Abbiategrasso, a 'slow' town in Milan's backyard

Just half an hour's drive from Milan, Italy's fast-moving capital of finance, fashion and design, Abbiategrasso relishes its "slow" identity.

Signs marking the town limits bear the symbol of an orange snail with houses perched on its shell: proud symbol of Abbiategrasso's link to Cittaslow, an offshoot of the quarter-century old Slow Food movement.

"Cittaslow wants to bring humans back to a calmer kind of life, one that is also more human," Roberto Albetti, the town's centre-right mayor, told AFP.

"It's not about going backwards in terms of progress but about agreeing to sacrifice a little comfort in order to have better quality goods."

The Cittaslow project - which means slow city - involves more than 140 towns of fewer than 50,000 inhabitants in 20 countries including Germany, United States and South Korea.

About half are in Italy, where Slow Food was born first as a protest against fast-food culture, before blossoming into an international movement devoted to "good, clean and fair" food.

Cittaslow's goal is to foster a sense of "identity and community spirit in the face of the modern world" through a range of environmental social, urban and gastronomical policies, the organisation said in a statement.

Cittaslow says it is not about rowing against globalisation,

"Learning to take what nature gives us, creating moments of silence, and developing our own humanity. That's the challenge," Albetti said.

For Abbiategrasso, which lies just 20 kilometres (12 miles) west of Milan, slow-living begins with transport.

The town centre is closed off to cars during the weekend, and even during the week the streets are packed with bicycles.

While Italian cities are notoriously unfriendly to bicycles, Abbiategrasso officials once counted 9,000 bikes cruising the streets in a single morning - in a town of just 32,000.

"It's like heaven here. The town is calm and beautiful. I couldn't live in Milan, it's too loud, there is too much traffic," said Sebastiano Pettinato, a retiree.

And citizens seem to approve of the slow lifestyle, so much so that many a Milanese have decided to move here: Abbiategrasso's population grew from 28,000 inhabitants in the past decade.

"I prefer smaller cities, we help each other out, there are more human relationships. I would never live in Milan or Rome, where you don't even know whether you can trust your neighbor," said Lara Manzoni, a teacher.

While the financial crisis hit Abbiategrasso's businesses hard, "being a slow city can help us develop tourism," said Valter Bertani, the mayor's deputy.

Slow-living "does not mean reining in economic development," Albetti said.

Abbiategrasso actively promotes its local delicacies in Italy and around the world, helping small businesses like the Gorgonzola cheese-maker owned by the family of Marco Gelmini, employing about 40 people.

"It's very important for us, because we have a niche product that needs to be promoted outside the country and the European Union, to win market share while safeguarding the product's artisanal nature," Gelmini said.

Events promote locally-grown food and other produce in city squares, and the town hosts an annual international food fair called Abbiategusto - which translates as "have some taste".

"I think this message will eventually touch larger cities as well," said Albetti. "Why can't we apply the concept of taking back the city from cars and for humans in the frenzy of Milan, Paris or Vienna?"

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleComedian launches stinging attack on PM
Life and Style
The collection displayed Versace’s softer side, with models wearing flowers and chiffon dresses in unusual colourings
fashionVersace haute couture review
News
Andy Murray shakes hands after defeating Andreas Seppi of Italy in the third round of Wimbledon, Saturday 4 July, 2015
Wimbledon
Arts and Entertainment
'The Leaf'
artYes, it's a leaf, but a potentially very expensive one
News
Yoko Ono at the Royal Festival Hall for Double Fantasy Live
people'I wont let him destroy memory of John Lennon or The Beatles'
News
Could Greece leave the EU?
news
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'