Nestled within the province of Salerno and boasting a population of 317, which for the greater part are over 75, the world’s healthiest village, Pioppi, lies.
It’s ironic the country that celebrates carbohydrates, wine and dolce, renowned for its fine gastronomy and ‘bella vita’ approach to life, houses the healthiest of abodes.
The secret? An abstinence from sugar and ready-meals, a passion for the finer things in life, regular sex, intimacy and conversation and an embracement of all those things that ‘clean eaters’ would have us expel – carbohydrates, saturated fats and alcohol.
But, there’s a cachet. Notice how the Italians do not eat pasta as a main course. Rather, it’s considered ‘primo corso’ (first course) and consequently the portion is far smaller and lighter. For main, white or red meat accompanied with an insalade. The finale is nothing too ostentatious – desert followed by a digestive.
Pane is always served and consumed with lunch and dinner, and a glass of light wine is the perfect complement. Yet, the wine is not the protagonist, it is not to be drunk alone, but rather to be enjoyed alongside food.
There is something to be said for embracing a Mediterranean diet and relishing the simplicities in life. I was recently reminded of this whilst indulging in my partiality for a classic film and subsequently re-watching a personal favourite, Avanti! circa 1972.
Apart from appealing to every southern Italian stereotype imaginable, comically enhanced by the 1970 zeitgeist, there’s an underlying point to take away. Namely, the humdrum of everyday life is to be relished and enjoyed. Throughout the film, the comparison between the chaotic urban life of Boston and London to the tranquil Italian south is made.
The difference? Apart from the obvious disparity in climate, the serene south savours life’s most commonplace moments. In defense of ‘lunch time’ – a 3-hour practice – the Italian maître de, explains:
“Here we do not rush to the drugstore for a chicken sandwich & Coca-Cola. Here, we take our time. We cook our pasta, we sprinkle our Parmigiano, we drink our wine, we make our love”
The storyline is punctuated with these cultural idiosyncrasies, which makes for fantastic viewing, but also makes us contemplate – how much do we neglect life’s simplicities?
The Ease of Pioppi
The film and indeed the town of Pioppi, champions and celebrates the most primal of human emotions: kiss, love, drink, eat – all in moderation, of course. Stress less and be happy. So often do we annihilate introvertedly and compare constantly. As my wise mum, says:
“Darling, you’re your own worst enemy”
Juliette Mills plays the female protagonist in Avanti! opposite the comically gifted, Jack Lemmon. She’s unhappy because she’s ‘fat’, but has a catharsis after savoring her second gelato and realising she’s lost 2 pounds:
“I wasn’t unhappy because I was fat! I was fat because I was unhappy”
Such a simple summation, but one to be remembered.
Additionally, if the populous of Pioppi is anything to go by, we should all make love and sleep more, eat a diet of carbohydrate and protein and never neglect ourselves of anything, or anyone. Moreover, we should compare and scrutinize less and remove our ingrained cynicism and judgement.
The secret is its simplicities. Pioppi is a simple village encrusted with old practices and wise teachings. We should all take note.
In the interim, please watch the 1972 film Avanti! Priceless, timeless and not to be missed!
The Pioppi Diet
Alas, while we all cannot migrate to Italy’s south, we can bring an essence of the revered Pioppi lifestyle into our daily agendas.
Here’s some tips:
– Fat is not the enemy. Rather, sugar and refined carbs should be avoided.
– Exercise is paramount. Additionally, exercise for health not weight loss.
– The medicinal qualities of olive oil knows to bounds. Consume on a daily basis.
– Get seven hours of sleep a night.
– Counting calories is counter-intuitive. Simply, there’s no point.
– Stock up on your egg intake – they’re full of protein.
– Have two portions of vegetables in at least two meals a day.
– Enjoy the simple pleasures. Smile more, frown less and always remember to breathe.