Italian Food and Flavours

Recipe for a Long Life

Recipe for a Long Life

The Milan expo is about to finish and Le Marche’s theme is longevity – how long people live for.

Interestingly, my adopted territory of Le Marche is the top region in the whole of Italy. Average life expectancy is higher than the rest of Italy; 78 for men and 84 for women and we have the highest number of people who live to 100 and over. A convention held during the expo attempted to study this phenomenon with talks by a range of experts in this field.
I have personally noticed that there a lot of old people around, their wiry frames slowly but surely tending their vegetable plots, walking purposefully to market, chatting outside the village churches or groups of old men playing cards in the bars and putting the world to rights with loud enthusiasm
Dan Buettner from National Geographic ( an expert on places where people live longer) believes:
‘ A person’s longevity comes only 20% from their genes and the other 80% is a question of lifestyle and environment’
Therefore, if the environment of Le Marche has some special elixir what exactly is it?
What factors result in a longer life and also improve on the quality of that long life?
Obviously diet and exercise has a great influence and we’ve all read about the so called Mediterranean diet of fresh vegetables and fruit and lots of olive oil etc. People in le Marche eat seasonal, with lots of olive oil but also eat lots of meat and pizza and some very rich food.

Professor Bernabei who is the director of Italia Longeva in Ancona and also one of the expo speakers believes:
‘ Marche is one of the world leaders when it comes to longevity and we are definitely looking at cholestral, diet and physical activity. But there is obviously something more in Italy in general and in Marche in particular, and that is attitude in life and the satisfaction people get from living a fulfilling life’
Le Marche is a mainly agricultural economy with no major urban areas. The region is a mix of villages and towns. Each village has a strong sense of community with a piazza as the central meeting point. The seasons govern the inhabitants activities and set a natural rhythm to life – in Spring crops are planted, in Summer vegetable plots are full of Mediterranean vegetables and salads, tended daily.  In August everyone uses the piazza as the focus for festas and enjoying the company of others. In Autumn is the hard work of harvesting the grapes, then the olives and in winter the pigs are slaughtered to make the different cuts of meat to see them through the year.

Daily rhythms involve a long lunch break where food is eaten in each other’s company whether it be family members or work colleagues. The pre packed sandwich wolfed down whilst hunched over a computer at the work desk is not the norm.
The landscape surrounds each village with serene views full of the beauty of seasonal changes.  The landscape feeds them in a spiritual way, connecting them to the natural world. Maybe they feel a sense of belonging, of being in the right place and satisfied with life.
The older generation here are also actively involved with extended families as many stay in the same area and they seem to avoid loneliness and isolation. They are looked up to by the younger generation and respected.
So the magic elixir producing long life:
Healthy diet, eating seasonal foods sourced locally and prepared simply but with high quality ingredients
Enjoying meals washed down with a glass or two of wine.
Taking time to eat together with family and friends every day
Always active but as a natural part of their daily lives, not as an intense end of work day gym session
Appreciating the beauty of the landscapes around them and the seasonal changes and feeling connected to their surroundings in a spiritual way
Engaged with local communities – the church, the piazza, the social groups meeting in bars
Having a healthy perspective on life and balancing work with leisure, family and time to talk

Will it all change with the next generations? Maybe – with the coca cola brigade, and younger people’s disengagement from rural life.
Do we as foreigners have a role to play in helping to preserve the lifestyle which results in longer life?
As outsiders we can identify what is good about life here and strive to preserve it, even in a small way.
In setting up a small business venture like Food and Flavours we elevate the rural village life and attitude to eating and appreciating food into something to be praised. On our cooking holidays guests join in with village life, they learn to cook like locals and take time with food, which is more often than not produced locally by artisan producers who are passionate about their products.
They are invited to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding landscapes, the patterns created by rows of vines and fields full of olive trees dotted in symmetry and see first-hand how the small villages work as a miniature society.
Our culinary courses are much more than cooking lessons in big fancy villas in the middle of nowhere. We aim to connect our guests, even if only for a week with local Italian rural life and just maybe they return home with a little bit of that special long life elixir inside of them!
With Italian food and flavours we strive to preserve the longevity lifestyle…….. so what are you waiting for ?

Come see for yourselves what the recipe for long life might be!

So here’s my

Recipe for a Long Life:

Eat well

Eat local

Eat together

Cook the food you eat

Enjoy the food you’ve cooked

Engage in conversation

Stay active

Appreciate the beauty around you

Take life day by day

Make time for yourself and for your family


Recipe by Debby: from Italian Food and Flavours

Italian Food and Flavours