Search our website:

Angels of Beauty: How volunteers help to keep Florence beautiful

Change Management

The nonprofit organisation Angels of Beauty (Angeli del Bello) was founded by the private sector environment agency Quadrifoglio SpA and the private sector association Partners Palazzo Strozzi in September 2010. The key person driving this initiative was Mr. GIORGIO MORETTI, an important Florentine entrepreneur. The City of Florence didn't participate during this foundation period, but came in after the Foundation started and has since become an important partner - for example, the local authority department for the environment makes a significant contribution to the planning and coordination of the services provided by volunteers.

With regard to the financial aspects of the initiative, the Foundation is not directly financed by the City of Florence. The Foundation's assets consist of an Endowment Fund of €100,000.00 set up by the founders and original promoters , as well as subsequent donations and contributions from individuals and institutions. The Angels of Beauty regularly organises self-financing campaigns  to achieve its  institutional goals.

In the 2014 budget, activities amounted to € 168,573, with liabilities of €9,776 and a €7,549 surplus for the year. 

The  Savings Bank of Florence (Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze) is among the most important donors. In 2012 and 2013 it financed the Project 'Lovers of Florence - Angels of Beauty',  dedicated  to the care of urban spaces for citizens and  the project "SoS Angels", for the maintenance of urban quality in Florence, donating €150,000 and €50,000 respectively to these projects (see appendices for the financial statements of Ente Cassa di Risparmio Florence, 2012 and 2013).

Volunteers are recruited informally, e.g. through word of mouth or social media. In some cases, the Foundation invites residents in specific neighbourhoods to volunteer, by posting calls for participation in letter boxes . Citizens have generally responded to these initiatives. The age of the volunteers varies from 6 to 89 years. One important focus of the Foundation’s activities has been implementation of many educational projects in primary and secondary schools, and the university.
As mentioned earlier, another common activity of the Angeli del Bello volunteers is cleaning walls to remove graffiti. The project Graphiti Commando, in co-operation with the local authority of Florence, has been sponsored by the local savings bank and benefitted from scientific support from the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Florence. In particular, in 2011, a cooperation agreement was signed to initiate a research project to improve the facades of buildings in the suburban belt surrounding Florence with regard to both energy and aesthetics. The book “Colour Care: Angeli del Bello , from first aid to the maintenance of the  Florentine facades " describes the Graphiti Commando experience.

Every year, all volunteers receive some training, for example in health and safety or in gardening. The Foundation has produced a manual that has been co-designed with the volunteers, defining the ‘rules’ of how volunteers and professionals should work together.

Volunteers and citizens participate in the decision process, such as deciding in which part of the city the Foundation should become active. For example, volunteers and professionals meet several times a week to discuss the specific actions to take in removing graffiti on walls.

Volunteers typically establish contacts with local citizens. For example, in the removal of graffiti, they advise citizens on how they can easily remove graffiti from their walls and how they can obtain free paint to do it.  Such initiatives also have a stimulating effect on the local labour market as the Foundation also offers a one-off cheque  payment which is cashable at the post office, thus  helping small business or self-employed decorators.

Initially, in 2010, most of the work of the volunteers focused on improving green space. About 60 volunteers collaborated with professional gardeners of the City of Florence to take care of the famous Boboli Gardens, which receive more than 800,000 visitors per year and provides a rich collection of sculptures from the Roman era to the XVI and XVII centuries.

In 2011, about 30 volunteers adopted the Stibbert Museum Park under the supervision of the Museum Department and municipal gardeners of the City of Florence. This is a romantic park in the English style with many grottos and water displays. About 5 volunteers work in the Rose Garden, which is a splendid garden on the left bank of the river Arno. In 2012, 5 volunteers took care of the Villa Reale di Castello, which is one of the oldest residences of the  Medici family. In 2013, 5 volunteers adopted  the Parco delle Cascine, which is the biggest park in Florence on the right bank of the river Arno. In each case the volunteers work under the supervision of professional gardeners employed by the City of Florence.

The volunteers also ensure that both visitors and residents using the green spaces behave appropriately. In the third year of the annual event Un bacione a Firenze (A Kiss for Florence)  in 2011, the  mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi , asked citizens to help the local authority stating that “the best way to keep the city clean is not to litter”, adding that “When the residents of Florence see someone throwing cigarette stubs on the floor or littering the local environment in other ways, they should politely say that you cannot and should not behave like this”. The manual provided for the volunteers encourages them to react to inappropriate forms of behaviour in a positive way, following a saying of Denis Diderot “it is not sufficient to do good but you also have to do it well”. It is also important that the volunteers can be recognized by the uniform provided by the Foundation.

In order to promote positive behaviour change , the local authority has launched the initiative “Florence for the Better” in cooperation with the local branch of Unesco and the Foundation Angeli del Bello. This has involved volunteers distributing postcards in the historic centre of Florence to visiting ‘citizens of the world’, listing desirable forms of behaviour. The statement on the card reads: “Florence warmly welcomes you, cares for you, and offers you all its beauty. But please, as a citizen of the world, treat it well and protect it because it belongs to you”.

Further activities undertaken by the Angeli del Bello volunteers include: targeted clean-ups, such as the removal of cigarette stubs, paper and bottles; the opening of parks on special occasions; the care of specific park areas, such as playgrounds for children;  taking care of herbs, plants and flowers in other spaces of the city. The volunteers also carry out work to improve a road or public square. For example, in 2011, international students of the nonprofit educational organization, Capa International (, and the Palazzi Florence Association for International Education, worked as Angeli del Bello volunteers in November 2011 to improve Piazza Duomo and Piazza Santa Croce, which are among the most important squares in Florence. On the occasion of the World Cycling Championship in 2013, the Foundation did a major clean-up of Lungarno Vespucci, le Cascine, il Ponte della Tramvia, Viale Paoli, Via Campo D’Arrigo, Viale dei Mille, Piazza delle Cure, Viale Malta, Via Pistoiese, Via Baracca, Piazza Puccini and Piazzale Vittorio Veneto.

About this case study
Main Contact

Diana Artuso

Graduate, Executive Master Management Public Administration SDA BOCCONI ITALY
Public Manager
INPS (National Institute Social Security) Catania,  Italy

Contacts Foundation Angels of Beauty

Foundation Angeli del Bello
Phone: 0039 055 7339 280
0039 340 000 4806

This case study was written by Diana Artuso for Governance International in July 2015.

Copyright © Governance International ®, 2010 -2023. All rights reserved