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Italy's Slow Cities

Later that day, I was confronted by the inquisitive reporter. Back in Positano, I had been the one asking for an explanation, but now I felt I could provide an answer. It's easier for outsiders, especially those who come from a place like New York, to appreciate a Slow City than it is for the citizens of Chiavenna, I told him. That's because the core values of small-town Italian life--the sense of community, the lack of stress, the guarantee of high-quality, healthful food--are intangible factors that people here have never had to do without. They can't foresee a time when their favorite café must close because Starbucks came to town. But anyone who has lived in even a small American city knows it can happen. Advocates like Lorenzo Cinque and Stefano Cimicchi push Slow Cities because they fear their own citizens' complacency.

"But isn't Slow Cities really just a marketing campaign to drum up tourism?" he shot back. That might be part of it, I had to agree. And it was hard to deny that increased tourism creates problems: traffic, noise, the corruption of cultural assets into commodities. But Chiavenna is clearly in no danger of becoming a goat's-leg theme park. Also, while Slow Cities encourages tourists--many of them, naturally, from the same country responsible for McDonald's--it softens their inevitable impact. What's more, it is hoped that those visitors will take a bit of the Slow life back home. By broadening the appeal of violino, Chiavenna isn't just working to preserve its place in an increasingly homogenized Italy. It's setting the standard for a way of life that can be appreciated all over the planet.

A Quick Guide to Slow Cities

The 23 current members, listed by region (18 other towns await certification):
Abruzzi: Francavilla al Mare
Campania: Caiazzo, Positano
Emilia-Romagna: Castelnovo ne'Monti, Zibello
Friuli-venezia Giulia: San Daniele
Liguria: Levanto
Lombardy: Abbiategrasso, Chiavenna, Teglio
Piedmont: Bra, Casalbeltrame, Chiaverano
Puglia: Trani
Tuscany: Castelnuovo Berardenga, Cutigliano, Greve in Chianti, San Miniato, San Vincenzo, Suvereto
Umbria: Castiglione del Lago, Citti della Pieve, Orvieto

Slow Cities are required to:

· Maintain a population of less than 50,000
· Recycle, reduce pollutants from traffic and industry
· Encourage food production by natural, environmentally friendly techniques, and discourage the use of genetically modified ingredients in restaurants and schools
· Safeguard the production of local, traditional goods, which help maintain an area's cultural history
· Promote awareness among all citizens that they live in a Slow City, paying special attention to young people
· Promote hospitality and tourism as ways of spreading the Slow City message to the rest of the world


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