Italians petition to save paradise island's hermit

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Some call it home: the island of Budelli, Sardinia. Photo: Luca Giudicatti
14:31 CEST+02:00
A petition has been launched to stop a Sardinian island from evicting a 77-year-old hermit who has lived there alone for 27 years while working to keep its footpaths and beaches clean.

Former sports teacher Mauro Morandi became the sole occupant of the island of Budelli, which is part of the Maddalena archipelago off Sardinia, in 1989.

Since then, Morandi has spent his time maintaining the pristine island for the thousands of day-tripping tourists who visit each summer.

But now that the island is now back in public hands, his permanence is thought to be under threat.

“I'm really worried the authorities will kick me off the island,” Morandi told Ansa last week.

“Previous owners had all promised me I could stay.”

In order to ensure the island's new guardian, the National Park of the Maddalena Archipelego, don't send him packing, a petition has been launched on the online platform, which has racked up more than 6,000 signatures in four days.

“In all these years, through summer and winter, Morandi has maintained the footpaths on the island and has collected all of the plastic which washes up on its beaches,” wrote the petition's author, Enza Plotino.

“Without him, the island's ecosystem would be severely compromised by now. He is somebody who understands that the world can only remain a beautiful place if we work at it everyday.”

Signatures have come from all over the world – as aside from being something of a local celebrity, Morandi has spent more than a quarter of a decade telling his stories to visiting  tourists from all over the globe.

The island is world-famous for its 'pink beach' the sands of which get their distinctive hue from the tiny fragments of coral and shells.

Morandi originally came to Budelli after being employed as its caretaker by the Milan-based property company, Immobiliare Nuova Gallura

When the company stopped paying for his services 10 years ago, he decided to remain and maintain the island for free.

After it went bankrupt in 2013, the island was put auctioned and snapped up by New Zealand businessman, Michael Harte, who offered to pay €2.93 million.

But needless to say, his offer drew protest from local politicians, who appealed to the government to bring the island back under state control.

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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.

After almost three years of legal wrangling, a judge in Sardinia last week ruled that Budelli should be handed over to La Maddalena national park.

Morandi leaves the island only to visit his family in Modena each Christmas and sometimes takes his dinghy to a nearby port to stock up on essentials which he buys using his pension.

He has in the past told journalists he can't explain what pushed him to to live in solitude and said he hopes to die on the island he has called home for 27 years.

The reclusive Italian shares the Budelli with his cats, chickens and a Christmas tree, which hangs all year round and is decorated with various bits of flotsam he has collected along the island's 12.3 km of coastline.

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