On my way to Toscana/Tuscany from Rome (we went on a day tour), I enjoyed a great view of the nature while listening to a guide’s interesting explanation about Toscana. What fascinated me the most about Toscana was its title, ‘Slow City.’ To be more accurate, it’s not the title of Toscana, but that of many villages located in Toscana (along with other small cities in Northern Italy)
Slow city and Slow movement.
Yes, it is what you are thinking right now. Quite self-explanatory.
Residents bonded together to make their community more organic, independent, and sustainable, which is an opposite movement to the rest of the world. They support people to have a slow lifestyle, utilize their own local resources, consume local products, and etc. The international organization called Citta Slow endows the title of Slow City after checking several qualifications. In this post, I will not talk about Citta slow and logistical process of Slow City. I will focus on the environment and lifestyle of Northern Italy, which allowed the cities to gain Slow City titles and encouraged them to sustain their nature and local assets.
Northern Italy – Green fields, Cows, and Food
Northern Italy’s identity is basically its nature.
- Northern part of Italy including Toscana has a lot of grass fields.
- So, people naturally raised cows in pasture.
- It developed industries related to cows — T-bone food and leather products
- That’s why after travelling Italy, everyone asks you, “Did you eat T-bone? Did you buy a hand-made leather bag?”
Val d’ Orcia, well-known to slow-travellers – Slow City and Slow Movement in Northern Italy.
- Bagno Vignoni
I’m not sure if Bagno Vignoni is assigned as slow city, but as it is a part of Val d’Orcia, we should not miss it. You can look around Bagno Vignoni in 30 minutes — extremely small village. But you may want to stay here a bit longer than that. Not only because of its great view, but also because of its hot spring..! You can’t have a full bath or shower like before (too bad), but you can at least have a taste of it. There’s still a stream of hot spring — take off your shoes/socks and enjoy some foot spa. It smells like rotten eggs, but feels perfect.
Bagno Vignoni (Photos taken by me) ↑
One of the best places for wines. I visited Montalcino winery as part of a tour, and will write a quick and more specific review about their wines and winery.
Montalcino produces great wines and each grape farm and winery is definitely proud of its products. Every year, they elect the best poster for the town’s logo/brand image, and they are all artistic and wine-related. The town itself is also very peaceful and surrounded by beautiful nature.
Montalcino (photos taken by me) ↑
It is another beautiful village in Val d’Orcia. It is extremely hard for tourists/travelers to go by themselves without a car. Luckily, we were on a tour and visited here without much trouble. Amazing cheese, crazy mind-blowing vinegar products, and Bottega (hand-made leather products – the craftsman was super nice and warm, although he seemed overwhelmed by our endless, sorry, requests for carving initials), … Basically, the neighborhood was like a heaven full of beautiful views, peaceful atmosphere, and delicious natural products. If I visit Italy again, I will definitely buy tons of truffle and vinegar products.
I did not visit the cities below, but it’s worth to know them — in order to understand food and lifestyle of slow cities in Northern Italy.
Orvieto is the very FIRST slow city in Italy. Orvieto’s foggy weather is perfect for mushroom farming. Mushrooms are often served as desserts for wines and alcohols. Fungi Porchini is a pasta with mushroom sauce, and tastes wonderful. As Orvieto has a lot of historical and religious legacies, we assumed that it promoted slow movement to protect those regional assets. It is known for its Gothic beauty and a hallow. Michelangelo was inspired for his Last Judgement by the Last Judgement (Luca Signorelli) in Orvieto Cathedral. The cathedral is keeping hallow — 5 drops of blood that dropped from Raphael’s picture in Saint Christina Cathedral — which is called The miracle of Lake Bolsena.
The most foodie, food-obsessed city! It’s located in the state called Emilia Romana. Bologna is definitely a place for gastronomes. As Bologna has every type of land, the city flourishes with different food ingredients. It is even called as Fat City. Every year, there’s a Truffle Mushroom festival in Bologna. I have not eaten truffle in other places, but I’d dare say Italian truffle is one of the best. I tasted several truffles – 10 years, 30 years, 50 years etc – and truffle vinegar in the market, and it was a mind-blowing taste ((but seriously))
- Falesco – Est, est, est!
It is nearby Orvieto and famous for its wine products and truffles. Este wine has a famous background story. A german bishop, Johannes, who was also a gastronome, visited Italy for religious purpose. He made his servant to go ahead of him and mark something in front of the towns with delicious food. And the servant marked everywhere else as Este (Here), but wrote Este, Este, ESTE! in front of Falesco. (Sadly, the bishop passed away in this village, after having too much wine and good food for few days.) Anyway, one of the wine products by Falesco was named after that story. Truffle is Falesco’s another specialty. Before, people found Truffle mushrooms in the mountain with pigs, but as they ate most of truffles even before people harvest, so they changed pigs to dogs.. Truffle is also known as the food of the emperor – healthy and tasty.
++ Fun Fact about Gypsy
Many backpackers or residents encounter Gypsies in Europe, especially Italy and Spain among the most popular countries to travellers. They are quite infamous among travellers — they just take what you have without feeling guilty. It’s because they do not have the concept of possession. They share everything in their communities and problematically, they act in such way outside of the communities.
I will just briefly mention about Gypsy because that’s what I first saw on our way to Toscana. There was a Gypsy town in the middle of the vast green field between Rome and Toscana. Historically, many gypsies came from Egypt, which is an etymology of the word ‘Gypsy’. They were also called Bohemian. Basically, Bohemian and Gypsy are same. But it’s funny that how people use Bohemian in a very cool, hipster way, while they go eww with Gypsy.