Popular legend says that Liguria has an unusually high number of nonagenarians running around. While I have never seen any statistics about this fact, casual observation seems to bear it out.
Any number of the people I know in Levanto, be they friends or acquaintances, have grandfathers, grandmothers, or great-grandparents who have surpassed the 90-year mark. There is also a good dose of interminably vital mothers-in-law that are still pestering their sons-in-law, even when those beleaguered sons are now past 70.
The fact of the matter is that not only are these people past 90, but they are surprisingly spry and level-headed. Just taking a quick look around the hamlet (pop. 100) in which I live provides examples of at least 4 nonagenarians that I know of. One is 94 and still bakes bread daily in an outdoor wood-burning oven (I don’t know if she splits the wood herself). Two are 94 and 91, respectively, and I can currently see them on the steep slope of their olive grove, weed-whacking. Another is one of the aforementioned mothers-in-law … I’ve never met her, but the 82-year-old husband of her daughter seems to be afraid of her yet.
Italy is a nation where people are obsessed about longevity, and will do anything to try and achieve it. Many times, they worry themselves to such a point about whether or not this that or the other thing might be bad for you that the stress no doubt takes years away from reaching their goal. Shouldn’t eat this, shouldn’t do that, mustn’t use this, mustn’t take that. But my suspicion is that the seeming glut of nonagenarians in my neck of the woods is a result of simple lives lived well, good food, hard work, good air, and lots of climbing up and down hills.