Italy TravelExplore Sardinia’s Pink Sand Island

Explore Sardinia’s Pink Sand Island
Published on Saturday, July 16, 2016 by

A tiny island off the coast of Sardinia, Budelli is part of the La Maddalena National Park and is known for its colorful landscape of crystal-clear turquoise waters, purple rocks and pink sand beach (spiaggia rosa). This a slice of paradise has drawbacks, though, and Budelli has been embroiled in legal fights and protests for years, as it has changed ownership several times. Tourists have not been allowed to walk on or swim to the pink beach in decades, and are only allowed to visit Budelli for the day, arriving via private boats or tour boats from nearby islands.

New Zealand banker Michael Harte bought the island from the previous owner, a bankrupt Milan-based real estate company called Nuova Gallura, for 2.9 million euros in October 2013 with plans to turn it into an environmentally friendly resort with a biodiversity observatory. The Italian government was skeptical and tried to block Harte’s ownership of the island, resulting in a years-long legal fight that lasted until February 2016, when the Italian national parks authority bought the island back from Harte.

Today, the island is fully protected, meaning no construction is allowed. Now that it is part of the national park, though, its sole resident is worried he could be evicted. Mauro Morandi, age 77, was hired by the real estate company to be the island’s caretaker in 1989 and has lived there ever since, even choosing to remain and keep doing his job when the bankrupt company stopped paying his salary 10 years ago.

“I’m really worried the authorities will kick me off the island,” Morandi told ANSA. “Previous owners had all promised me I could stay.”

Morandi, a former sports teacher, maintains and protects the island and makes sure it stays pristine despite the thousands of daytrippers who visit every summer, who often illegally take jars of pink sand and other natural items from the island, threatening its ecosystem. His house, a building built in World War II, runs on solar electricity in the summer and a generator in the winter.

He takes comfort in the solitude, interrupted only by his cats and chickens and the visiting tourists, whom he often chats with. He visits the mainland only at Christmas to see his family in Modena, and occasionally buys supplies from a nearby port on his dinghy, but otherwise, Morandi is completely dedicated to his personal paradise.

However, he realizes that Budelli will only stay paradise if it is under the stewardship of a devoted custodian like himself. To protest his potential removal from the island, a petition has collected just over 16,000 signatures so far, but not enough to reach its goal of 25,000.

“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,” Enza Plotino, the author of the petition, wrote.

“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 every day.”

And who better to do so than the man nicknamed “Italy’s Robinson Crusoe”?


By Kathy McCabe

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Photo by lucagi,

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