On a cycling tour of Sardinia, you may hear Sardinians greet each other by saying, a kent’annos: “May you live to be a hundred.” In fact, Sardinians are twice as likely to become centenarians as other populations. Could the answer be Sardinia’s Slow Food-style cooking? Its heart-healthy red wine? The outdoor exercise that comes with shepherding? A visit to this Mediterranean island—where people treat food with sacred respect—reveals the secrets of longevity. Are you intrigued?
Blessed by rugged limestone mountains that rise from the dramatic turquoise sea, Sardinia’s pristine beauty makes it one of the Mediterranean’s most exotic islands. Just 120 miles west of mainland Italy, Sardinia seems a world away, thanks to a strong cultural identity. Sardinians speak Sardo, the closest existing language to Latin. This primarily rural island still maintains its age-old traditions, including a unique singing style, canto a tenores, practiced by shepherds for 3,000 years. It’s still performed by quartets of men in pastures and villages.
Traditional Sardinian throat singing: canto a tenores
In Sardinia, food is sacred—an ancestral way of gathering the community. In many villages, locals still bake their own bread, following centuries-old recipes. It’s possible that Sardinia was one of Europe’s first wine making regions—and this island is the Italian region with the largest number of local grapes. Read more about the incredible variety of food and wine in our Guide to Sardinian Food.
A cluster of villages on the island of Sardinia make up what is called the first Blue Zone region. In 2004, a research team, headed up by Dan Buttner, author of the famous book called The Blue Zones, set off to investigate a rare genetic quirk carried by its inhabitants. The M26 marker is linked to exceptional longevity, and due to geographic isolation, the genes of the residents in a certain area of Sardinia have remained mostly undiluted. The result: nearly 10 times more centenarians per capita than what we see in the U.S.
But even more importantly, residents of this area are also culturally isolated, and they have kept to a very traditional, healthy lifestyle. Sardinians still hunt, fish, and harvest the food they eat. They remain close with friends and family throughout their lives. They laugh and drink wine together. Shepherd culture still exists and many men still spend a lot of time roaming the countryside...a natural stress-reducer
In an article written for National Geographic, Dan Buttner sums it up by saying:
“Sardinians offer best practices for us to emulate: drink red wine, share the work burden with your spouse, eat pecorino cheese (and other Omega-3 foods).”
Photo by Bruno Murialdo from his book I Paesaggi
The Sardinian people have much to teach us about longevity!
Find out more about our popular Mediterranean Island Hopping trip, which takes you on a cycling tour of Sardinia and Corsica.