Sixty years ago a football match ground to a halt when unidentified flying objects were spotted above a stadium in Florence. Did aliens come to earth? If not, what were they?
It was 27 October 1954, a typically crisp autumn day in Tuscany. The mighty Fiorentina club was playing against its local rival Pistoiese.
Ten-thousand fans were watching in the concrete bowl of the Stadio Artemi Franchi. But just after half-time the stadium fell eerily silent – then a roar went up from the crowd. The spectators were no longer watching the match, but were looking up at the sky, fingers pointing. The players stopped playing, the ball rolled to a stand-still.
One of the footballers on the pitch was Ardico Magnini – he was something of a legend at the club and had played for Italy at the 1954 World Cup.
“I remember everything from A to Z,” he says. “It was something that looked like an egg that was moving slowly, slowly, slowly. Everyone was looking up and also there was some glitter coming down from the sky, silver glitter.
“We were astonished we had never seen anything like it before. We were absolutely shocked.”
Play was suspended because spectators saw something in the sky, according to the referee’s match report.
Among the crowd was Gigi Boni, a lifelong Fiorentina fan. “I remember clearly seeing this incredible sight,” he says. His description of multiple objects differs slightly from Magnini’s.
“They were moving very fast and then they just stopped. It all lasted a couple of minutes. I would like to describe them as being like Cuban cigars. They just reminded me of Cuban cigars, in the way they looked.”
Boni has spent many years reliving that day in his mind. “I think they were extra-terrestrial. That’s what I believe, and there’s no other explanation I can give myself.”
Another of the players, Romolo Tuci, still sprightly in his 70s, agrees. “In those years everybody was talking about aliens, everybody was talking UFOs and we had the experience, we saw them, we saw them directly, for real.”
The incident at the stadium cannot simply be interpreted as mass hysteria – there were numerous UFO sightings in many towns across Tuscany that day and over the days that followed. According to some eyewitness accounts a ray of white light was seen in the sky coming from Prato, north of Florence.
Another man who relishes the chance to speak about that day is Roberto Pinotti, the president of Italy’s National UFO Centre. He has written many books about UFOs and his home in the centre of Florence is stuffed full of alien memorabilia, posters of old Italian B-movies, framed newspaper articles and black-and-white photographs of blurry flying saucers.
“The players and the public were stunned seeing these objects above the stadium,” Pinotti says.
“At the time the newspapers spoke of aliens from Mars. Of course now we know that is not so – but we may conclude that it was an intelligent phenomenon, a technological phenomenon and a phenomenon that cannot be linked with anything we know on Earth.”
He’s also intrigued by the material that fell from the sky – what Magnini describes as silver glitter.