AILO Kicks Off ‘Viva Vittoria’ to Help Women


A Viva Vittoria blanket made by Mary Lokken

Viva Vittoria, a volunteer project that will strive to take measures on domestic violence against women with the help of the entire Florence community, will take place on Nov. 11 and 12, 2023, in Piazza Santa Croce. The American International League of Florence (AILO) has been given the opportunity to co-sponsor and organize the event locally. Fittingly, the press conference for Viva Vittoria Firenze fell on International Women’s Day, today, March 8.

Viva means life. Vittoria is a female name and symbolizes the success of women. The significance of the project’s title speaks for itself.

The community-based project will task volunteers with crocheting or knitting squares to create a mural of blankets that will line the stone pavement of Santa Croce square. The first Viva Vittoria was held in Brescia in 2015. The northern Italian city set the bar for others to follow; Florence is the third place in Tuscany to take on the project and will make it come to life this upcoming fall. The event has been carried out in various places across Italy, including Grosseto, Brescia, Cremona, Verona, Biella, Lodi, Parma, Milano, Roma, and Bologna along with many others.

AILO, the local partner for Viva Vittoria, is a profound philanthropic organization comprised of individuals from all over the world who strive to give back to the community. AILO’s goal is to assist charities within the city as well as in the province of Florence through fundraising and service.

While the event is not until mid-November, the making of the squares must start now in order to acquire enough to cover Piazza Santa Croce’s stone pavement — 3,000 square meters (32,000 sq. ft.) — twice in a period of 48 hours. AILO is aiming to collect 5,000 blankets for the project, which is 20,000 squares.

Conad, a popular supermarket in Italy, is teaming up with AILO and Viva Vittoria for the event and will have drop-off boxes for the crocheted or knitted squares inside of their stores. People are invited to leave their squares inside the boxes, which will be delivered to AILO’s clubhouse where they’re being stored.

The concept is simple but will be time-consuming: volunteers will create a beautiful mural consisting of 50×50 cm (19 x 19 inch) squares, knitted or crocheted, that will lay atop a plastic tarp on the ground of Santa Croce’s square. The squares cannot be made using a machine, but there are no rules for how they are designed. Each one will be signed with the creator’s name and labeled with a number to allow the organization to keep track of the number they have collected and to prevent resale in shops.

“This is not a project for AILO, it’s a project for everybody.  Based on aggregation, sharing, energy, and solidarity, the initiative is open to people from every culture, every religion and every social status. We also need donors, since we require 2.4 tons of yarn,” said Bergljot Leifsdottir Mensuali, the current president of AILO.

After a square is made, it will be sewn with others to make a 100 x 100 cm (about 3.3 x 3.3 ft) square blanket, each section made by a different person. Tied together with red thread, which is recognized as the color of union and relationship in addition to symbolizing violence against woman, the blankets all share a message through unique colors, words, and designs.

The installation of the blankets in Piazza Santa Croce will start on Nov. 11 and will go on until Nov. 12, through the night. The blankets will be placed at the back of the square to start and will slowly cover the ground all the way to the front of the square. There will be four donation tables set up around the square. At the tables, participants will have the opportunity to pick out a blanket to take away, with a minimum donation of €20 and no maximum.  The blank spaces on the ground will slowly fill up with additional blankets.

“I think we all should be very proud that we have been asked to be a part of this project. I hope that we will have many volunteers that will make these wonderful squares,” said an AILO board member.

The funds raised through Viva Vittoria Firenze will be donated to the Artemisia Centro Antiviolenza, ACISJF and Nosotras Onlus charities. Each organization acts as a place of refuge, providing a safe haven for those who need help, especially women.

Artemisia promotes the rights of women, children, adolescents, adults and individuals who have experienced childhood violence by providing them with protection care services. ACISJF is a Catholic association that aims to help people without a home, job or money. The charity targets women who are alone, mothers with children, women escaping abusive relationships and the homeless, but is open to everyone in distressed situations. The third nonprofit, Nosotras Onlus, seeks to empower women — Italian and migrant — through counseling, guidance, education and training, amongst other activities that focus on the freedom and independence of women.

While the project will certainly spread awareness, raise money for local charities, and seek to cease violence against women, at the same time it will bring the community of Florence together. The people of the city, no matter where they come from, are encouraged to participate in Viva Vittoria Firenze so they can partake in something bigger than themselves.

“You don’t need to know the language when you’re doing something — that’s the spirit of giving,” said Mensuali.

To learn more about Viva Vittoria and its mission to stop violence against women, visit (Parker Hurley)