Italian nonna becomes the world’s second oldest person

As of this weekend, 115-year-old Giuseppina Projetto of Italy is the second oldest person alive in the world today.

Italian nonna becomes the world's second oldest person
The second oldest person alive, Giuseppina Projetto. Photo: Richard Monkey/Wikimedia Commons

Projetto, born to Sicilian parents in Sardinia in 1902, is already the oldest living European after the death of a 116-year-old Spaniard five months ago. 

After Japanese “supercentarian” Nabi Tajima passed away on Saturday at the age of 117, Projetto – who turns 116 on May 30th – now finds herself in global second place. The top spot goes to another Japanese woman, Chiyo Miyako, who is older than Projetto by barely a month.

Another Italian, Maria Giuseppa Robucci, is in fourth place on the official ranking compiled by the international Gerontology Research Group. Nonna Peppa, as she's affectionately known, was born in March 1903 in Apulia, where she still resides today.


Nonna Pina – that's Projetto's nickname – left her hometown more than 60 years ago for Montelupo Fiorentino in Tuscany, where she lives with her descendants in the family home. 

“Big hugs to Nonna Pina from all of Montelupo,” local mayor Paolo Masetti wrote on Facebook congratulating her on her new record. 

Dubbed “the grandmother of Italy”, Projetto has been the world's oldest Italian since 117-year-old Emma Morano died last April, followed by 115-year-old Canadian-Italian nun Marie-Josephine Clarice Gaudette, who passed away in July.

She is one of tens of thousands of Italians over 100 and still going. Many scientists have sought to identify the key to Italy's extraordinary longevity, with suggestions ranging from a Mediterranean diet to hormones to sex. 

Projetto's family, meanwhile, put her long life down to well-established habits – such as eating chocolate daily – and a certain spirit.

“She has remained fixed in time,” one of her daughters-in-law told a local paper last year. “With resolution, optimism, dignity – and a great love for life.” 

READ ALSO: Cheese, wine and family: the Italian way to live beyond 100
Photo: Sergio Pani/Flickr




Covid-19: Average life expectancy in Italy dropped by 1.2 years in 2020

Coronavirus cut average life expectancy in Italy by 1.2 years in 2020, and by more than four years in parts of the country hit hardest by the pandemic, official statistics showed on Monday.

Covid-19: Average life expectancy in Italy dropped by 1.2 years in 2020
A cemetery in Bergamo, one of the parts of Italy which has suffered the highest death toll during the coronavirus crisis. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Life expectancy at birth last year stood at 82 years, compared to 83.2 years in 2019, the Istat national statistics office said in a new release.

“In 2020, the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting sharp increase in mortality abruptly interrupted the growth in life expectancy at birth that had characterised the trend until 2019,” it said in a statement.

For many years Italy has boasted one of the longest life expectancies in Europe. But with the spread of the coronavirus, its ageing population was especially vulnerable to falling sick.

Italy has recorded close to 130,000 deaths from Covid-19 in total, which have mainly been among the elderly.


The drop in life expectancy was even steeper in some regions such as the northern provinces of Bergamo and Cremona, the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020.

Men lost on average 4.3 and 4.5 years while women lost 3.2 years and 2.9 years in these areas.

More than 129,500 people with coronavirus have died in Italy, the majority in the northern regions where 36 percent of the population lives.

According to Istat, the pandemic has wiped out many of the gains made year-on-year since 2010, when Italy’s average life expectancy was 81.7.

Italy was the first European country to face a major outbreak of Covid-19 and for a time the region of Lombardy, the nation’s economic heart, became the epicentre of the global pandemic.

Quality of life has also been impacted in Italy, particulary due to the economic repercussions of the crisis.

The government has since rolled out a vaccination programme that, as of Monday evening, had almost 72 percent of the population over 12 fully immunised.

Italy has set a target of vaccinating at least 80 percent of the population by the end of September.