Hands off! School kids try to buy paradise island for Italy

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A group of Italian school children want to buy the paradise isle of Budelli. Photo: Luca Giudicatti
16:07 CET+01:00
It’s an unspoiled island that has been at the centre of legal wrangling for years, but now that a rich foreign banker has renounced his dream of buying it, Italian schoolchildren are taking the matter into their own hands.

It’s a plan which, if their counterparts across the whole of Italy go along with it, would not only give Italian children their own paradise to hang out in, but would save the government €3 million.

Children from the middle school in Mosso, a small town in the Alpine province of Biella, have started a crowdfunding campaign to buy the uninhabited Budelli, part of the idyllic Maddalena archipelago which lies between Sardinia and Corsica, La Stampa reported.

They say that if every Italian child pitches in €0.50 then they could club together to buy the island, which they would name ‘isola dei ragazzi’ (the children’s island).

The savvy youngsters have already managed to pool €75 between the town’s 1,500 residents.

“It seems small, but it’s a first step,” they said.

“The message we want to convey is this: if all Italian school pupils donate €0.50 each we could raise the €3 million needed to win the next auction, which means this piece of heritage won’t fall into the hands of a stranger.”

The island, famous for its pink sandy beach and considered the most beautiful in the Mediterranean, was almost taken over by Michael Harte, a banker from New Zealand who paid €2.94 million when it was put up for auction in 2013.

The children campaigning to buy Budelli. Photo: ‘Non si s-Budelli l’Italia’ Facebook page.

Harte, said to have been in love with the archipelago for years, had carefully drawn up conservation plans to ensure its ecosystem was protected.

But needless to say, his offer drew protest by local politicians, who appealed to the government to bring the paradise, whose previous owner had gone bankrupt, back under state control.

A court in Sardinia overturned a ruling allowing the sale in 2014, and the government then passed a law that enabled the state to buy it back.

The government reimbursed Harte but he successfully appealed, and in October last year Italy’s National Park Authority was told to hand the island back to him, while giving him 60 days to pay his original offer price.

But according to a report in La Nuova Sardegna on Saturday, Harte has since renounced his dream.

The newspaper cited a letter from his lawyer, Luca Montella, who said that the uncertainty surrounding the island’s classification as a reserve, coupled with persistent opposition, forced the entrepreneur to walk away.

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Photo: Who wouldn't want this? Photo: Christopher Sammer

The idea for the school campaign came about on Monday, when a teacher asked the pupils to read the news in La Stampa’s Sunday issue for discussion as opposed to a book.

They picked up on the story about Budelli, prompting a conversation about its rich history and what fate might befall it.

“We read about the businessman trying to buy it and at the point we thought ‘we could make the dream of maintaining it in public hands a reality’,” student Francesca Grillo told La Stampa.

The group quickly formed a group and set about doing the calculations, before taking the campaign, called ‘Non si s-Budelli l’Italia’ to social media.

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