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Finding the secret to why Sardinians live to 100

Simon Calder’s Travel

We meander over the cobbles of Aggius, twisting and turning through side streets as the Mediterranean sun beams down. The serrated mountain ridge of Monti di Aggius offers a protective hug around this ancient village in northern Sardinia.

Curious locals lean over the balconies of their tiny granite homes as we pass by below. Dogs and cats sunbathe next to one of the village’s ancient churches. Local public art (including vibrant paintings of chickens and raccoons on the side of the stone buildings) offers an unexpected contrast to the town’s heritage, transforming it into something of an open air museum.

Everything feels relaxed and serene – but there’s also a warm buzz of life here.

I close my eyes and take in this moment of peacefulness – the quiet only broken by the cheery tones of an elderly local man who makes a beeline for our group, waving and greeting us enthusiastically before thrusting a silver metal bucket under our noses. It’s brimming with dozens of luscious ripe figs picked fresh from his garden that morning.

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It seems that Sardinia has been keeping a secret – and it’s one that I was determined to get to the bottom of. The Italian island is one of the world’s five so-called ‘blue zones’, regions where the locals live longer than average, including an extraordinarily high number reaching the ripe old age of 100.

When it comes to Sardinia, there’s no glaring reason to explain this: there’s no prevalence of fad diets, its people are not overreliant on health supplements, there’s no obsessive gym culture. So what is behind Sardinians’ longevity?

Situated off Italy’s popular Amalfi Coast, nestled between Sicily and Corsica, this Mediterranean island is a holiday estination that’s growing in popularity. It has regular direct flights from the UK to three main airports: Olbia, which serves the northwest; Cagliari, the south; and and Alghero, the centre and north.

The ancient village of Aggius is nestled in northern Sardinia (Rachel Sharp)

You’ll find white sand beaches and turquoise seas that have earned it the nickname the “Caribbean of Europe”. It has a Mediterranean diet rich in meats and seafood – and of course, as would be expected from an Italian island, excellent pastas and local wines. There are beautiful natural landscapes, with about a quarter of the…

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