Text by Toby Skinner / Illustration: Andrew Lyons
If you walk around a Cittaslow, you feel it immediately,” says Pier Giorgio Oliveti, the secretary general of Cittaslow International. “They are distinctive – you’re likely to find less asphalt and more likely to see local shops, a farmer’s market or a school canteen linked to its own garden. It’s about local identity and avoiding the vulgar mistakes and banalisation that come from turbo-capitalism.”
The Cittaslow movement was born in Italy in 1999, inspired by Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food movement – and has since spread to more than 200 towns in 30 countries as the worldwide Slow Movement has gathered pace (see Slow Travel, Slow Design, Slow Art, Slow Journalism, Slow Living and lots more).
There are three Cittaslows in Norway, two in Denmark and one in both Sweden and Finland. To be eligible for full membership, a town has to have a population of less than 50,000 and score at least 50 per cent in a self-assessment against Cittaslow’s 71 stated goals, which include everything from well-maintained green spaces to plentiful community activities and policies to promote organic farming and eco-friendly architecture. Once towns are members, they strive to do even better.
“The mistake people make, though, is to confuse being Slow with not doing much,” says Oliveti. “In English in particular there can be a negative connotation – when really a lot of it is » about finding solutions to local issues, often using new technology.”
In other words, it’s not all knitting hemp. In Orvieto, the Umbrian town where Cittaslow International is based, Cittaslow has meant a new transport system with electric and gas buses, and a new multistorey car park with 2,000 places, using recycled materials from an old pipeline tunnel. In Abbiategrasso, near Milan, it’s meant protecting a green-belt area from a new mall being built; in Mirande, in the south of France, they now meet a third of the town’s energy needs using solar panels; Midden-Delfland, in the Netherlands, has become a green recreation area between The Hague and Rotterdam; and Halfeti, a historic town in Anatolia, has started promoting its black roses and famous peanuts.
Says Oliveti: “Cittaslow is about heritage, culture, local identity, the environment and social interactions – but most of all it’s about letting people lead better and happier lives. We can’t let economics make us forget life and happiness.”
Orvieto is less than two hours’ drive from Rome; Norwegian flies to Rome from Oslo, Bergen, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Helsinki and London. Book flights, a hotel and a rental car at norwegian.com