Take a stroll to the farmers’ market along quiet, tree-lined cobblestone streets, pausing to chat with neighbors spilling out of cafes. That’s life in a cittaslow.
Seven years ago, a group of Italian cities branded themselves cittaslow, beginning another installment in what’s become an overall slow movement. Slow cities improve life by putting pleasure before profit while striving for a more human and sustainable lifestyle that can be passed on to future generations.
Slow cities abide by a shared code of conduct—less traffic, less noise, fewer crowds, and no 24-hour neon signs. The cittaslow charter network assesses cities that wish to become officially slow. Potential cities can apply, but no town with more than 50,000 residents is eligible. Each city must adhere to the six categories set forth by the cittaslow manifesto, which include environmental policy, encouragement of local produce and products, community, and cittaslow awareness. Cities are inspected regularly to assure adherence to standards.
Slow cities honor local culture and encourage communication among consumers, producers, and artisans. Slow food is the cornerstone; emphasis is placed on organic foods reflective of the area’s culinary traditions. Environmental policy focuses on sustainable building that supports and enhances the town’s distinctive features while encouraging use of environmentally friendly technology. The goal is to strike a balance between tradition and modern times.
Slow living appeals to those who wish to make a connection with their communities rather than the depersonalization endemic to today’s frenetic city life. “The slow movement is a result of our disconnection to life,” says Dr. C.L. Claridge of Footprint Choices, an Australian-based, family-run enterprise dedicated to education about the slow lifestyle. “What we are seeing now is an amalgamation of the different facets of the movement. The goal is to support people who want to make changes.”
Although the slow cities movement has expanded to 100 towns and ten countries worldwide, it has not yet crept to the United States. Claridge believes that increasing dissatisfaction with an isolating lifestyle will inspire a switch to the slow side. “If you think about it,” she says, “if we all had connection to people, place, family, food, and the environment, we could not have war, starvation, abuse, and degradation.”