Some magnificent multi-chinned women are pictured in Tracey Lawson’s book “A Year in the Village of Eternity”. Her book is the story of Campodimele, a village in Italy whose citizens have a life expectancy of 95, which is 18 more than the Italian average. The author, who now lives in Carlisle, spent the best part of three years in Campodimele investigating the theory that it was something in the diet of the villagers that resulted in their long healthy lives. Her book is a paean to the Slow Life. The people of Campodimele grow their own food, live by the seasons and never touch the kinds of mass-produced processed foods which are laden with chemicals and preservatives. They live off the “good, clean and fair” food which Carlo Petrini had in mind when he founded the Slow Food movement.
But what is particularly endearing about Tracey Lawson’s description of life in Campodemile is that the villagers not only eat well, they eat well. They enjoy their food and get through lots of it. A typical lunch will have five courses and last two hours. And will invariably include pasta. Hence the hefty women. Which raises an intriguing question and one which is overlooked by the author. If diet has an effect on longevity, does it matter if you’re fat, as long as the fatness isn’t a result of too many cakes, cola and KFC?
Why do people in Campodimele live so long? A professor from Rome has carried out several studies and he puts it down to a combination of genes, lifestyle and climate. I think the explanation may be much simpler. There are thousands of villages in Italy similar to Campodimele. Some will have average life expectancy, some above the average and some below. This is the way averages are formed and is a basic law of statistics. Campodimele happened to be the village which had the highest. It’s of no more significance than the fact that Nottingham has an exceptionally high number of Euro lottery winners. Over time Campodimele will regress to the norm, as is happening already, and Tracey Lawson will find that she’s living just as healthily in Carlisle as she did in her enchanting hilltop village.