How four Italian cities bucked the traditional urban growth model and started an international trend called Cittaslow.
In the 1990s, as population and revenue declined in the small northern Italian town of Greve in Chianti, its mayor, Paolo Saturnini, faced a choice: Embrace big business and desperately try to grow into a larger city, or protect the local wine and olive oil producers and bet on the qualities that made Greve unique.He chose the latter. In 1999, with three other small Italian towns and the help of the Slow Food organization, he founded Cittaslow, an association of cities committed to preserving their local culture, history, and quality of life. To earn the Cittaslow designation, a city can't have more than 50,000 people and must meet a host of requirements-supporting local production, providing adequate bike paths, and reducing light and noise pollution are all on the list. In exchange, the town can draw support from the Cittaslow network, and benefit from its seal of approval, which can boost tourism and raise the profile of local products. The movement has grown quickly. Small towns across Europe and as far away as South Korea-more than 120 and counting- have signed up with Cittaslow, and they are all bucking the trends of sprawl and globalization.In August, 2009, Cowichan Bay, in British Columbia, became North America's first official Cittaslow. To Bruce Stewart, a local baker and the president of the Cittaslow Cowichan Society, the designation will help preserve the city's identity in the future. "If you know what the core values of Cittaslow are," he says, "and you've bought into those, then when you encounter controversy of whatever kind it can help steer you in the right direction."Photo by flickr (cc) user roblisameehan