The rural people of Calabria, in southern Italy, live an unusually long time. The average global lifespan is about seventy-two years, but the residents of this sunny, mountainous peninsula often live into their nineties and beyond — and they suffer less from ailments like dementia and heart disease that typically affect the elderly. The phenomenon has attracted the attention of scientists, who have studied the diet (lots of fruits and vegetables), lifestyle (highly active), and genetic makeup of Calabrians. So far the research has proven inconclusive, though the secret to longevity in Calabria is likely a combination of all these factors. The Italian culture, which exhorts all to mangia bene, ridi spesso, anna molto (eat well, laugh often, love much), probably has something to do with it, too.

Raffaele Montepaone is a native of Calabria, and he has been taking photographs of the region’s hardy elders for the last ten years. You can see more of Montepaone’s work at

— Ed.

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One of the last remaining residents of the village of Staiti, Caterina smokes more than three packs of cigarettes a day.

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The hands of a woman known to all in the village of Stilo as Aunt Concetta.

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Angela, who lives in the village of Stefanaconi, braids her hair as she has done almost daily since she was a child.

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As she prepares to go to sleep, Maria Antonietta, who lives in the village of Briatico, tells the photographer about her husband, who is waiting for her in heaven.

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An unidentified woman in the village of Sant’Onofrio. Courtesy of Alidem Gallery Milano.

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An unidentified woman outside a church in the village of Jonadi. She told the photographer that everyone’s life is in God’s hands.