How to live to 100: Town full of centenarians spills its secrets.
Acciaroli, Italy told CNN “Eat badly and work hard,” 94-year-old Giuseppe told me when I asked him the secret to a long life.
Giuseppe was taking me to his garden, which he tends to every day, growing tomatoes, peppers, lemons, oranges and lotus fruit.
We had come to his hometown of Acciaroli, south of Naples, for a report on the amazing longevity of its inhabitants, one in ten of whom, according to Mayor Stefano Pisani, is classed as a centenarian.
The reasons put forth for their amazing longevity are many — the so-called “Mediterranean diet,” regular exercise, a mild climate …
Mother-of-eight Luigina Vigiconte, 101, says you must “always be optimistic, never bitter, and always be polite with people.”
For his part Giuseppe laughs off all the talk about clean living, pointing out that until five years ago he smoked two packs of cigarettes a day.
His prescription is somewhat more adult-themed. His secret? “Donne,” he says — women.
He told me that after his wife died six years ago he became depressed. “But then,” he recalls, “I thought it’s not the end of the world. I should go on living. So I asked a donnina (‘little woman’) if she would go with me, and she said yes.
“I noticed that too is indispensable,” he says. “It makes you happy, more cheerful.”
“But does it still function?” I asked.
“Of course!” he replied. “Once it really worked.”
A neighbor told us Giuseppe had already gone through several caregivers because he had made too many unwanted advances.
So while she was cutting up potatoes, tomatoes and garlic to fry with olive oil, I asked her if she liked fish. She giggled, crinkling her nose.
“No, not really. I prefer meat,” she replied. “And ice cream too. I love sweets.”
From the other room Elisabetta laughed with a hint of exasperation as this “promotional event” for the Mediterranean diet suddenly collapsed.
Antonio and Amina say eating fresh food, including their own rabbits and chickens, has kept them healthy.
“I remember everything,” he says. “I remember it as if it was yesterday.”
Antonio wasn’t interested in talking about diet, though. The secret of his longevity, he insisted, was “this beautiful woman, the woman of my life.”
Amina, 93, smiled shyly. Spry and good-humored, she still writes poetry, and recites it easily from memory. Her favorite is a poem she dedicated to Antonio.
“By the sea, the waves put my soul at rest
“I saw a little boat approach, a fisherman laying nets
“When he got closer, I looked at him and he smiled at me
“He invited me on board for a ride, it was a pleasure trip
“I saw seagulls flying around, fighting with the other fishermen
“I was taken by the beauty of the sea, and I became the bride of the fisherman.”
As she spoke the final line, she reached out and caressed Antonio’s chin.
Love and affection — plus all that other healthy stuff, perhaps — are the real secret ingredients of their longevity.