Mauro Morandi: What the famous Italian hermit did next

(CNN) – For almost 33 years he lived a hermit life on a beautiful island in the Mediterranean, where he was the only inhabitant.

Mauro Morandi, known as the Italian Robinson Crusoe after developing a loyal following online, was the keeper of the Sardinian island of Budelli, embracing the silence, solitude and calm of nature while living in an old cabin beach stone.

There was no social buzz, no fancy food, no friends – his only companions were birds and cats. He slept on a cot and had little clothing. Abandoning all comforts, he preached a monastic existence of introspection and meditation on the pink beach of Budelli dotted with coral dust.

Then his happy world ended.

After years of struggle with the marine park authorities who wanted to expel him to turn the island into an environmental observatory, Morandi accepted his fate in May. After posting a pithy resignation message – “My balls are broken” (slang for “I’m fed up”) – he left.

Moving and starting a new life can be difficult for everyone. Even more for an 82 year old man who has spent three decades living a lonely existence on an island paradise. Is it possible to move forward and readjust?

Said Morandi, the answer is an emphatic “yes”.

“It’s never really over,” Morandi told CNN. “I am living proof that a second and new life is possible. You can always start all over again, even if you are over 80, because there are other things you can experience, a whole different world.”

Proving his point, Morandi has apparently prospered since his return to civilization on the inhabited island of La Maddalena, not far from Budelli.

“I am happy and have rediscovered the pleasure of living the good life and enjoying everyday comforts,” he says.

New house

Morandi’s new apartment in La Maddalena.

Courtesy of Mauro Morandi

Using his pension from his former teaching life, he bought himself an apartment with all the luxuries he had previously lacked.

Morandi honed his skills as a communicator. After years of loneliness, he is now eager to talk to people, exchange views, and post photos and comments on social media to interact with the world. He also wrote his memoirs.

Morandi's new house comes with a fitted kitchen - a luxury compared to his old hut.

Morandi’s new house comes with a fitted kitchen – a luxury compared to his old hut.

Courtesy of Mauro Morandi

“For a long time, I lived alone, and for too many years after landing on Budelli for the first time, I didn’t feel like talking to anyone,” he says. “It’s true, I can no longer enjoy the solitude of the island, but my life has now taken a new turn, focused on communicating with others and being close to others.”

Morandi, originally from Modena in northern Italy, arrived at his old house on Budelli in 1989 accidentally while trying to navigate from Italy to Polynesia. He fell in love with the atoll’s crystal clear waters, coral sands and beautiful sunsets – and became its guardian.

.... and a king size bed.

…. and a king size bed.

Courtesy of Mauro Morandi

While meeting occasional visitors to the island, he mostly lived on his own. In recent years, his online presence, posting images of Budelli, has seen him connect to a virtual community.

Now he’s got the real thing. His small new whitewashed house, with a panoramic terrace with sea views, is in the bustling tourist town of La Maddalena, although tucked away in a quieter location that ensures privacy.

He says he regrets Budelli’s silence. He’s not used to the sound of cars, trucks and “motorcycles with broken mufflers rolling around”, but overall he enjoys his new surroundings which he finds quite relaxing.

Romance rekindled

Morandi has been enjoying fresh seafood dishes since leaving the island.

Morandi has been enjoying fresh seafood dishes since leaving the island.

Courtesy of Mauro Morandi

Perks include a brand new fully equipped kitchen, a bedroom with a king-size bed, and – the biggest luxury of all – a shower. It also has shelves full of books.

Another bonus of returning to civilization is the rekindling of an old flame. Morandi now shares his new home with an old sweetheart from his youth.

And then there is the food.

Savoring delicious food again that he hasn’t eaten in decades reminded him of the “taste of life” and everything he had given up, he says, like indulging in wines and liqueurs with friends after dinner.

But he doesn’t stuff himself with ice cream, pizza or ham. He’s hungry for something that was abundant on Budelli and yet impossible to eat: fish.

“I continue to lead a simple life, in the morning I go down to Cala Gavetta to buy fresh fish in the net. Finally, after so many years of abstinence, I can enjoy the fish again. It may sound incredible, but I can ‘not have enough plates of fresh and crispy fried fish.

“On the island, I didn’t have a boat so I couldn’t fish, and food was scarce and limited. I always had to wait for people to bring me groceries from the mainland, and when they couldn’t come , I had to make do with what I had. Here, if I need to buy something, I just go to town.

Mountains and meals

Morandi's dilapidated house on Budelli.

Morandi’s dilapidated house on Budelli.

Courtesy of Mauro Morandi

Morandi admits that living on Budelli had become difficult, especially during the past winter which brought colder than usual temperatures and gloomy conditions which meant his solar-powered refrigerator failed to keep up. chilled food, leaving him dependent on canned food for months.

He still remembers the first time he ate fresh fish again when, on a post-Budelli trip to the Italian Alps, he was staying with a friend who owned a restaurant where he both savored the scenery. mountain and gourmet cuisine.

“It was beautiful, I discovered that there was beauty even there: the landscape, the mountains, the food. I had the best linguine allo scoglio (seafood spaghetti dish), and it was way cheaper than in La Maddalena. Italy’s freshest fish is not found in Sardinia, but is shipped to northern markets like Milan. ”

Morandi traveled the Italian Alps after leaving his 33-year-old native island.

Morandi traveled the Italian Alps after leaving his 33-year-old native island.

Courtesy of Mauro Morandi

Morandi documented his return to earth by posting photos of himself online eating grilled soles with potatoes and tomatoes, exploring Mont Blanc, and visiting quaint mountain villages. He plans to return to the Alps at Christmas.

It’s a change in perspective from last year when Morandi, speaking to CNN, said he was ready to do whatever he could to stay on Budelli. “I wouldn’t know where to go to live, certainly not at home in the north, or what to do, it’s my life,” he said at the time.

Now he is reveling in his daily routine at La Maddalena.

“In the morning, I have breakfast on my terrace with barley coffee,” he says. “Then, once I have tasted my cigar, I will walk to the port by a small path connecting my house, or to the village where I meet people and do my shopping.

“I walk a lot, the doctor says it’s the best way to heal my sore leg, but often people drive me home so I don’t have to carry big bags.”

A busy man

Morandi is enjoying his new life in La Maddalena.

Morandi is enjoying his new life in La Maddalena.

Courtesy of Mauro Morandi

Now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and happy to wear a mask in public, he likes to mingle with the locals.

“I was amazed how many are friendly, and I’m usually invited for coffee, lunch or dinner,” he says. “I was worried that the locals wouldn’t give me a warm welcome. I’m glad not everyone hates me, just those who were jealous of my life on Budelli. Many love me. They come to me. congratulate on my fight, they want to take pictures with me “.

Many people, especially overseas, saw him as a hero for devoting his life to saving the island, while others claimed he was using a romantic “good savage” myth to hide the fact. that he was an illegal occupant.

Morandi has caught up with his old friends.

Morandi has caught up with his old friends.

Courtesy of Mauro Morandi

Budelli’s ownership has changed several times over the past few years. Since 2015, it has belonged to La Maddalena National Park, making Morandi’s role as guardian obsolete.

Authorities told CNN they were simply following the law by “restoring the illegal structure” in which Morandi lived – a former WWII radio station. They said he “had no title” to stay on the island as it was no longer private.

Morandi’s battle to stay made headlines around the world, and even now that he’s gone, he’s still in the spotlight. He’s written a book about his life on a shipwrecked island, is preparing a second, and says his story may soon be the subject of a film.

So how does he see himself in a few years, what will his future be? Morandi says he is settling in La Maddalena in earnest: “I’ll be right here. The most pristine sea and beach, Punta Tegge, is nearby and I can get around by bus if I need to. “

Lost silence

Would he come back if the park authorities changed their mind?

“I don’t want this,” he said. “However, I might be ready to come back as a guard only if this time I get paid to do my job. I will no longer work for free.”

Budelli is not completely in his rear view. Morandi sometimes returns on a day trip to collect some personal belongings he left behind.

He is still worried about the future of the island. As a guard, he routinely hunted tourists entering the forbidden pink beach, cleaned trash from the sand, and prevented intruders from landing at night.

For now, La Maddalena is his new world, the one he intends to discover.

“I have been on this island for so long and this place was so close all the time, I realize just now that I don’t know it.”

So every day, when he walks in town, he photographs quiet and forgotten places, perhaps still in search of that lost silence.

Best Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mauro Morandi

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