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Taking It Easy with Italy’s Slow Movement


Slow food is an international movement that was founded by a self-proclaimed gourmet named Carlo Petrini in 1986. It is promoted as a substitute to the concept of “fast food” and aims to preserve regional, traditional cuisine made from sustainable ingredients native to the local ecosystem procured through the “slower” way as opposed to something that is obtained from more modern, efficient methods. It is the first established part of the broader Slow Movement. The movement itself has expanded globally to over 100,000 members in 150 countries.

The movement began in Italy as a form of resistance to the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome. Petrini and his friends saw the opening of a branch of the famed fast-food chain as threatening to the vast culinary heritage of the country, which could fall prey to rapid globalization that usually comes with a prolonged economic boom. In order to preserve the small, out-of-the-way pubs and trattorias that he and his friends love so much, and to discourage people from committing grievous mistakes in the production of food and drink items that were consumed by people. This stemmed from the prolonged economic boom that had also increased Italian demand for consumables, and as a result 19 people died from drinking cheap wine that had been cut with methanol for an increased production. It was for this reason Petrini released the Slow Food Manifesto.

SlowFoodSlow Food is a commitment to the good stuff, the sweetest of sweet things in life. Pleasure and enjoyment, tranquility and serenity, joy and conviviality, richness and decadence are cornerstones of the manifesto, but not at the expense of rushing or hurrying – whether it’s to get to wherever you’re going, or waiting for the trees to bear fruit. It places an emphasis on the natural order of things, of not forcing a piece of land to bear harvest to something that isn’t native to it.

Today, 74 cities in Italy have made a commitment to the Slow Movement. Called Cittaslow, these cities’ goals include the improved quality of life in them by slowing down their overall pace, especially in a city’s use of spaces and the flow of life and traffic through them. These cities are, in alphabetical order: Abbiategrasso, Acqualagna, Acquapendente, Altomonte, Amalfi, Amelia, Anghiari, Asolo, Barga, Bazzano, Borgo Val di Taro, Bra, Brisighella, Bucine, Caiazzo, Capalbio, Casalbeltrame, Castel Campagnano, Castel San Pietro Terme, Castelnovo ne’ Monti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Castiglione in Teverina, Castiglione Olona, Cerreto Sannita, Chiavenna, Chiaverano, Cisternino, Città della Pieve, Città Sant’Angelo, Civitella in Val di Chiana, Cutigliano, Fontanellato, Francavilla al Mare, Galeata, Giuliano Teatino, Greve in Chianti, Grumes, Guardiagrele, Levanto, Marradi, Massa Marittima, Monte Castello di Vibio, Morimondo, Montefalco, Novellara, Orsara di Puglia, Orvieto, Pellegrino Parmense, Penne, Pianella, Pollica, Positano, Pratovecchio-Stia, Preci, Ribera, San Gemini, San Miniato, San Potito Sannitico, San Vincenzo, Santa Sofia, Santarcangelo di Romagna, Scandiano, Sperlonga, Suvereto, Teglio, Termoli, Tirano, Todi, Tolfa, Torgiano, Trani, Trevi, Vigarano Mainarda, Zibello.

Slow Cities have few requirements. They are required to maintain a population of less than 50,000 (in order to decrease foot traffic and noise), they are to encourage the production of food via natural, environmentally friendly ways and discourage the use of genetically modified ingredients in restaurants and schools. In addition, they are to protect the production of local and traditional goods that help maintain their area’s cultural history, they must promote awareness among all their citizens, particularly the youth, and they must promote hospitality and tourism in order to spread the message that living in a Slow City is a Great Idea.

positano_cityPositano is one of the most celebrated towns on the Amalfi Coast, and the residents there have always taken the slow movement to heart. It is set on a cliffside and dotted with cute white and pink houses rising from the sea in tiers. A single-lane, one-way street runs through it. In the summer and a few subsequent months after, one can be fined up to $100 for blocking traffic should he stop at any point at this street: the population surges from a tiny 4,000 to more than 12,000, so it is a real problem. However, no new roads have been made, the street has never been widened to accommodate the demand, the town stubbornly refuses to change despite the flocks of tourists that descend upon it. Why? Commitment.

Their way of life is very precious to them. Positano is a serene retreat and it will stay a serene retreat if its residents are to have their way. To get to the beach, one will take the stairs down to the shore, no shortcuts. There is a 58-decibel noise limit on restaurants and clubs. The traffic laws, as illustrated, are very strict. There is absolutely no pressure to run around in the town: your food will arrive when it arrives. You are encouraged to take off your big-city shoes and walk slowly.

It is a revolution, to be sure, and one that seems to be working. What is the point of globalization, of working to excess, if one cannot enjoy the fruits of their labor? What is the point of modernization if it means turning one’s back on his country’s beautifully majestic ruins, crucial parts of history and heritage? The slow movement is more than just fighting against a homogenized Italy or planet: it is also about setting the standard for a way of life that can be enjoyed all over the planet – if we just took our time.

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By Priscila Siano (266 Posts)

Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients.

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