The incipit of a piece from ANSA:

Venice's self-styled 'guardian angels' are set to fly back into action to stop unsightly scenes spoiling the magic of St Mark's.

''They ran into some yobs last year but managed to handle it. This time round they'll be ready to tackle anything,'' said Augusto Salvadori, head of the city council's 'urban decorum' office.

Given the success of the initiative and the boost it gave to civic pride, the angels' ranks have swollen over the winter break to include ''people from all walks of life,'' he said. The small army of unpaid 'sentinels' will ''show no hesitation in rapping tourists who fail to show Venice the respect it deserves,'' Salvadori said.

The recruits will restart patrolling St Mark's on Saturday, kitted out in a vest emblazoned with the city's lion mascot and the slogan ''Servizio per il rispetto della citta'' (''Service for respecting the city'').

Their mission is to prevent ''indecorous behaviour'' among tourists, which the city has decided includes sitting on the pavement, eating sandwiches there or going bare-chested.

''The council's battle for Venice's decorum is shared and supported by everyone,'' said Salvadori.

''It is a battle we will continue to fight, for our own dignity and in order to defend Venice's image. Sitting around criticizing is useless but taking action demonstrates a real love for Venice''.

The guardians are understanding with weary travellers wanting to rest their feet but implacable when T-shirts come off or improvised picnics began.

The volunteer army provides backup to seven female 'guardians of decorum' employed by the council to enforce rules on proper behaviour.

The women, who work for a municipal agency called Vesta, have already earned the nickname Vestali, the Italian word for the Vestal Virgins who looked after an important temple in ancient Rome.