Italian Village Where Residents Live to Over 100 Years Old
The breathtaking beauty and sheer size of Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy, makes it a popular holiday destination for Italians and foreigners alike.
Picturesque towns line the lake’s shores, making a tour of the entire 90-mile (145-km) shoreline a delight. But Limone sul Garda, on the narrower, more mountainous stretch of the lake to the north, is one of the most captivating.
“Limone” means “lemon” in Italian, and the town was known for growing lemons and other citrus fruits. But the name is actually a coincidence, as the town itself is much older than the lemon groves, and the name could also come from the Latin word for boundary.
Among the most striking features of Limone are the pillars and walls marking its shoreline that remain from gardens where lemons were grown. On September 13, 1786, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe passed by the village by boat and described its lemon gardens:
“We passed Limone, the mountain-gardens of which, laid out terrace-fashion, and planted with citron-trees, have a neat and rich appearance. The whole garden consists of rows of square white pillars placed at some distance from each other, and rising up the mountain in steps. On these pillars strong beams are laid, that the trees planted between them may be sheltered in the winter. The view of these pleasant objects was favored by a slow passage, and we had already passed Malcesine when the wind suddenly changed, took the direction usual in the day-time, and blew towards the north.”
Limone has another claim to fame. In 1979, a railway worker who was born in Limone, but who had been living in Milan for over 20 years, was found to have very high cholesterol levels as part of a routine check-up. But when worried doctors checked him for heart disease and blockages in other arteries in the body, they found none. However, they did find an anomalous protein in the patient’s blood, which they named Apolipoprotein A-1 Milano. It quickly removes fat from the arteries and takes it to the liver where it is ultimately eliminated. The discovered protein A-1 Milano is an extremely effective measure against arteriosclerosis and heart attack.
The researchers discovered the same protein in the blood of the worker’s father and daughter. Their curiosity aroused, the researchers performed blood tests on all 1,000 inhabitants of Limone and found a total of 43 people (as of 2020) with this same unusual blood-lipid profile. The local church had birth records going back centuries, and the researchers were able to determine that all those individuals could trace their ancestry back to the same couple (Giovanni Pomaroli and Rosa Giovaneli), who had married in 1644. The protein appears to have given residents of the village extreme longevity—a dozen of those living there are over the age of 100 (for c. 1,000+ total inhabitants).
Until the construction of a lakeside road in 1932, the village was accessible only by boat. As a result, intermarriage was common; many Limonesi married close relatives, thus creating the ideal background for genetic change. The mutation has been passed down thanks to the village’s isolation.
Research has been ongoing to develop pharmaceutical treatments against heart disease based on mimicking the beneficial effects of the ApoA-1 mutation, but a medicine containing Apolipoprotein A-1 Milano has not been successfully developed as of March 2021.
Watch The Gene from Limone
CBS 60 MINUTES (July 16, 1995)
“They are blessed by God,” said the physician with feeling.
“It’s nothing more than God’s whim,” Max muttered, before he could stop himself. (The Gene of Life)