Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Cittáslow is a movement started during the Nineties in Italy and inspired by Slow Food. Its ambitions are far greater than its parent; it is aiming to transform the life-style of small cities (under 50,000 inhabitants) by controlling many of the most implacable features of modern life.

The Slow City manifesto contains over 50 pledges, such as cutting noise pollution and traffic, increasing green spaces and pedestrian zones, backing farmers who produce local delicacies and the shops and restaurants that sell them, and preserving local aesthetic traditions.

I have two immediate and contradictory reactions. The first is scepticism and a desire to scoff at day-dreams of the Good Life of Yore. The second, inspired by the deep pleasure that Italian (small) city life can give, wants it to succeed.

Despite the anti-capitalist rhetoric that often accompanies such movements, and the bureaucratic tangle that awaits them if they are not clever, now is the time when such luxuries as this can succeed, thanks in part to the technological and educational achievements of capitalism. As the virtual infrastructure takes more and more of the load off the physical one, it becomes more possible to create the necessary wealth to support the Slow City. It would not be feasible in most places. It may well be feasible in Western Europe, and I hope it is.

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