Come on Italy! … Slowly

24 Feb 2011

British author and international advisor Bill Emmott has cited the Slow Food movement in his latest book as an example of the many beacons of hope in the future of Italy. Emmott met with Slow Food International President Carlo Petrini in Bra, Italy last night for a public debate alongside Cesare Martinetti from influential Italian newspaper La Stampa, to discuss the current state of the country and where its positive energy and opportunities for change lie.

Emmott’s visit was held following the recent release of his latest book, Forza, Italia: Come ripartire dopo Berlusconi (Come on Italy: how to start again after Berlusconi), where instead of focusing on the ‘bad Italy’ as he calls it – more often the focus of literary attention – he looks instead at its strengths. In particular, he discusses the abundance of pro-reform groups already at work, and how these might be unleashed after the fall of the current government. One of these, he believes, is the Slow Food movement.

“What caught my eye about Slow Food during my research for this book was not food. It was its success as an organization through the creation of a network with national and international dimensions over the last two decades, which is a real achievement in Italy. As I learnt more and more about Italy as an outsider, I realized that Slow Food epitomized one of its main strengths: social capital [the idea that social networks have value] and the ability to work together for a common purpose.”

While Emmott’s opinion of the Slow Food movement’s value in Italy is clear through the pages of his book, the former editor of The Economist is also convinced of its importance and potential on an international scale. “Slow Food is already working to create better communities and countries, through its way of organizing and gathering people together under an umbrella of principles and methods while retaining their local identity. By promoting the general idea and promoting the organization’s method, Slow Food has a powerful impact and potential around the world.”

“In the same way as the internet does, Slow Food allows access to quality and authenticity from a much wider range of places than would have been possible before. Its soul is in localism, but it is a promoter of internationalism and a celebration of other people’s nationalism, while hoping that it is preserved.”

Emmott puts Slow Food among the ranks of a myriad of other initiatives ticking away around Italy. He recounts a number of stories as proof that the country should be hopeful for its future: from creators of anti-mafia organizations in the country’s south; to the youth who are becoming powerful voices in politics, journalism and academics; to Nichi Vendola, the “charismatic, gay, ex-communist governor of the southern region of Puglia”.

“When deciding to write this book, I became aware that there is too much written about the ‘bad’ Italy, and there was nothing new that I could say. And it has produced a prevailing sense of hopelessness and an idea that nothing can be done. So I wanted to write about the country’s strengths.” And even in light of the political dramas that have taken place since he researched and wrote this book, he maintains, “Yes, I am still optimistic”.

While the Emmott’s book was written in English, the Italian translation has been published first and an English edition is scheduled to be published this spring.


Bill Emmott’s visit was organized by Slow Food Italy and the University of Gastronomic Sciences.

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