The defenders of Venice

Interview with Alberto Alberti president of Masegni & Nizioleti Onlus

The defenders of Venice

940 500 Daria Piasenti

With more than 5 million tourists a year in 2015, Venice is a must-be-seen for many travellers. But to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world, is not an hassle-free task. Venice is a noble lady who comes from a far away land: she is enchanting, formidable and fragile at the same time. And legendarily, for every noble lady in danger, there is a valiant knight who fights for protecting her honour.

Interview with Alberto Alberti, president of Masegni & Nizioleti Onlus

Did you know that Venice – as almost every city in Italy- has an own language?
Once upon a time the official language of the Serene Republic, Venetian survives as city’s dialect and it’s genuinely (& loudly!) spoken by inhabitants nowadays; it’s an essential part of our every day life and of our cultural heritage. To get you started with Venetian dialect, I handpicked a couple of funny words:

  1. Masegni /ma’seɲɔi/

Masegni is a Venetian noun that indicates the typical stones used for paving the streets of Venice since 1676 (they make up over 70% of all Venetian pavement). They are made from quarried Trachyte from the Euganean Hills and hold great value to the city.

  1. Nizioleti /nisio’eti/

In Venetian dialect we use to call Nizioleti the typical street indications of Venice, painted on house walls, on white plaster surrounded by a black frame. In fact, in Venetian dialect “nizioleto” means small sheet.

Congrats, you can (almost) speak Venetian now!

Masegni & Nizioleti” is also the name of a group of volunteers, Venetians by birth, adoption or intent, who is committed to contrast the city’s neglect and the oblivion of our centenary dialect and traditions. They are the valiant knights of today, defenders armed with brushes and paint rollers.


Photo by Masegni&Nizioleti Onlus


Here is my recent interview with Alberto Alberti, the president of Masegni & Nizioleti Onlus, who I want to thank for being so kind and helpful (it was lovely meeting you!)

After an exchange of emails, Alberto and I have met for a coffee break, on a foggy day of November.
Alberto has bright smiling eyes and contagious smile. You can feel his passion for the city and enthusiasm for the project just by the way he talks.
I was really curious about the project and I really appreciated that he has found the time for meeting me and patiently answered all my questions:

When and how was the association founded?

«Masegni e Nizioleti Onlus was created in 2014 by the members of 2 Facebook groups, who shared a deep love for Venice and a strong desire of safeguarding the city and its territory».

Is the organisation independent?

«Of course, Masegni & Nizioleti is an independent, apolitical, wide open volunteering organisation».

How many members does it count?

«Nowadays, the organisation counts 150 active members and 2k-something followers on Fb social account. Our group is made by students, employees, retirees, housewives, professionals, most of them over 30 (we would really love younger members to join us soon!); a great number of us are Venetians who moved to little towns of the Venetian hinterland but did not lost their local identity. We are all united by a genuine passion for Venice and by the intent of preserving its decorum and traditions and redeveloping its territory».

Who can join the organisation?

«The organisation is open to all those who are Venetians by birth, adoption or intent; because being Venetian is first of all a state of mind, a condition of the spirit».

And how does “Masegni & Nizioleti” finance its projects?

«Masegni & Nizioleti is self-financed by donations and subscriptions of its members».

Which are the most significant difficulties and obstacles you have to face?

«The greatest difficulties we are encountering are related to the city administration, in particular concerning an agreement protocol that was previously signed and has actually expired. Our goal is to streamline bureaucracy. For example, we would love meeting students at schools more often, to share our experience, projects and ideas».

What a “cleaning day” is and how does it work?

«As the name suggests, a cleaning day is concrete demonstration of love for Venice.
After having met and divided volunteers in groups, we reach the assigned area and start cleaning the vandalistic graffitis off of walls and monuments.

When working on the walls, we utilise natural lime and oxides to obtain again the plaster’s original colour.
When intervening on Istrian stone or iron, we use instead anti-graffiti gels tested and approved by the superintendent. Sometimes we even go cleaning the canals, using small nets to take off from the water plastics and other floating litter.
Cleaning process may be hard manual work, but fulfil the volunteer’s heart of satisfaction.

When volunteers have cleaned an area, they got the feeling that this place belongs to them even more, specially when after walking back day by day, they notice that the buildings haven’t been damaged or dirtied again anymore.
Since we have started these activities, identifying vandals has become easier and almost all the areas we have previously cleaned, remain intact. We are also receiving more and more requests from shop owners and private citizens who contact us for advices about the use of materials».

Therefore I instinctively wonder, how do you approach street art?

«At Masegni & Nizioleti, we support street art, with proper precautions. For this reason, we are trying to attract interest of both government and local artists on some building and public structures in Venice and surroundings that could be embellished by street art projects with the intent of requalify these areas».

How can people help your association & Venice? Is it possible for foreign travellers to actively take part in projects and events of Masegni and Nizioleti?

«Because we are a no profit and independent association, any little help makes the difference for us & the safeguarding of Venice. All those who wish can make a donation to financed our projects (find out how by visiting the association’s website E.n.

Both Venetians and travellers are more than welcome to join our open events, such as the cleaning days: in fact, we believe the most precious thing people can donate us is their time. Since few years, groups of students from the States who come to Venice for studying Italian also joined our activities.»

Venice defender

Photos by Simone Padovani-Awakening

As world human heritage, Venice belongs to each of us.
Each of us can help project like this virtually overtaking Italian borders: sharing means helping Venice.

Should you desire taking action & joining the next cleaning day, just like Masegni & Nizioleti on Facebook for further information and upcoming events.

Two Traveling Texans

?Go with dice stands for Masegni & Nizioleti Onlus. What about you?

  • I admire this group of people so much, and join them in cleaning projects whenever I visit Venice. I live in Australia.

    • Hi Yvonne thank you for taking the time to comment on the post.
      So true, these guys are amazing..! And it’s lovely to hear that you share our same love for this city, as well. Keep in touch, we may meet on your next travel to Venice and join the group!
      ?? Best Xmas wishes from Venice, with love ❤️

  • Sally’s Tips 4 Trips May 27, 2017 at 8:28 am

    How wonderful this group of volunteers are cleaning up Venice. Hopefully they can inspire other cities to form such groups to join the fight on vandalism.

    • Ciao Sally, thanks for your comment ??? I think this volunteers give people the right message, Venice is unique and we should all work together to mantain its beauty.
      I personally love street art, but vandalism is a different matter. I wonder if more groups like this are operating in other cities around the world..

  • More cities need organizations like this. The vandalism is really upsetting. I agree street art should be supported but vandalism is different. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • Ciao Anisa, thank you for the comment ??? I totally agree with you. I’m a big fan of street art, but I think a distinction must be done between that and vandalism.
      Street art supports ideas and places, vandalism distroy them. I would love to hear from groups like this operating in other cities.

  • Anda @ Travel Notes & Beyond May 28, 2017 at 3:38 am

    Venice was a very powerful city-state back in the 13th century, so I am not surprised it has its own language. I am glad there is an organization that takes care of preserving this unique city. I didn’t know anything about it till now. They seem to be doing a great job. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Ciao Anda, thanks for your comment ??? Yes is true, Venice has a glorious history and I am proud to live here. The city is magic and need our help to preserve its beauty. I hope more people will join the project of these volunteers.
      Should you visit Venice, just get in touch!

  • A lovely post! I’ve been to Venice, Italy twice and it’s a magical place! We have something like this here in LA called and it’s a wonderful volunteer organization!

  • It is so good to meet people working to preserve history, culture, and beauty of the world! Thanks for spreading the word on #TheWeeklyPostcard – we’ll be sure to lend a hand when we visit Venice!

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