PERDASDEFOGU, Sardinia — Deep in the Sardinian mountains, an indication on a winding highway reverse an deserted playground welcomes guests to Perdasdefogu, house of the “World Record of Family Longevity.” Black-and-white portraits of the wizened locals who reached age 100 look out onto a sleepy major avenue close to “Longevity Square.” Campaign posters promise the city’s rebirth by way of “DNA” and “Longevity.”
The remoted city, as soon as greatest identified for a navy base that for many years was a launching pad for financial alternative and long-range missiles, is attempting to place itself as a world capital of long-range residing.
Gutted like so many Italian cities by the loss of jobs, low birthrates and the fleeing of younger folks, Perdasdefogu is seizing on its recognition from Guinness World Records as the municipality with “the largest concentration of centenarians” — at present seven of them in a inhabitants of about 1,780 — to spur an financial rejuvenation.
The hope is that mortality-adverse foreigners determined to be taught the secrets and techniques of perpetually sticking round will gasoline a tourism growth, or that genetic researchers keen to check the residents’ uncooked supplies will spend money on state-of-the-art amenities, and possibly even enhance the spotty telephone service by laying down fiber optic cables.
But there’s a trespasser on the city’s oldest-timer territory. Seulo, a smaller city deeper in the coronary heart of the island, has threatened Perdasdefogu’s grand plans by staking a rival declare to the title and Perdasdefogu needs it off its garden.
“They’re not even worth talking about,” mentioned Salvatore Mura, 63, an engineer and native politician who submitted Perdasdefogu’s utility to Guinness. He argued that since Seulo didn’t have 1,000 residents, it didn’t meet Guinness’s necessities for the rating and was out of the operating. “It’s a question of mathematics.”
Mr. Mura, joined by Giacomo Mameli — a spry 81-year-old author who hopes the city’s new standing will generate publicity for a literary pageant he runs — walked by Judgment Day sq. and a mural of outdated males in sweater vests and coppola caps.
The two supplied all kinds of explanations for the longevity of the townspeople. They pointed at the many vegetable gardens with their outsized zucchinis; talked up the native potato bread that they instructed was studied by geneticists; and exalted the pure digestive aids, together with an acidic cheese that jiggled like a chalky dice of Jell-O.
“This,” Mr. Mameli mentioned, holding up a bowl of it, “is natural Maalox.”
The males identified the portraits of centenarians by the flower store — whose greatest enterprise is for funerals — and by the bed-and-breakfast run by Mr. Mameli’s sister, who talked about that Seulo had the next focus of centenarians. (“But they don’t have 1,000 people,” responded her brother mordantly. “Too bad.”)
The males stopped by the bar owned by the Melis household that in 2014 gained the Guinness file for highest mixed age of greater than 800 years for 9 residing siblings.
The Great Read
More fascinating tales you’ll be able to’t assist however learn all the solution to the finish.
Mr. Mura mentioned the financial miracle of Perdas, as the locals name the city, had already begun, with a wine label impressed by the centenarians and a brand new enterprise that promoted honey sweetened by the air “that the old people breathed.”
On their stroll, he and Mr. Mameli visited city elders in piazzas and on their porches, and fed the century-club members longevity traces about the energy of native minestrone and mountain air, chickpeas and the easy Perdasdefogu life-style. But the centenarians had an inclination to go off script.
Mr. Mura prompted Bonino Lai, 102, to speak about the native superfoods. Mr. Lai as a substitute recalled how, after missile launches from the base that prosecutors as soon as shut down for dumping hazardous, uranium-enriched waste, he and his associates would scavenge for fallen components “and mushrooms.”
“They were good!” he added. “Everybody was looking for them.”
When Mr. Mura tried to veer Mr. Lai again to speak of working in the open air, he as a substitute extolled the advantages of procuring a everlasting sinecure on the town corridor.
“I knew the mayor and the councilors,” he mentioned. “They thought I was a nice guy.”
Others mentioned selection was the spice, or a minimum of, preservative of life.
“One day I do this,” Annunziata Stori, who will flip 100 in August, mentioned as she blindly rolled semolina into tiny beads of fregola pasta. “The next spaghetti. Another day lasagna.”
Adolfo Melis, additionally 99, and a surviving member of the record-breaking siblings, retains rosaries in the pocket of his observe swimsuit jacket and mentioned the necessary factor was to not get labored up about issues.
The city’s oldest official resident, Antonio Brundu, 104, whose father lived to 103, spoke gravely about persevering by way of struggling.
“If you don’t have stable work, what life do you live?” he requested, trying askance at the stack of native newspapers reporting Seulo’s rival declare, and with concern at his great-granddaughter, 26, who ignored him and scrolled her telephone in the kitchen. “I had 45 goats!”
One factor all of them agreed on was delight of their city’s new file.
“Inhabitant for inhabitant, we are No. 1,” mentioned Antonio Lai, 100 (no direct relation to Bonino), who goes by the nickname “The Pistol” and boasted that as lately as two years in the past he renewed his driver’s license. (“It must have been an English license,” his grandson-in-law, Giampiero Lai, mentioned. “He drove on the wrong side of the road.”)
The fame of the Guinness rating got here with advantages that Mr. Lai had no intention of relinquishing. “An 84-year-old woman — a big woman — came over and gave me a kiss,” he mentioned.
The city’s few remaining younger folks have been much less enamored with holding earth’s creakiest title.
“Everything is geared toward the old,” mentioned Alessio Vittorio Lai, 16, the great-great-grandson of “The Pistol,” as he fed cash right into a cigarette machine one evening. His good friend Gabriele Pastrello, 16, the grandson of Bonino Lai, the mushroom fanatic, agreed. “There’s nothing going on here,” he mentioned.
Not a lot appeared to be happening in Seulo both.
The city had an identical welcome signal — “The Town of Centenarians” — and in addition adorned its hillside avenue with the black-and-white pictures of residents who had hit the 100-year milestone. Its tourism store supplied copies of “The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100” by Dan Buettner, a self-described “explorer” — and Guinness World Records holder for distance biking — who has helped put Seulo and different so-called Blue Zone sizzling spots, the place folks reside lengthy, on the map.
Locals in Seulo scoffed at the pretension of Perdasdefogu to the geriatric throne.
“It’s just not the way it is,” mentioned Maria Murgia, 89, in a black veil and costume, as she strolled along with her good friend Consuelo Melis, 30, who wore a sports activities bra and yoga pants. “They got their calculations wrong.”
“It’s us,” yelled Giovanni Deiana, 79, who sat on a bench along with his associates in an in any other case empty playground at the edge of city, and anxious that his spouse would reside to 106, as her mom did. “Us!”
Like Perdas with its missile base, Seulo too was once identified for one thing else. A mural on the wall of metropolis corridor exhibits a bearded younger man from the Thirties sporting pastor’s boots and holding a medical diploma to honor the city’s former file of having the highest density of school graduates in Italy.
“But then they left,” mentioned Enrico Murgia, 55, the city’s mayor.
Mr. Murgia mentioned the city’s 5 residing centenarians — with two extra on the close to horizon — gave Seulo, with solely 790 folks, a a lot greater density of the super-old than Perdasdefogu. (On Saturday, one, Pietrina Murgia, died, at age 100, bringing the quantity all the way down to 4.)
An engineer by coaching, he drew pie charts and made equations to indicate “the real figure that launches us as the town with the greatest longevity in the world.”
Calculations apart, Seulo’s distinction for excessive longevity, he mentioned, was a “marketing vehicle” and he headed out into the city with a handful of tourism brochures (“Discover the Elixir of Long Life”). He handed them to individuals who already lived there.
He stopped by the house of Anna Mulas, 100, who, when requested about the secret to her exceptional resilience, recalled carrying cement baggage on her head to assist construct her home. Mostly although she castigated her daughter for not providing sufficient candies to visitors.
Mr. Murgia walked as much as the soon-to-open Museum of Longevity, painted with murals of outdated folks, and promised “an experiential tourist activity.”
At sunset, he took in the view of his pastel-colored city and regretted how years of a swine flu had killed hundreds of pigs, costing many roles and forcing a minimum of 200 residents to maneuver.
“We would have had 1,000 people,” he mentioned. “With those 200, we could have stuck it to Perdas.”