Entering Campodimele, a medieval village perched atop a steep hill in southern Italy, is like stepping through a portal into a long-ago era – a time when stress hadn’t been invented yet and the air carried an almost tangible sense of calm. Modernisation, or Americanizzazione, as locals call it, has not yet come to this haven of physical and mental well-being, with its olive groves, its ancient walls, and its panoramic mountain views.
Campodimele’s residents have become famed for their health and longevity and the village has been dubbed Europe’s ‘village of eternal youth’. At the last count, Campodimele – whose name comes from the Latin campus mellis, or ‘field of honey’ – had 840 residents, including one 104 year old, forty eight 90 year olds and three 99 year olds. The nonagenarians and centenarians aren’t sitting around in old people’s homes waiting to die though – they are cycling up and down the steep hill along with the young people, chatting animatedly in the cobbled piazza, working the olive groves, and chasing around after their goats.
Look for a doctor or a hospital or a pharmacist in Campodimele and you won’t find one – they don’t need them here. Researchers seeking the secrets of longevity have found that the blood pressure and cholesterol levels of old people – even those aged over 100 – is the same as that of young people. The villagers variously cite as causes of their extreme good health the diet, the fact that they remain very physically active throughout their lives, the pure mountain air and the fact that Campodimele is ‘a perfect spot’ where stress levels are almost zero. Unusually, men tend to live slightly longer than women in Campodimele, perhaps because they lead such physically active, low-stress lives.
The food in Campodimele is of a quality to make top chefs around the world weep. Fresh, organic, local, seasonal, and bursting with flavor, it is simple yet exquisite. Locals enjoy their food enormously, and it is also responsible in large part for their famed longevity, being rich with anti-aging vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial plant compounds.
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