I visited the place where people live the longest and here's what I learnt

So what exactly is a blue zone?

03 Mar 2019

The anti-ageing market was worth a massive $250 billion in 2016 and growing. We are bombarded by products all claiming to be the next big thing in this race against time. Retinol, Vitamin A, Algae... confused? I am. What if there was an alternative to these expensive, and sometimes chemical-heavy products? Where better to start my quest than Sardinia, home to one of the world’s only Blue Zones.

What is a Blue Zone? It’s an area where people seem to live much longer than the average and several communities in Sardinia show this unusual genetic resilience to anti-ageing. Living in London, working my 9-5 desk job is not going to change the genes I have but am hoping that dipping into Sardinian food, lifestyle and climate might help halt those wrinkles.

Valle dell'Erica

After a 2-hour flight to Olbia airport and a quick car transfer across the island, I arrived at 5* Valle dell’Erica, one of the 8 resorts in the family owned Delphina Hotel group located in the North of the island. The resort is not small but feels surprisingly private. Surrounded by coastal parkland and secluded sandy beaches, you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere. There is WIFI available across the resort if you need it - boosters are also available on request - but I recommend a total digital detox. Forget everything. You don’t even have to remember where your room is as private Golf buggies speed you along winding pathways from your room to the private beach or one of the infinity pools and back again!

The itinerary

And then there’s the silence - not something I’m used to living in Zone 2 London and the lack of light pollution meant I slept like a baby. With only a one hour time different, no jet lag either. I felt completely relaxed within hours. Unheard of!

Day 1 after a quick workout in the outdoor fitness centre - yep, the gym is open air! It sits in amongst the olive trees with views of the sea, there are no classes, no thumping house music or shouty instructors, they leave you to create your own workout at whatever pace you fancy. I was in gym heaven - we took a private boat yacht from the shores of the resort to island hop for the day.

The surrounding waters are the bluest and clearest you will see in the Med and the colour varies depending on the underlying granite. With 16 tiny uninhabited islands to visit, you could spend days drifting around the shores. Quiet, tranquil and almost completely uninhabited you totally switch off. The yacht is fully catered so you don’t even have to think about your next meal. A dip in the sea, a swim to shore and still not another human in sight (...if you go slightly out of season. High season can be busy). 100% chill.

On days 2 and 3 we travelled across the island to some of the other Delphina resorts, all similar in format but catering for a slightly different crowd. My favourite was Capo D’Orso. With only 86 rooms, it is geared towards adults so super peaceful with hidden sunbathing spots for two and private sea decking, it feels really exclusive. You totally lose track of time.

The Food

The mediterranean diet is probably one of the most studied diets in the world. A meta-analysis of 1.5 million adults showed the diet to be associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality and reduced incidence of cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's**. Luckily all of the resorts offer menus packed full of heart healthy foods perfect for longevity like fresh oily fish, home grown vegetables, locally produced olives and olive oil with a few cheeky gelatos in the mix.

Thalassotherapy

The anti-ageing highlight for me was the Thalasso & SPA Centres which you can find in 6 of the 8 Delphina hotels. The idea is you move through 4 open air sea water pools full of natural minerals. You slide from bath-like warm to icy-cold via powerful jets, all positioned to target different areas of the body. Apparently this ancient system promotes muscular and mental relaxation, accelerates the metabolism - more room for red wine - and promotes vascular health. If that isn’t going to shave a few years off I don’t know what will. I certainly felt completely invigorated and fresh after a few sessions. Treatments like the ‘Marine silicone and Hyaluronic acid facial or the Collagen Mask, all available on request, offer some added extra wrinkle defence.

Sardinia is beautiful, sometimes remote but always friendly and without the bustle of many of the towns on mainland Italy. I was there for a quick 4 days and I am not sure if it was the silence, the pace of life, the Thalasso treatment or the tranquillity of Valle Del Erica but I have never felt so relaxed and refreshed in such a short time.

For more information or to book visit www.delphinahotels.co.uk. 2019 Season starts from 18th May - 28th September 2019.
For 5* Resort Valle dell'Erica Thalasso & Spa rates start from £145 per person per night in a double room on a half board basis
For 5* Capo d'Orso Thalasso & Spa rates start from £164 per person per night in a double room on a half board basis