Ines Calderara turned 100 on Thursday August 18. Her secret to long-life: “No medicine, wine only,” her nephew Giorgio Sanguineti said.
Ms Calderara spent her 100th birthday in the company of the children at the American International School in Constantia. Her friend Inga Freddi said it was her “saddest” birthday yet because the school had strict rules prohibiting the consumption of cake and alcohol.
“We get requests for cake every day,” headmaster Dan Jubert said, adding that the school encouraged healthy eating.
Ms Freddi stuck the birthday candles in a papaya instead and put it on the fruity party table where it sat demurely next to the naartjie skewers.
Ms Calderara sat close by and was eagerly greeted by pupils. The school was specifically chosen for the party venue because she visits it every day. “She normally comes here to spend time. She loves it and everyone knows her,” Ms Freddi said.
Ms Calderara came to South Africa four years ago. “She called us and said ‘I want to start a new life’,” Ms Freddi said.
She had been staying alone in Genoa, Italy, but wanted to be among her family in South Africa. She and her caregiver now live in Constantia, with her nephew, his wife, four children, seven dogs, four cats, a horse and a parrot. “She loves being with her family,” Mr Sanguineti said.
In Italy, Ms Calderara had been the eldest of two sisters. “She is the only surviving of that generation,” Mr Sanguineti said.
She has been a widow for many years but had no children. “But she thinks South African men are very handsome,” Mr Sanguineti said.
“Do you know what she said to a woman at the gate?” Ms Freddi added laughingly. “She said; ‘I like very much your husband’.”
Children and their parents popped in at the party to wish Ms Calderara and have some fruit. The centenarian didn’t eat anything at the party but gestured to the headmaster that she wanted a glass of wine. Ms Freddi said Ms Calderara was not a picky eater as long as her meal was accompanied by a glass of wine.
Initially she had not been taken with South African wines but there turned out to be a good reason for it. “She said to me, ‘South African wine is very weak’,” Ms Freddi said. She then told her daughter, Christina, Mr Sanguineti’s wife. “’That’s because I put water in it’, she said. But of course she found out straight away,” Ms Freddi said.