Verbania, Italy - Emma Morano, the world's oldest living person, marked her 117th birthday on Tuesday, blowing out all the candles on her cake.

Beaming at the attention, Morano took in the festivities for her milestone celebration sitting in an armchair in her one-room apartment in the northern mountain town of Verbania, joined by her two elderly nieces, a pair of caregivers and her long-time physician.

She received a greeting from Italy's president, read by an official, wishing her "serenity and good health," and appeared for a brief live broadcast on state-run television. She happily accepted some gifts, including her favourite cookies, which she ate with some milk.

Then she blew out the candles on her cake - not one for every year, but three numerals to show her age, 117 - and quipped: "I hope I don't have to cut it!"

To the assembled well-wishers, Morano said, "I am happy to turn 117," and drew encouragement from her physician, Dr. Carlo Bava.

"Who would have said it?" the doctor remarked. "When you were young everyone used to say you were weak and sick."

"Yes, yes," she responded.

Another party, including a visit from the mayor and another cake, was planned for the afternoon, after a nap.

Morano, who is believed to be the last surviving person in the world born in the 1800s, became the oldest living person in May.

Italy is known for its centenarians - many of whom live on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia - and gerontologists are studying Morano, along with a handful of Italians over 105, to try to figure out their longevity. Bava has credited Morano's long life to her genetic makeup and positive outlook.

Morano was born on November 29, 1899 in Verbania.

She has lived on her own ever since she left her husband in 1938 because he beat her.

In an interview last year, she attributed her longevity to her unusual diet: Three raw eggs a day (now two raw eggs and 150 grams of raw steak after a bout of anemia) - a diet she's been on for decades after a sickly childhood.

Morano's sister, whom Bava cared for as well, died at 97.

AP