81-year-old hermit has called island paradise his home for 31 years.
A hermit who has lived on the tiny Italian island of Budelli for the past 31 years is facing eviction amid plans to turn his ramshackle home into an environmental observatory.
81-year-old Mauro Morandi has been the sole inhabitant of the Isle of Budelli, located off Sardinia and famous for its pink sandy beaches, since 1989.
Over the years Morandi's story has featured in international publications such as CNN Travel which describes him in romantic terms such 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 after his catamaran broke down as he began a journey to Polynesia more than 30 years ago.
The former sports teacher from Modena was enchanted by the rugged Mediterranean isle, happily taking over from the retiring caretaker, and has never left since.
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 2016.
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.
However the Italian government had second thoughts and, following a protracted legal battle, the state reclaimed the island as a national park in 2016.
The Maddalena National Park then challenged Morandi’s right to live on the island. His eviction was subsequently delayed indefinitely following a petition signed by more than 18,000 members of the public, according to National Geographic.
Morandi has defined his role as "keeping tourists at bay", protecting the island's ecosystem and guarding the beach whose rose-coloured sand derives its hue from powdered fragments of corals and shells.
With the relatively recent arrival of wi-fi, Morandi has documented and shared the island's natural beauty by posting photographs on social media.
However the president of La Maddalena Park, Fabrizio Fonnesu, says that authorities must intervene against "all illegal buildings" in the park, saying that Morandi's hut - a former world war two radio station - has "undergone modifications which aren't in accordance with the rules."
"We need to set the example, protect our environment by first restoring this illegal structure, and then move on with a new project which will likely be a scientific centre for the spreading of environmental awareness," Fonnesu told CNN.
Local newspaper Sardinia Post quotes Fonnesu 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."
Now that Morandi's eviction is back on the cards, reportedly by the end of this year, a new online petition has been launched, garnering more than 6,000 signatures to date.
"I'm ready to do all I can to stay here, even if that means they'll have to drag me away" - Morandi told CNN - "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."
The guardian of Budelli vows to fight for his right to remain on its pristine shores, telling National Geographic recently: “I will never leave. I hope to die here and be cremated and have my ashes scattered in the wind.”
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