Less than one year ago I went travelling around Italy. It should be known that Italy is my favorite country, Italian my favorite language, and its cuisine, coffee and design style my favorites too. In fact, I often wonder why I live in France when it is Italy I love.
The photo above, taken by me in the Puglian town of Lecce, says Chiuso, which means Closed. Italy right now is closed.
In June 2019, I spent three days in Rome before slow-travelling down to the Puglia region by train. Five days later, I travelled northwards, by train again, up to Bologna and then to Milan.
Had someone told me back then that in exactly seven months the country would be BROUGHT TO ITS KNEES by a horrendous viral epidemic killing thousands and thousands, for the most part senior citizens, I swear I would have choked on my cannoli.
As we now know, the main factor affecting the country’s death rate is the age of its population — Italy has the oldest population in Europe. Many of those who have died were in their 80s and 90s, a segment of the population that is more susceptible to the ravages of COVID-19.
But surely that in itself – that there are, or sadly, were so many elderly – is testament to the longevity of Italians and proof of something positive in their lifestyle. Genetics play a large role, of course, but there are other reasons:
Italians use extra-virgin olive oil – a lot.
Rich in antioxidants and fatty acids, Italians use the oil for salads, pasta, dressings, baking, and cooked vegetables. The high nutrient content found in olive oil has been linked to decreasing the risk for Alzheimer’s, depression, heart diseases, diabetes and even osteoporosis.
Italians drink a glass or two a day
In Italian cuisine, red wine is regularly used in recipes due to its ability to enhance flavor and taste. A glass or two of red wine accompanies most meals.
Italians have strong family and social bonds
A study revealed that strong family relationships can decrease the mortality rate and improve emotional and mental health. My brother-in-law is Canadian-Italian. He visits his parents almost daily who are in their mid to late nineties and live in their Toronto home nearby. Funnily enough though, when it came to his parents-in-law and sister-in-law, there was no evidence whatsoever of any family bond, only treachery and betrayal.
The Mediterranean diet
The common Italian diet is rich in whole, unrefined grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish and small amounts of red meat – all of which is usually prepared fresh, and very little is prepackaged or processed. When eating these foods, Italians get a healthy dose of vitamins, protein, antioxidants and omega fatty acids
As I sit in confinement in my flat in Paris, I re-read my blog posts from that wonderful June trip (and previous trips) and look fondly at my photographs. I’m so glad I went when I did, and I look forward to going again.
Here are my blog posts and photos:
And here’s a wonderful video to watch: