Mauro Morandi has lived on the island of Budelli since 1989. He came upon the island when his catamaran broke down during a trip to the South Pacific. Morandi fell in love and, by chance, found out the caretaker was preparing to retire. He immediately took over the role and has been on Budelli ever since.
However, as of two years ago, Morandi, now 81, has been fighting an eviction notice from the Italian government.
Many people might not recognize the island by name but will know it by its famous pink sand beaches. Budelli was once a harbor for Roman ships and then later a World War II shelter. Later, the Viggiani’s family took over the island, before they sold it to an Italian businessman. In 1984, a real estate company took over the island. The company owned the island when Morandi first arrived. Budelli has since been given to the public and added to La Maddalena National Park.
The Italian government has plans to turn the island into an educational conservation site. The island already has rules in place preventing tourists from removing sand from the beach and swimming in the waters. Now, there are plans to add plaques with informative information along the trails and installing a pier for visitors to disembark tour boats.
La Maddalena’s president, Giuseppe Bonanno, explained Morandi’s presence poses several issues. Morandi’s age will eventually prevent him from continuing his solidarity existence, and his home does not meet current safety standards. However, the thought of returning to life back on the mainland is a punishment in Morandi’s eyes.
“The thought of going back to live in a society that treats nature badly is very distressing. Nature needs to be loved and respected,” said Morandi.
Before the threat of eviction came to be, the caretaker was living a peaceful existence. He resides in an old World War II shelter with a solar system for electricity, appliances, and Internet. During the day, he clears the island’s footpaths, removes washed up garbage, and educates visitors on the island’s wildlife. Food is delivered from the mainland every week, while Morandi spends his free time maintaining his Instagram page and reading.
When his eviction was first announced in 2017, a petition came up to allow him to stay. Thousands signed it, and for a time the issue appeared to be abandoned. However, the Italian government recently announced Morandi must be off the island by the end of 2020.
The caretaker has only left the island a few times since his arrival, with the most recent time being 2018 to visit his children in Modena. If he leaves, Morandi would return to his home town, but he does not know what he will do with himself back amongst people.
“I don’t have a home anywhere else.”