PERDASDEFOGO, Sardinia. Deep in the Sardinian mountains, a sign on a winding road opposite an abandoned playground welcomes visitors to Perdasdefogou, home of the “World Record Family Longevity”. Black-and-white portraits of shriveled local residents who have reached the age of 100 look at the sleepy main street near Longevity Square. Campaign posters promise the rebirth of the city through “DNA” and “Longevity”.
The isolated city, once known for its military base that has been a launching pad for economic opportunity and long-range missiles for decades, is trying to position itself as the world’s long-distance capital.
Gutted, like many Italian cities, by job losses, low birth rates and the flight of young people, Perdasdefogou has seized on its recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records as the municipality with the “largest concentration of centenarians” – currently seven of them in the population. around 1780 – to stimulate economic rejuvenation.
The hope is that foreigners unafraid of mortality, desperate to learn the secrets of permanent residence, will fuel a tourism boom, or that genetic researchers eager to study the raw materials of local people will invest in cutting-edge facilities and perhaps even improve the erratic telephone service. by laying fiber optic cables.
But an intruder entered the oldest territory of the city. Seulo, a small town in the interior of the island, has jeopardized Perdasdefog’s grand plans by claiming the title, and Perdasdefog wants to get him off his lawn.
“They’re not even worth talking about,” said Salvatore Mura, 63, an engineer and local politician who applied to Perdasdefog for Guinness. He argued that since Seoul did not have 1,000 residents, he did not meet the Guinness rating requirements and did not enter the race. “It’s a matter of mathematics.”
mr. Mura, joined by Giacomo Mameli, is an energetic 81-year-old man. author who hopes the city’s new status will draw attention to its literary festival, walked past Doomsday Square and a mural of old men in sweaters and coppola caps.
The two offered all sorts of explanations for the townspeople’s longevity. They pointed to numerous kitchen gardens with huge marrows; touted the local potato bread, which they supposed was being studied by geneticists; and extolled natural aids to digestion, including sour cheese that jiggled like a chalk Jell-O cube.
“This,” Mr. Mameli said, holding up the bowl of it, “is natural maalox.”
The men pointed to portraits of centenarians outside a flower shop whose core business is funerals and outside a bed and breakfast owned by Mr. Wilson. Mameli’s sister who mentioned that there are more centenarians in Seoul. (“But they don’t have 1,000 men,” her brother replied caustically. “It’s a pity.”)
The men stopped at a bar owned by the Melis family, who in 2014 entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest cumulative age of over 800 years for nine living siblings.
More fascinating fairy tales can not be read to the end.
mr. Moura said the economic miracle of Perdas, as the locals call the city, has already begun with a centenarian-inspired wine label and a new business to promote honey sweetened with the air “that old people breathed.”
During the walk, he and Mrs. Mameli visited the elders of the city in the squares and on their porches and told the members of the club of the century stories about the strength of the local minestrone and mountain air, chickpeas and the simple lifestyle of Perdasdefog. But centenarians had a tendency to deviate from the script.
mr. Moore encouraged 102-year-old Bonino Lai to talk about local superfoods. mr. Instead, Lai recalled how, after rocket launches from a base that prosecutors had once shut down for dumping dangerous uranium-enriched waste, he and his friends would gather to search for fallen parts “and mushrooms.”
“They were good!” he added. “Everyone was looking for them.”
When Mr. Moura tried to turn Mr. Returning to the conversation about working outdoors, he instead extolled the benefits of acquiring a permanent sinecure at the town hall.
“I knew the mayor and the councilors,” he said. “They thought I was a nice guy.”
Others have said that variety is a spice, or at least a preservative of life.
“One day I will do it,” said Annunziata Story, who turns 100 in August, as she blindly rolled semolina into tiny balls of fregol pasta. “The next spaghetti. Another day of lasagna.”
Adolfo Melis, who is also 99 years old and survived from the record-breaking brothers, holds a rosary in the pocket of his sports jacket and says that it is important not to worry about trifles.
The city’s oldest official resident, 104-year-old Antonio Brundu, whose father lived to be 103, spoke earnestly of resilience in the face of suffering.
“If you don’t have a stable job, what kind of life are you living?” he asked, glancing sideways at the stack of local newspapers reporting Seoul’s rival claim, and anxiously at his 26-year-old great-granddaughter, who ignored him and scrolled through her phone in the kitchen. “I had 45 goats!”
One thing they all agreed on was pride in their city’s new record.
“Resident for resident, we are #1. 1,” said 100-year-old Antonio Lai (not directly related to Bonino), known by the nickname “Pistol” and boasting that he renewed his driver’s license just two years ago. (“It must have been an English license,” his grandson Giampiero Lai said. “He was driving on the wrong side of the road.”)
Glory in the Guinness rankings came with the benefits that mr. Lai wasn’t about to give up. “An 84-year-old woman – a large woman – came up and kissed me,” he said.
The few young people left in the city were less fascinated by the title of the most squeaky on earth.
“Everything is geared towards old people,” said 16-year-old Alessio Vittorio Lai, the great-great-grandson of Pistol, when he tossed coins into a cigarette machine one night. His friend Gabriele Pastrello, 16, grandson of Bonino Lai, a mushroom lover, agreed. “Nothing is happening here,” he said.
In Seoul, it seems, too, nothing special happened.
The city had a similar welcome sign – “City of Centenarians”, as well as a street on the hillside was decorated with black and white photographs of residents who turned 100 years old. His travel store offered copies of Blue Zone Cuisine: 100 Recipes to Live to 100 by Dan Buettner, a self-proclaimed “explorer” and Guinness World Record holder for long-distance cycling who helped Seoulo and other so-called Blue Zone hotspots. where people live long, on the map.
Locals in Seoul ridiculed Perdasdefog’s claim to the geriatric throne.
“It’s just not like that,” said Maria Murgia, 89, in a black veil and dress, walking with her friend Consuelo Melis, 30, who wore a sports bra and yoga pants. “They miscalculated.”
“This is us,” shouted 79-year-old Giovanni Deiana, who sat on a bench with his friends in an empty playground on the outskirts of the city and worried that his wife would live to 106, like her mother. “Us!”
Like Pedas with its missile base, Seoul also used to be known for something else. A mural on the City Hall wall depicts a bearded young man from the 1930s wearing pastor’s boots and holding a medical degree in honor of the city’s former record for most college graduates in Italy.
“But then they left,” said Enrico Murgia, 55, the city’s mayor.
mr. Murgia said the city’s five living centenarians — and two more on the near horizon — have given Seoul, home to just 790 people, a much higher density of super-olds than Perdasdefogu. (On Saturday, one of them, Pietrina Murgia, died at the age of 100, bringing the number to four.)
An engineer by training, he drew pie charts and created equations to show “the real number that turns us into the city with the greatest longevity in the world.”
Calculations aside, Seoul’s recognition of extreme longevity was, he said, “a marketing ploy” and he went to the city with a handful of travel brochures (“Discover the Elixir of Longevity”). He gave them to the people who already lived there.
He stopped at the home of Anna Mulas, 100, who, when asked about the secret to her amazing resilience, recalled wearing bags of cement on her head to help build her house. Basically, she scolded her daughter for not offering enough sweets to the guests.
mr. Murgia approached the soon-to-be-opened Museum of Longevity, decorated with old people’s frescoes, and promised “experimental tourism activities.”
As the sun set, he took a look around his pastel-colored city and lamented that years of swine flu had killed thousands of pigs, cost many jobs, and forced the displacement of at least 200 residents.
“We would have 1,000 people,” he said. “With these 200, we could glue them to Perdas.”