‘Italy’s Robinson Crusoe’ to leave island after 32 years

Mauro Morandi (81) to leave pink-sanded beaches of Budelli for small apartment

The famous pink beach of the Budelli island with a view across the sea to the island of Santa Maria off the North East coast of Sardinia. Photograph: Alan Phillips/iStock/Getty Images

The famous pink beach of the Budelli island with a view across the sea to the island of Santa Maria off the North East coast of Sardinia. Photograph: Alan Phillips/iStock/Getty Images

 

A man known as Italy’s Robinson Crusoe who has lived alone on a Mediterranean island for more than 30 years after running into difficulties in the sea has said he is finally surrendering to pressure from authorities to leave and will be moving to a small apartment.

Mauro Morandi (81) stumbled across Budelli, an island off Sardinia known for its pink-sanded beach, in 1989 after his catamaran broke down on the way to the south Pacific. In a fortuitous twist of fate, Mr Morandi discovered that the island’s caretaker was about to retire, and so he abandoned the sailing trip, sold his boat and took over the role.

Since then, Mr Morandi, whose home is a former second World War shelter overlooking a bay, has got to know every rock, tree and animal species of the rugged islet.

Mr Morandi said he had decided to leave at the end of the month after several threats of eviction from the La Maddalena national park authorities, which have been managing Budelli since 2016 and want to reclaim his home and turn the island into what has been described as a hub for environmental education.

“I have given up the fight,” he said. “After 32 years here, I feel very sad to leave. They told me they need to do work on my house and this time it seems to be for real.” National park authorities have argued that Mr Morandi made changes to the building without the required permits.

Mr Morandi, originally from Modena in central Italy, said he was moving into a small apartment on nearby La Maddalena, the largest island of the archipelago. “I’ll be living in the outskirts of the main town, so will just go there for shopping and the rest of the time keep myself to myself,” he said. “My life won’t change too much, I’ll still see the sea.”

As for Budelli, he said: “I hope that someone can protect it as well as I have.”

For years Mr Morandi guarded the island without trouble, clearing its paths, keeping its beaches pristine and teaching summer day-trippers about its ecosystem.

But his role came under threat when the private company that owned the island went bankrupt. Plans to sell it in 2013 to Michael Harte, a businessman from New Zealand who pledged to keep Mr Morandi on as caretaker, were thwarted amid protests and an intervention by the Italian government. In 2016, a Sardinian judge ruled that the island be put back into public hands.

Tourists have been banned from walking on Budelli’s pink beach, from where sand was often pilfered, and swimming in the sea since the 1990s, but can visit the island during the day via boat and are permitted to walk along a path behind the beach.

In recent years, several petitions have attracted thousands of signatures in support of keeping Mr Morandi on the island. His many supporters expressed their disappointment and anger on his Facebook page on Sunday. “There are no words – the destruction of the paradise will begin,” wrote Carmelia Mangano, while Mirella Della Vecchia said: “I can’t imagine Budelli without Mauro’s protection – you must resist!” Salvatore Sechi urged residents of the other islands in the La Maddalena group to “rebel against this injustice”. – Guardian

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