This article originally appeared in
sponsored by
Slow Cities
By ERIC J. LYMAN
    Slow Cities were the first sub-category to
    emerge from the Slow Food movement,
    starting in 1998, and they helped spark an
    avalanche of similar "slow" things: Slow
    Travel, for example, Slow Drink, or Slow
    Fashion. But the Slow Cities designation --
    CittáSlow in Italian -- remains the only one
    that can actually be applied for: rules outline
    55 criteria by which potential Slow Cities are
    judged, including environmental policies
    and good environmental health, the
    popularity of local produce and artisan
    products, the maintenance of historical
    areas and quality schools, and a strong
sense of community. No city with a population of more than 50,000 can apply, and the city must open
itself to a difficult and regular vetting process.

Still, plenty of cities are eager to join the ranks: as of the start of 2006, there were 65 Slow Cities in nine
countries, with the vast majority (51 of them) in Italy. But more than 100 more were in some
stage of evaluation, and Slow Cities officials say that new inquiries come in nearly every day. The
leaders of official Slow Cities say earning the designation attracts tourism, boosts the local economy,
and raises property values. The designation also gives the city the right to use the Slow Cities logo --
similar to the Slow Food snail, but with a cluster of buildings riding on its back -- on city documents and
promotional information.

"We are looking for towns," the Slow Cities manifesto states, "where
men are still curious about the old days, towns rich in theatres,
squares, cafes, workshops, restaurants, and spiritual places, towns
with untouched landscapes and charming craftsmen, towns where
people are still able to recognize the slow course of the seasons
and their genuine products respecting tastes, health, and customs."

The environment is one pillar of the Slow Cities movement that has
attracted a lot of attention. It is not enough for residents of Slow Cities
to live well and with a sane pace of life but they must also do so while contaminating the environment
as little as possible: Slow Cities are practically void of heavy industry, they encourage recycling, they do
not include refuse dumps near the city limits, they feature large green areas, they encourage the use of
environmentally friendly building materials and vehicles, and they promote pedestrian traffic. The
streets and the air are cleaner than in other towns, and the citizen's environmental awareness is
ingrained into the local culture.

"These towns are like islands of tranquility and healthy living," said Carlo Petrini, founder of both the
Slow Food and Slow Cities movements. "Anyone who visits a Slow City recognizes something different
immediately, and many people tell me that once there they don't want to leave."


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Summer 2006