The article examines the case of a "deliberative democracy" experimental project, which is currently being implemented in Novara. The project shows the importance of neighbourhoods and social relationships with respect to the issue of reconsidering the sub-municipal participatory institutions in medium-size cities. The municipal decentralization institutions in the past gave priority to the replication of representative councils and to the dislocation of the city services. Starting from the Novara's case study, the authors suggest a different pathway, looking at the possibility to combine citizens' participation and satisfaction of community needs in an empirical process according to an approach based on the principle of "horizontal subsidiarity". In this regard, one of the main requirements for the success of deliberative processes is the development of autonomy and self-organization ability by citizens involved in the path.