HEALTHY LIVING
03/28/2008 02:45 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Why Do Sardinians Live So Long?

The Mediterranean island of Sardinia is dotted with prehistoric stone ruins called nuraghi. Little is known about the nuraghi, or the ancient people who built them, except that they predate the earliest invaders to Sardinia, the Phoenicians, who arrived here about 9,000 years ago.

I passed a number of nuraghi as I drove up into the island's interior through mountains of limestone and granite, on a terrifying road, into a region called the Ogliastra. It's never been an easy ramble into Sardinia's mountains. Neither the Phoenicians nor any of other invaders who came to Sardinia later -- Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Carthaginians, Arabs, Genoese, Catalans -- were ever able to the penetrate them. The villages of Ogliastra have had very little contact with the outside world since about the 11th century. Even now, the region is considered by many to be a wild, dangerous place and travelers like me are regularly warned about bandits and kidnappers.

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