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 raffaelemontepaone.it.