On this website, we’re all outdoor enthusiasts; we function at a higher level in the type of places where human beings haven’t made their mark. The wild is what we love, and for those of us with careers and lifestyles that keep us inside, the next adventure can’t come quick enough.
Does love for the outdoors make us “wild people,” though? Sometimes the warm shower after a winter mountain ascent can be just as enjoyable as the time spent on the trail. And most of us are guilty of overindulging on the comforts our devices give us.
Castaway By Choice
There are real “wild people” out there, though, who live the lifestyle day in day out. Look no further than Mauro Morandi, who has lived on Budelli Island for the past 32 years. The modern-day hermit made his home on the island, situated on a stretch of water between Sardinia and Corsica, the Italian and French islands.
Morandi’s story began in 1989. The young man already had plans to enjoy simple island life. He sailed with a few friends to escape the hardships of his native Italy for exotic lands.
“I was quite fed up with a lot of things about our society: consumerism and the political situation in Italy, I decided to move to a desert island in Polynesia, away from all civilization. I wanted to start a new life close to nature,” said Morandi.
Morandi and his friends settled for a short while on the Italian archipelago of La Maddalena, where they planned to work to fund their trip to Polynesia.
When he sailed away from the archipelago, his catamaran suffered engine failure and washed up on the island’s coast. He ended up calling home for over three decades. An unlikely twist of fate led Morandi to learn that the island’s caretaker was due for retirement.
He took the job and sold his catamaran. He found his island, after all, albeit a lot closer to home than he expected. His friends continued their lives, and Morandi spent the rest of his days with only tourists to occasionally speak to.
Our hero sure knew how to pick a great location to be alone. The weather for a start would help in keeping one’s spirits high. But, it was Budelli island’s bitter-sweet beauty that would lead to Morandi’s reluctant emigration.
The problems began as Morandi was still settling in. Most consider Spiaggia Rosa to be the most stunning part of Budelli, that’s Pink Beach to English speakers. The etymology is simple, tiny fragments of shell and coral have been worn down over the years by the tide, creating rose-tinted fine sand. Morandi had one of the earth’s natural wonders as his front garden.
The Pink Beach was officially named a location of “high natural value” by the Italian government. The beach was closed to visitors, and in one fell swoop, the island was massively emptied of human life, except for one.
Morandi embraced the isolation and continued his caretaking and new way of life. He kept boredom at bay with several hobbies. He began carving juniper wood and gorged himself on books.
The island’s recognition from the Italian government led to a rise in its status. It became one of the seven islands that make up the Maddalena Archipelago National Park. In 2016 the park began to question Morandi’s right to live on the island. Thanks to the power of the internet, the people of Italy and beyond responded, and a petition was signed by just shy of 75,000 people.
In more recent years, the internet made its way to Budelli, and Morandi found himself transfixed by the new connections it opened up. Morandi had already been sharing his knowledge and love of the island’s intricate ecosystem to visitors, dubbed Italy’s Robinson Crusoe by his countrymen.
His wisdom was well known. He could now share his antics and discoveries on social media, another way to quell the inevitable pangs of loneliness.
The friends Morandi had made online had shown their love for this local legend through the petition and messages of support. Unfortunately, this was in vain. Morandi’s battle with the local authorities continued, and at times he didn’t help himself.
In 2020, Maddalena Archipelago National Park’s president Fabrizio Fonnesu reported that Morandi had carried out illegal alterations to his hut. The protected building was used as a radio station in the second world war. This was to expect as the castaway told the BBC in 2018 he had “always been a bit of a rebel.”
The End of an Era
On April 25th, 2021, through his social media, Morandi announced to his followers that he had enough fighting and was to leave the island by the end of the month. At 81, it’s harder to muster the energy to be a rebel.
Morandi plans to move back to La Maddalena, where his story began. “My life won’t change too much. I’ll still see the sea,” said the wild optimist.
He now enters the hall of fame of intrepid people who have lived alone for seriously long periods, alongside legends such as Richard Proenneke, who lived in his self-built log cabin in Alaska for almost thirty years. Morandi wisely chose to always plan to head for warmer climates, though, despite washing up in his home country.
At 81 years young, Morandi is at an increased risk of complications and death if he contracts COVID-19. Now that he is moving to a more populated area, let’s hope his government looks after him the same way he looked after his beloved pink-shored island of Budelli.