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Slow food,

It almost sounds like the beginning of a novel: a group of friends sharing a bottle of wine and talking about the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant at the foot of the Spanish Steps in Rome. About how this could be the end of the treasured, ancient Italian

Thu 08 Sep 2005 12:00 AM

It almost sounds like the beginning of a novel: a group of friends sharing a bottle of wine and talking about the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant at the foot of the Spanish Steps in Rome. About how this could be the end of the treasured, ancient Italian way of life: taking time to savour both food and friends. Then one of the group said something like, “Well, instead of falling prey to the fast food movement, let’s start a Slow Food movement.” The rest truly is history.


Carlo Petrini’s casual words in 1986 have become a worldwide phenomenon. At the heart of Slow Food is the promotion of food and wine culture. But it also defends food and agricultural diversity. Slow Food “opposes the standardization of taste, defends the need for consumer information, and protects cultural identities tied to food and gastronomic conditions.” And it manages to do all this while having a simply terrific time.


From its headquarters in Bra, Italy, Slow Food connects with its 83,000 members in 107 (at last count) countries. It has offices in the USA, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Japan and activities in many more. There are around 40,000 Italian members.


Local chapters are called “condotte” (“convivia” outside of Italy). Each chapter is charged with interpreting and representing the philosophy of Slow Food to its members. This is done through organised courses, food and wine tastings, and dinners.  With 700 members, the Florence Condotta is one of the largest and the most English-language friendly.


If you are in Florence for more than a holiday, you may want to check out the programs and courses offered through the local group. They can be found at, and part of the site is in English.  Sandro Bosticco, head of the Florence group, says you should mark your calendar for 10/11 September when the Condotta will team with the government of Fiesole to present the Campionato di..Vino: a blind wine tasting for amateurs and professionals. 


Just after that weekend, you can plan a trip to Bra for the International Cheese Festival.  In addition to being able to taste cheeses from around the world, over 1000 wines will be available for purchase by the glass so you can find the perfect combination.  (More on this later)


If you get really serious, Slow Food offers a Master of Food program with 22 themed courses (such as Cheese, Beer, and Spices).  Classes are planned for fall of 2005 and winter 2006 in Florence itself as well as in Sesto Fiorentino, Bagno a Ripoli, and Prato. 


If you just want some ideas on good places to eat and shop, Slow Food can help you there as well. A sister organisation, Slow Food Editore, is a publishing house with more than 70 titles, two of which are especially helpful. The first, published in collaboration with Gambero Rosso, is the annual Wines of Italy.  The 2005 edition is available in English as well as the Italian original.


Another great book to have at hand is Osterie d’Italia. It is 840 pages of suggestions of places to eat all across Italy, some of which are in Florence and nearby. It includes some 1700 osterias, restaurants, trattorias and wine bars, all of which (in the opinion of Slow Food’s testers) represent the best and most faithful examples of the local, traditional food. In addition, Slow Food feels these spots have welcoming environments and good value for money.  Even if you don’t read Italian, the symbols for “excellent value” and “great wine list” can be easily understood.


But what if you just want some suggestions, not sensory overload? You’re interested in knowing where to buy a local gastronomic specialty, or the best cheese, or who has the best wine cellar? No problem: take out a free membership on the website ( Once you create a user name and password, you will have access to thousands of reviews, separated regionally or by topic.  The Florence area has 42 suggested product shops, 68 wine cellars, 9 cheeses of the region, and 24 places to eat. And the website is in English, French, and German, as well as Italian.


If even going to the website is more than you can manage in the heat, just keep an eye out around Florence for a little snail (chiocciollina) symbol on the doors and windows of restaurants, wine bars, and shops: it indicates they are in the Slow Food program.  What better way to represent a “slow” movement than a snail, right?


As Carlo Petrini says, “If you have a good time while you eat, you will have better meals and a better life.”  Hope you enjoy!




What: Wine identifying contest for wine lovers and experts + other wines and artisanal foods


When: September 10-11, from 3-6 PM


Where: Roman Amphitheatre in Fiesole (Number 7 bus)



What: An opportunity to taste every IGP and DOP cheese from Italy and the rest of Europe + over 1000 wines to pair with them; only happens once every two years


When: September 16-19; opening at 11 AM on the 16th, at 10 AM all other days


Where: Slow Food’s International Headquarters – Bra, in the Piedmont More info:

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