about aliens from Mars and while today we know this isn’t the case, it was widely accepted that something strange had been seen.
The other interesting point is the silver glitter that fell from the sky. The substance is often seen in connection with UFOs and is a strange, sticky material that vanishes without an hour of touching the ground. Mr Pinotti even saw the stuff himself once as a 10-year-old boy when it coated the roofs of houses across Florence.
Another person who has first-hand experience in Florence with the substance known as angel hair is La Nazione journalist Giorgio Batini. In 2003, he told a TV programme that he had one day received hundreds of calls about a sighting over the city. He went to the top of the newspaper building and saw shiny balls moving towards the dome of the city’s famous cathedral.
He went down to investigate and came across an area of woodland just outside the city that was covered in the white, glittery substance. He rolled several samples onto matchsticks and took them to the Institute of Chemical Analysis at the University of Florence, as did a number of other locals.
The lab conducted spectrographic analysis and concluded that it included the elements calcium, silicon, magnesium and boron but that it wasn’t radioactive. The down side was that this test destroyed the original material.
The idea that the substance somehow falls from UFOs is strongly rebuffed in the report by US Air Force pilot turned astronomer James McGaha. He has spent over 40,000 hours studying the sky from the Grasslands Observatory in Arizona as well as the time spent in the cockpit of a plane.
His view is that the whole UFO phenomena is ‘myth, magic and superstition’ and that the angel hair is nothing more than spider’s webs. His explanation for the sighting is that the witnesses saw a bright meteor breaking up in the sky, which can create cigar shaped pieces. He attributes the angel hair to the creations of migrating spiders that move from one location to another sometimes at heights of 14,000 feet above the ground.
The time of year of the sighting is the time of the year when these spiders migrate and their strange creations often make the headlines. But Roberto Pinotti is adamant this wasn’t the case due to the chemical makeup of the spider web.
Spider silk is an organic compound, a protein that contains nitrogen, hydrogen, calcium and oxygen. These are different to the elements found in the sample the lab tested for Mr Pinotti, showing that the substance could not have been spider silk. Added to this is the fact that silicon and boron are rarely found in living bodies.
Sixty years on, the mystery remains in place and witnesses’ testimony remains unchanged over time. In fact, Romolo Tuci says he felt lucky to have been there that day, spellbound by his encounter with something outside his explanation.