La Città Dell’Utopia

Long term volunteering

Written by Alessandro from Italy

August 2022

Being an Activist in La Città Dell’Utopia


Group of volunteers after work

I am Alessandro and I am 62 years old. I think I was in my late 20s when I moved to this neighbourhood. Casale was here when I moved here, but you couldn’t even tell it was a Casale because it was just a big building, completely deserted, covered with thorny bushes. Also, we couldn’t even see the stairs we use now, it just looked like a grass-covered path.

One day I noticed that light was coming from Casale. It was very interesting because it didn’t look like a place anyone could live in. After a while, a huge white banner appeared above the Casale, with the words “La Città Dell’Utopia” on it. So, I made sure there was someone there. So, I got up and went to meet them. I had my first guided tour in Casale with Caterina Amicucci. I think they occupied the building back then.

I think activism is a term used by SCI. I prefer to call myself an active citizen rather than an activist. I can say that my active citizenship started with La Città Dell’Utopia. At first, we organised short workcamps to restore Casale. At the same time, people from different parts of the city came to help us make Casale liveable.

group of volunteers engaged in an activity

First, we made the yellow room habitable, repaired and painted the ceiling. Back then, people were working and thinking about doing something. There was no place called Biosteria. It was a cave-like place with no windows. This was also my first workcamp experience. I was usually used to working alone, it took a lot of time. But when you work together, everyone does something and the job is done in the blink of an eye. As a neighbour, I saw Casale as part of my territory. As an activist, I started cleaning it up as my own home. It was like taking care of my own balcony for me. The first activists were very active. They repaired the yellow room and started using it. There was a big blank white wall in the yellow room, we used to project movies on that wall, and we watched movies together about human rights and climate. I felt very free in that context. There would also be musical events. I once watched a whistling theatre show. At that time, I remember thinking about what just one Casale can cause and how many beautiful things can be done.

Afterwards, I had the opportunity to participate in workcamps organised by SCI elsewhere. I went to Germany for 2 weeks to work on renewable energy. I remember we all slept in a big tent together. I will say that the more you participate, you take best. Now I’ve changed, everything has changed, but I’m still going to Casale. I have lunch there with my friends. But this is not a restaurant, it’s a place where you have to support everything. Only in this way can we become a community.

Volunteers eating together

Casale was for me a free space where no one could find me, it was fearless. I’m sure it continues to mean similar things to other people right now. Casale is like a community, a place where you’ll never feel alone if you’re in it. Step out of our own comfort zone and visit “La Citta Dell’Utopia” and enjoy splitting chores with a group. If there’s one thing I understand about volunteering, it’s working with people who work with the same dedication as you for your cause, not what you get as a result.

SCI Italy’s project “La Città dell’Utopia” started in 2003 and it is located in the neighbourhood of San Paolo (Rome), a popular suburban area inhabited mainly by elderly people, university students, and migrant families coming from Latin America, northeastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. The building is used to host several groups and associations working on active citizenships, especially in relation to migration, environmental sustainability, antifascism, gender, and self-determination of food and consumption. The main activities carried out in “La Città dell’Utopia” are: – Organising and hosting of international workcamps, north/south trainings, and international youth meetings (trainings, seminars, youth exchanges, and capacity building activities). – Organising and running awareness-raising events. – Organising conferences, meetings, festivals, photo exhibitions, thematic meals, farmers’ markets, and courses on music, group dancing, language courses, gardening.

Get more information about “La Città dell’Utopia” by visiting the website http://www.lacittadellutopia.org/