“Now it’s continuous noise”: the Italian Crusoe adapts to life off his island | Italy

Every morning, Mauro Morandi woke up to the breathtaking view of the sea that only he had access to. Immersed in nature, he was intimately in tune with the sounds of dawn and the habits of the wildlife that surrounded his home, a former WWII shelter on Budelli, the Mediterranean island where he had lived alone for more. 30 years old.

Now the 82-year-old is adjusting to life in a one-bedroom apartment next to a store with a Sky TV sign outside, surrounded by neighbors and with only a glimpse of the ocean in between. the spaces between the buildings opposite on the neighboring La Maddalena, the largest of an archipelago of seven islands off the north coast of Sardinia, Italy.

Speaking from his new home, Morandi said: “I have gotten so used to the silence. Now it’s continuous noise… music, scooters, people… it distracts you so much that you don’t have time to think.

More than three months have passed since Morandi, a former physical education teacher in the city of Modena in northern Italy, was forced to leave Budelli, where he had learned about all rock species. , trees and animals of the rugged islet.

He had expected the public’s fascination with his life to wane after he left; instead, he became more fervent. Fans around the world continue to send him messages. A recent one said: “Mauro, the master of solitude. Journalists always call him for quotes, or in anticipation of writing a book or making a movie.

“I thought that after I left Budelli, nobody would talk about me anymore,” he said. “Instead, you reporters keep harassing.”

When asked why he thought the intrigue within him was so intense, Morandi replied, “It’s like people delegate me to do something they would never have the courage to do.”

Morandi had always dreamed of living on an island.

Exasperated by consumerism, politics and other aspects of society, he decided in 1989 to set sail for Polynesia in search of his idyll. But her trip to the South Pacific was aborted shortly after leaving mainland Italy due to a technical problem with her catamaran, forcing her to anchor at La Maddalena.

He decided to work on the island for a while to pay the cost of the boat and finance the rest of the trip. But then, after applauding the nearby uninhabited Budelli, Morandi realized that his paradise was much closer to home.

In a twist of fate, the island keeper was about to retire, so Morandi abandoned the trip to Polynesia, sold the boat and took over the role.

For the next two decades, he kept Budelli trouble-free, clearing his paths, keeping his beaches pristine, and teaching summer day trippers his ecosystem.

Tourists have been banned from walking on the island’s pink beach, from which sand was often stolen, and from swimming in the sea since the 1990s, but can visit during the day by boat and are allowed to walk the along a path behind the beach. They were often surprised to meet the only inhabitant, although word quickly spread, which earned Morandi the nickname Robinson Crusoe after the castaway from Daniel Defoe’s novel.

Among the intrigued visitors over the years were former Formula 1 boss Flavio Briatore and his then-girlfriend Naomi Campbell. The couple came to get a meal with Morandi. The most he could offer was coffee. They refused and left.

Food was delivered to her by boat from La Maddalena, and a homemade solar system powered her lights, refrigerator and internet connection. In winter, when there are no visitors, he spends his days collecting firewood, reading and sleeping.

Morandi’s life continued at about the same pace until the private company that owned the island went bankrupt. Plans to sell it in 2013 to Michael Harte, a New Zealand businessman who had vowed to keep Morandi as a caretaker, was thwarted amid protests and intervention by the Italian government. In 2016, a Sardinian judge ruled that the island was handed over to the public.

The authorities plan to make Budelli a hub for environmental education. Photograph: Robertharding / Alamy

Until his departure at the end of April, Morandi was embroiled in a long battle with the authorities of La Maddalena National Park, who now manage Budelli, as he fought against the eviction. Authorities, who are considering making Budelli an environmental education center, accused him of making adjustments to his home on the island without the required permits and said he had to go.

Both sides appeared to have come to a compromise earlier this year, with Morandi saying he may be able to return as a keeper once work on the island is completed. “The park manager suggested leaving before the work started, in exchange for his attempt to get me a return contract as a warden,” Morandi said. “The works were supposed to start a week after I left, but they still haven’t started.

Budelli is now monitored by CCTV cameras. Morandi recently returned there to collect some belongings. “It was a disaster,” he said. “The beaches have been trampled on. I knew it would happen. There is no one left to educate tourists.

Yet as he reflects on his life, Morandi accepts that maybe it was time to leave Budelli. “Last winter was very harsh. It was raining a lot, there was hardly any sun to supply the electricity… for three months I ate in cans. I’m 82 and life there has become more of a challenge. I have a bad leg and had difficulty walking – if I had fallen on one of the rocks there would have been no one to help me.

The past few months have given him time to cultivate a new hobby – taking photos of the architecture of La Maddalena – as well as repairing relationships with his three daughters, who live in Modena. “I will never regret the choice I made, but it was not easy,” he said. “My daughters were adults when I moved to Budelli and I thought they accepted it… it wasn’t until later that I realized they hadn’t. A girl didn’t speak to me for four years, we only started talking again recently.

The day after we met, Morandi left for Modena to visit his family. “Budelli’s experiment is over,” he said.

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