The Art of Living Long

Luigi Cornaro was a centenarian. He is one of many centenarians of past and present times. Luigi lived from 1464 AD to 1566 AD. What make his name stand out from other centenarians is his writings. Luigi shared with mankind his secrets of a long, healthy life.

Luigi Cornaro wrote four discourses, all in the later years of his life—   at the ages of  83, 86, 91 and 95. These four discourses comprise Luigi Cornaro’s treatise. His books are classics. Written over 400 years ago, the message is as applicable today as it was in his era. The book being reviewed in this article, The Art of Living Long, is a collection of Cornaro’s four discourses, originally named La Vita Sobria (literally translated, The Temperate Life).

Luigi Conarao wrote his discourses to motivate others to follow his example of eating only moderate amounts of food, and to follow a schedule even when eating and sleeping. He also tried to avoid stresses such as exposure to extreme cold and heat, avoiding extraordinary fatigue, and interruption of sleep.In his adulthood, Luigi discovered that he had a weak constitution, and he could not tolerate the abuses of huge rich meals and late erratic hours. He suffered with gout, cholera, melancholia, continuous low fever, frequent high fevers and an unquenchable thirst. The cholera (stomach pain) was particularly tormenting. Luigi’s suffering was so severe that he often thought of the comfort of death.

After first trying various medical treatments, to no avail, Luigi’s physicians prescribed a temperate life as the only way to end his suffering and preserve his life. Indeed, these were very wise physicians! The “temperate life” suggested to Luigi meant a life in which self-restraint or self-discipline are exercised, especially in relation to diet and drink. It was suggested that he eat only certain foods, and only in small quantities.

At first he did not follow this recommendation. In Luigi’s own words: “…preferring to live as I pleased and being weary of such foods, I did not refrain from gratifying myself by eating freely of all those things which were to my taste, and being consumed, as it were, by fever, I did not hesitate to continue drinking, and in large quantities, the wines which pleased my palate. Of all this, of course, after the fashion of invalids, I never breathed a word to my physicians.”

When Luigi finally decided to embark on a course of temperate living, he did so with great enthusiasm and determination: “I entered upon my new course so heartily that I never afterward swerved from it, nor ever committed the slightest excess in any direction.”Luigi began to see results after embarking on his new lifestyle within days. He stated that the results were well worth the effort: “…and, persevering in it, in less than a year—though the fact may seem incredible to some—I found myself entirely cured of all my complaints.” Life had become a real joy for Luigi, and his later years of life were by far the best.

“Those who know me well see, and not without the greatest admiration and amazement, how strong I am; that I am able to mount my horse without assistance; and with what ease and agility I can not only ascent a flight of stairs, but also climb a whole hill on foot. They also see how I am ever cheerful, happy, and contented—free from all perturbations of the soul and from every vexatious thought; instead of these, joy and peace have fixed their abode in my heart, and never depart from it…life does not grow tedious to me;…there is no single hour that I am not able to pass with greatest possible delight and pleasure.”

Luigi also attested that he slept very soundly without any disturbances. “Neither does the change of bed affect me in the slightest degree; for I always sleep soundly and quietly in what place so ever I may happen to be—nothing disturbs me, so that my dreams are always happy and pleasant.”

Luigi also states what delight he took in his eleven grandchildren, aged 2 to 18, and he liked to sing with them, “…for my voice is better, clearer, and more sonorous than it ever was before.” Luigi did a great deal of writing, especially on the subjects of architecture and agriculture.

Luigi enjoyed complete freedom from pain, ailments and diseases because he simply ate only as much food as he needed to survive and no more. The key to Luigi’s health and longevity was how much he ate:

“…I accustomed myself to the habit of never fully satisfying my appetite, either with eating or drinking—always leaving the table well able to take more. In this I acted according to the proverb: “Not to satiate one’s self with food is the science of health.”Luigi did not suggest that others should eat the same foods that he ate, nor the same amounts but only that they eat in moderation. “The temperate life,

” says Luigi, “is clearly proven to be one easily followed…it does not call for any great exertion.”

Luigi pinpoints intemperance (primarily overeating) as a primary cause of disease. He states: “…he who leads the temperate life can never fall sick, or at least can do so only rarely; and his indisposition lasts but a very short while. For, by living temperately, he removes all the causes of illness; and, having removed these, he thereby removes the effects. So the man who lives the orderly life should have no fear of sickness; for surely he has no reason to fear an effect, the cause of which is under his own control.”

According to Luigi, each person is his own best physician and the temperate life the best medicine:

“Since, then, a man can have no better doctor than himself, and no better medicine than the temperate life, he should by all means embrace that life.”

Luigi’s abstemiousness is highly commendable. If you are looking for inspiration and motivation to be healthier, and have a long life—than practice moderation—and read Luigi’s book The Art of Living Longer for more encouragement in this area. —


Experiments have shown that the health of laboratory animals can be dramatically improved and their lifespan doubled, simply by reducing their food intake to the minimum required.

Dan Georgakas, author of The Methuselah Factors, conducted a study of longevity among the different cultures throughout the world. He stated: “The major characteristic of the diet of longevous (long-lived) people is low total caloric intake throughout life. Otherwise, the food eaten by the longevous is not greatly different from that consumed by the shorter-lived population, with the exception that longevous people tend to eat far less meat. In terms of calories, the longevous have a daily intake of from 1,500 to 2,000 calories, as opposed to the average American intake of from 3,000 to 4,000 calories. Whereas the typical American diet at the end of the twentieth century contains 40 to 45 percent fats, 15 to 20 percent proteins, and 35 to 45 percent carbohydrates (with the percentage of fats on the rise and percentage of complex carbohydrates on the wane), the representative diet of the longevous contains about 10 to 15 percent fats, 10 to 15 percent proteins, and 70 to 80 percent carbohydrates (mainly complex.)”

Another study demonstrated that rats maintained on a very low-calorie diet throughout their lives lived far longer than contemporaries who were fed a normal diet. Obesity today is recognized as a very serious health problem and one that is calculated to shorten one’s life span considerably. It has been associated with heart disease, diabetes, stroke, varicose veins, and a host of other illnesses. On a calorie-restricted diet, the organs are not being continually overstressed and the body can easily digest and detoxify materials without accumulating surpluses.

Each person should restrict himself to having portions of food that will meet the wants for his system—knowing that whatever is more than this is harmful.Moderation and temperance is simply the development of self-control in our lives. Without moderation or temperance, we develop health-destroying indulgences. We need to learn to control the mind and act from principle, which is what Luigi Cornaro learned and wrote about in his Discourses. To act from principle means to act on an idea on the basis of trust, faith, and doing what we know is right, which will give us beneficial physical, mental, and spiritual results.


*Luigi Cornaro, The Art of Living Long, William F. Butler,

Milwaukee, 1918.

*Dan Georgakas, The Methuselah Factors, Simon &

Schuster, NY, 1980.

*Jay M. Hoffman, Ph.D.,  The Missing Link ,

Professional Press Publishing Co., Valley Center, CA.

*Ross Horne, Improving on Pritikin, Southwood Press

Pty, Ltd, Marrickville, N.S.W., Australia.

*Foster McDonald, D.O., M.D., Sane Living, Sane Living

Publishing Co., Phoenix, AR.

Katy Chamberlin