Renewed interest in the Isle of Roses

In the Seasteading book, we quoted Erwin Strauss on this project:

Giorgio Rosa was (or is) a professor of engineering in Bologna, Italy. In the early 1960’s, he built a tower in the Adriatic Sea, in water less than 20 feet deep, about 8 miles off the coast of the Italian city of Rimini. This first tower was wrecked by a storm on February 13, 1965. A new one was built, with an area of about 4,000 square feet. It had a bar, a restaurant, a post office, a bank and a store, all surrounded by a promenade. The Italian authorities took no notice (since they only claimed 3 miles from shore as their territorial waters) until May 1, 1968, when the platform was declared to be an independent republic, whose official language was the artificial one Esperanto. The Italians invaded 55 days later, speaking vaguely of such things as “national security, illegality, tax avoidance, maritime obstruction and pornography.” In the spring of 1969, Italian Navy frogmen dynamited the structure. At last report, Rosa did not plan to try again, saying darkly that “This country is all Mafia.”

Mafia or not, this illustrates the extent to which existing countries are willing to brush aside written law if they think a new-country project has the potential to seriously inconvenience them.

Andrea Fassina alerts us to a renewal of interest in the Isle of Roses. Here is the trailer for a documentary: Insulo de la Rozoj – Freedom is Frightening.

Andrea also translated an Italian article by Marco Imarisio, published on Corriere della Sera of 28/08/09:

BOLOGNA – ‘Flattered,’ he says. It took forty years, but eventually the world remembered him. George Rose smiles. The living room of his house overlooking the gardens Margherita is flooded with light. The ways and words of this elderly and a bit chubby gentleman are those of a wealthy middle class man, who still today, aged 84, receives his guests in a suit. But deep in his eyes, in a look which is followed by a nasty phrase, “it was a great effort, but we had fun,” you can see something. A spark, a remnant of that energy that led him to realize one of the most bizarre experiences of the Sixsties. “Insula de la Rozoj”, the Republic of the Island of Roses. …

The underwater wrecks which have become a constant site of pilgrimage, a nice successful documentary, “Insula de la Rozoj, freedom is frightning,” a theatrical show in 2008, another in progress, a couple of blogs and a thematic group on Facebook ( “A war that India forgot-long live Insula de la Rozoj”), an installation at the Museum of Vancouver that compares the Island of Roses with the Utopia of Thomas More and some nostalgics who are planning the new and free Republic by the name of Isle of Eden. As if suddenly the desire to escape and for freedom had found a small vent in the evocation of a now forgotten episode. “Really weird. For 40 years nobody has ever looked for me. Suddenly, starting in 2008, the phone started ringing continuously.”

A full translation appears below. It appears that there is a resurgence of interest in micronations and sovereignty lately, which bodes well for the few serious projects such as seasteading, if we can tap into that energy.


The Island of Utopia reemerges

In ’68 it was a “state” off the coast of Rimini. Sunk by Italy, now re-emerges.

BOLOGNA – ‘Flattered,’ he says. It took forty years, but eventually the world remembered him. George Rose smiles. The living room of his house overlooking the gardens Margherita is flooded with light. The ways and words of this elderly and a bit chubby gentleman are those of a wealthy middle class man, who still today, aged 84, receives his guests in a suit. But deep in his eyes, in a look which is followed by a nasty phrase, “it was a great effort, but we had fun,” you can see something. A spark, a remnant of that energy that led him to realize one of the most bizarre experiences of the Sixsties. “Insula de la Rozoj”, the Republic of the Island of Roses. It had been two years since the Dive Planet’s scuba divers of Rimini were looking for the remains of the platform. They found them in early July. And with the remains of the platform, which became an independent nation, a few miles from the beaches of Romagna, it is as if the emotions and suggestions of the adventure remerged as well. Interesting, this rediscovery of the Island of Roses.

The underwater wrecks which have become a constant site of pilgrimage, a nice successful documentary, “Insula de la Rozoj, freedom is frightning,” a theatrical show in 2008, another in progress, a couple of blogs and a thematic group on Facebook ( “A war that India forgot-long live Insula de la Rozoj”), an installation at the Museum of Vancouver that compares the Island of Roses with the Utopia of Thomas More and some nostalgics who are planning the new and free Republic by the name of Isle of Eden. As if suddenly the desire to escape and for freedom had found a small vent in the evocation of a now forgotten episode. “Really weird. For 40 years nobody has ever looked for me. Suddenly, starting in 2008, the phone started ringing continuously. Maybe because in terms of individual freedoms, not much has changed. To be honest, my initial plan was to build something that was free from laces and loops and didn’t cost too much. On land bureaucracy was stifling. So I had an idea during my holiday in Rimini. A structure of steel tubes welded to the ground and resting on the seabed, on top of which layed a brick floor, 400 square meters of available surface. Seven miles off the Italian coast, the platform bordering international waters with the exception of the south-west. We wanted to open a bar and a restaurant. Eat, drink and watch the ships passing near Trieste, sometimes way too close. The best memory is the first night on the island under construction. There was a storm that seemed to take everything away. But the morning the sun came, everything seemed great and achievable. Then the problems begun”.

The Coast Guard ordered the interruption of the construction, arguing that the stretch of sea was under concession of Eni, the Italian oil organization. The great traffic to the platform worried the authorities. “They would have stopped us. Then we studied the possibility of becoming independent. The only way to have nothing anymore in common with Italy”. The engineer pauses, raises his hands, which he keeps folded in his lap and says: “let’s be honest, every free human being dreams of founding an independent state.” And then on May 1968, with an unilateral act, the Republic of the Island of Roses is born. “Insula de la Rozoj” because the official language is Esperanto, to emphasize the difference with Italy. The new state has time to print its own stamps, which now are worth a fortune. The desire was to coin money, but it isn’t able to. Italy reacted with an unusual speed. In Parliament, the MSI, the neo fascist movement, alleges a breach of native soil, Interior Minister Paolo Emilio Taviani speaks of “grave danger,” the army’s secret service is convinced that the island is actually a disguised base for mooring Soviet submarines, the Communist parliamentary Renato Zangheri, future mayor of Bologna, argues instead that it is a destabilizing maneuver of the Albanian leader Enver Hoxha. While Rimini fills with journalists from around the world, the 24th of June at ten o’clock pilot boats carrying policemen and MPs surround the island and take possession of it. The letter of Mr.Rosa to the President of the Italian Republic, Saragat, remains unanswered. “We had no resources, we were alone. When the State Council gave an opinion supporting the demolition, I did not appeal. It was better to leave it alone. I haven’t been back to Rimini since.” On February 13, 1969 the Navy’s bomb squad undermines the pillars of the island with 1,080 pounds of dynamite. The explosions bend the platform. Ten days later, a storm sinks the Island of Roses.

The war is over. “The only that Italy has been able to win,” says the engineer caustically. He worked until 2003, as a designer with a studio in Bologna. Since the destruction of the island he ceased to exercise his rights as a citizen. “I finally understood that in Italy it is impossible to be free, to do things by yourself. I stayed here because I did not want to betray my family’s ideals. But I have never voted again. Two exceptions: Berlusconi in 1994, Guazzaloca in 1999. They disappointed me as well.” In the year that the world was to be changed with imagination in power, in Italy the man who most closely approached the realization of an utopia and that today is rediscovered as a symbol of an indomitable anarchist will, was a pragmatic engineer from Bologna, descending of a family of soldiers arrived in Italy around 1400, the son of an Army officer, a former soldier of Salò, then a deserter and sentenced as such by the court of RSI, the nazis’ puppet state led by Mussolini. “I’m a liberal, an independent who does not believe in religions and parties. So, even today, Italy is not the right place for me. ” As we are saying goodbye, that spark comes back in his eyes, his expression is amused. “Young man, when you get out of here take a look at maps on the Internet. You’ll find a surprise. ” We type the name of his state on Google Maps. A red flag appears in the middle of the blue sea in front of Bellaria-Igea Marina. The Island of Roses is still living.

Article by Marco Imarisio, published on Corriere della Sera of 28/08/09, Translated by Andrea Fassina

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