Italy’s Robinson Crusoe leaves paradise island after 32 years of hermit life

Sole inhabitant of Budelli gives up battle to stay on Italian island famous for its pink sandy beaches.

An elderly hermit who has lived on the tiny Italian island of Budelli off Sardinia for the past 32 years has announced his reluctant departure after a decades-long dispute over his right to stay there.

82-year-old Mauro Morandi, who has acted as the island's caretaker since 1989, has resisted attempts to evict him by the national park which includes Budelli among its 20,000 hectares of sea and land to the north-east of Sardinia.

Morandi has defined his role as "keeping tourists at bay", protecting the island's ecosystem and guarding the beach whose pink sand derives its hue from powdered fragments of corals and shells.

Little paradise on earth

Over the years he has built up a loyal following on social media, regularly posting photos from the "little paradise on earth" on Facebook and Instagram.

However the national park has long asserted that Morandi was occupying the island illegally, amid plans to turn his ramshackle home - a world war radio station - into an environmental observatory.

"I have been fighting for 20 years against those who want to send me away, even if supported, psychologically and not only, by Budelli and all of you" - Morandi wrote on his Facebook page - "Now I will leave, hoping that in the future Budelli will be safeguarded as I did for 32 years."

Budelli

Saying he was "tired of fighting, probably also a result of age," Mordani told Italian newspaper Il Resto del Carlino that he would be moving to an apartment on La Maddalena, the main island on the archipelago, but he promises to still post pictures online from "beautiful" Sardinia.

The story of Italy's Robinson Crusoe

Over the years Morandi's story has featured in international publications such as CNN Travel which describes him as "Italy's answer to Robinson Crusoe" and the "lone caretaker of paradise."

Morandi's story is indeed fascinating. He came to Budelli by chance, washing up on its Spiaggia Rosa, or Pink Beach, after his catamaran broke down as he began a journey to Polynesia three decades ago.

The former sports teacher from Modena was instantly enchanted by the rugged Mediterranean isle, happily taking over from the retiring caretaker.

Right to stay

However in recent years his right to remain on the island has come under increasing pressure after the Italian government made the rocky outcrop part of La Maddelana National Park in 2014.

In an unusual set of circumstances the island - part of the Maddalena archipelago of seven isles between Sardinia and Corsica - was sold in 2013 to a New Zealand businessman for just under €3 million.

Mauro Morandi

However the Italian government soon had second thoughts and, following a protracted legal battle, the state reclaimed the island as a nature reserve in 2016.

The Maddalena National Park then challenged Morandi’s right to live on the island.

In 2017 his eviction was subsequently delayed indefinitely following a petition signed by more than 18,000 members of the public, according to National Geographic.

With the relatively recent arrival of wi-fi, Morandi set about documenting the island's natural beauty and posting photographs on social media.

Last year the president of La Maddalena Park, Fabrizio Fonnesu, said that authorities must intervene against "all illegal buildings" in the park, saying that Morandi's hut has "undergone modifications which aren't in accordance with the rules."

Romantic portrait

Local newspaper Sardinia Post quoted Fonnesu at the time as saying that the foreign media portray a "romantic portrait" of Morandi who is in fact "an illegal occupant" with "no right to stay on the island."

Morandi told CNN Travel last year: "I'm ready to do all I can to stay here, even if that means they'll have to drag me away," adding: "I wouldn't know where else to go to live, certainly not back home in the north, nor what to do - this is my life. I just don't see myself playing cards or bowls."

 

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Italy’s Robinson Crusoe leaves paradise island after 32 years of hermit life

Budelli, Italy