Two years in the making, the American International League of Florence (AILO) is working with Italian women’s defence association Viva Vittoria to raise awareness of domestic violence through a never-before (and likely never-again) installation in piazza Santa Croce. On November 11 and 12, around 3,500 hand-crocheted and knitted squares will cover the entire piazza before being purchased individually by passersby to raise monies for Associazione Artemisia, ACISJF (Associazione Cattolica Internazionale a Servizio della Giovane Firenze) and Nosotras, Florence’s most crucial resources for victims of domestic abuse.
There’s a frenetic feeling in the air at Viva Vittoria’s Florence branch in via della Rondinella loaned by architect Luigia Saluzzi, where volunteers are sorting out the squares into sets of four, each made by a different individual aged between six and 102. The crocheted quadrilaterals have come from all over the world, many from Iceland, given the nationality of the president of AILO, Bergljót (Begga) Leifsdóttir Mensuali. Others have arrived in the post from Denmark, Germany, Sweden, the UK and US, nearly always with thoughtful letters enclosed. Locals deliver the squares directly to the Viva Vittoria’s headquarters, which has become a social club of sorts with women gathering during the day and after-dinner to accomplish something worthwhile together. “One woman, who had been a victim of stalking, came to see us and went away in tears, thanking the group, saying that it had given her the opportunity to vent and express herself,” explains Begga. Other methods of delivery have been collection boxes at Conad supermarkets in Florence, where women have crocheted on the red anti-violence benches, as well as Campolmi Filati’s store in via Portinari, among other generous supporters.
As a non-profit organization, AILO assumed the onerous responsibility of requesting permission to use the piazza from the city council, gaining the support of city councillors Sara Funaro and Federica Giuliani. They received the backing of the City of Florence, the Città Metropolitana di Firenze and the Regione Toscana on March 8, 2023, but “we had already been working for a year on making these squares!”
“It has been interesting and fun to see how the word has spread, even to people under neighbouring ombrelloni on the beach who started to crochet squares too,” comments Maria Teresa Medri, former president of AILO. “This isn’t an event that can be repeated; it’s a one-off. Viva Vittoria is something that is done just the once in every city. This year it also took place in Darmstadt, in Germany.”
While this has been mostly a project by women, for women, men have been championing the cause too, including the treasurer of AILO, who wanted to contribute so much that he actually learned how to crochet.
“There’s no distinction between religion or race, or any politics involved. We’ve accepted all the squares we’ve received, regardless of design or who made them. This is an inclusive project,” explains Begga.
At 5am on November 11, the volunteers will gather in piazza Santa Croce to lay the squares on the pietra serena slabs. “With a minimum donation of 20 euro, you can choose the square you’d like to take home in a Viva Vittoria bag with a pin and a leaflet.”
Our hearts are warmed as we listen to the ladies enthuse about the Viva Vittoria project and its broader social purpose. Don’t miss this one-time-only event on November 11 and 12, the culmination of two years’ volunteering by AILO, and give generously.