Maria Carrus looks inquisitively into the camera lens. There’s a curiosity in her eyes that belies her centenarian status. She’s been on this planet at least two and a half times longer than the man taking her picture. Perhaps this interest, this perpetual joie de vivre, is the secret to such a long and healthy life.
Alongside a number of others living on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, Maria Carrus is now recognised as being among the longest living of our era. She was born in September 1916, meaning she is now 103 years old and the Italian island she has always called home is one of the regions on a list of so-called ‘Blue Zones’. These zones are places where a particularly large number of people live beyond the average life expectancy, the concept based on the work of eminent demographer Marcel Poulain and Sardinian academic Gianni Pes.
Pes and Poulain travelled through the Sardinian region of Ogliastra and marked their map with a blue circle around every area where they encountered a large number of particularly old people. As well as Sardinia, Okinawa in Japan, the Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica, Ikaria in Greece and Loma Linda in California are all now classed as ‘Blue Zones’. The author Dan Buettner claims that people in these areas share a number of common attributes related to nutrition, physical activity and social life.
But is there another secret to a long life? ‘First and foremost, it is people’s verve and vigour, their eye for details, and the modesty with which they allow themselves to grow old gracefully,’ explains Luigi Corda. ‘I see them as a fountain of wisdom.’
The Sardinian photographer has been collecting portraits of Sardinia’s oldest inhabitants for several years. During this process, he has found out a few things about himself, too.
‘No matter who I meet, be it Maria or Giuseppe, they all approached me with a certain degree of curiosity. They were also excited by the Porsche. They are probably the last people alive to have witnessed the transition from the old donkey-drawn carts to the car.’ Corda smiles. ‘When I pulled up in the Speedster and Giuseppe spotted me, he couldn’t wait to take a look. Sardinia and its inhabitants are really special.’
It’s a slightly contradictory setting for the new 911 Speedster, its aggressive aerodynamic package, chopped down windscreen and burbling GT3 powertrain at odds with the resolutely slow and gentle pace of life that defines this region. But somehow for Corda, with his photographer’s eye, the starkness of contrast brings it all into even sharper focus.
“The landscape is unique and so diverse. Exploring my home with the new Speedster makes it even more fun. You can even drive through the entire island of Sardinia without encountering a single traffic light,” he says with another smile. “The Miami Blue paintwork blends perfectly with the island. It essentially reflects the entire landscape. The emerald green water, the blue zone.” Now he might be pushing it, but Giuseppe loves the Speedster, so who are we to argue?