Virginia Barton

21 April 2017: An Italian “Supercentenarian”


21 April 2017


And I thought I was old.

Emma Morano died last week, near Lake Maggiore in Italy. She was one hundred and seventeen and attributed her great age to a diet of a raw egg a day, positive thinking and her single state. In fact she had been married, and bore a little son who died early. The marriage failed thanks to a violent husband: with her brother’s help, she threw the offender out.


When Emma was born in 1899, Queen Victoria was on the throne of England, Umberto I ruled Italy, and Pope Leo XIII held sway in the Vatican. Until the age of seventy five, Emma worked for her living, latterly as a cook in the kitchen of a boarding school for girls.

Apart from that raw egg, she ate pasta and minced meat for lunch with just a glass of milk for supper and a puréed banana before bed. Not a word about vegetables, which is odd for an Italian. Maybe it was a question of teeth? Neither are yoghurt, raw garlic or nuts mentioned, often held to be just the ticket for a long life. As for lentils, alfalfa, carob and soya beans, they don’t get a look-in. What a relief; I never did care for a legume…

Occasionally, when she was very old, Emma would have a sweet “to help pass the time.”


The info above is largely drawn from Ms Morano’s obituary in the Times. It is well padded with things that were happening around the world during the lifetime of the “supercentenarian,” as she is dubbed. When her mother was giving birth to her, for example, a meeting was being held in Spain to set up FC Barcelona. (Rather an off-beat coincidence to choose?)

Her life spanned three centuries but she only saw the sea once, at Genoa, and never went to Rome.

One tries to put oneself in another person’s shoes, but Emma Morano’s are a tight fit as far as I’m concerned, ‘specially as regards that raw egg. Not even for an extra long life.






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