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I’ve recently watched the story of Rose Island on Netflix and I thought I’d share with you four life lessons we can learn from this incredible Italian adventure. 

a platform of steel and concrete built right in the middle of the sea, with a man doing water skiing

Netflix film “The Incredible Story of Rose Island” is an amazing movie based on a true story about Giorgio Rosa, a man who came up with a crazy idea: creating his own nation. And he did it, right in the middle of the Adriatic sea!

The story of Rose Island remained largely untold for quite some time. I’m serious, before the movie, very few Italians knew about it. Mr. Rosa was a genius and his self-proclaimed independent state became an international case, which ultimately brought to a change in the boundaries of territorial waters all over the world!

I know what you’re thinking: none of this can be true! Well, here’s the whole story. By the way, if you already know about it, use the table of content below to skip the next paragraphs and jump directly to the four life lessons you can learn from this story.

Who was Giorgio Rosa?

Giorgio Rosa is the protagonist of this amazing Italian story. He was an engineer from Bologna, born in 1925, very precise and highly organized. He opened his own firm and worked also as a consultant and teacher. His life went according to plan until 1958 when he came up with the crazy idea of building his own platform in the middle of the sea and make it an independent state. 

After speaking with a professor of international law at the University of Bologna, he realized that he could easily make his project come true just a few miles outside of territorial waters, in an area that was not subject to the laws of any state. After gathering data and making countless inspections, he finally chose a point located 11.612 km off the coast of Rimini (and 500 mt outside Italian waters) as the site of the platform.

The creation of Rose Island

It took Mr. Rosa almost ten years to build his dream platform since the whole plan was entirely subject to the conditions of the weather and the sea, not to mention the problems caused by the Italian port authorities. The project was finally completed in 1967 and the result was a reinforced concrete stilt house of 400 square meters.

On 1 May 1968, he declared Rose Island an independent republic entirely separated from Italy. He chose Esperanto as the official language and together with his friends, he also wrote a constitution and set up a government structure complete with four ministries: finance, internal affairs, commerce and foreign relations. Oh, and they chose a piece from Richard Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman as its national anthem.

Little by little, Mr. Rosa equipped his micronation with various services, including a bar, a souvenir shop and a post office issuing its own stamps. A national currency was also part of the plan but never realized.

Hey, speaking of micro-nations, check out the story of Seborga, another tiny self-proclaimed state within Italy!

a platform of steel and concrete built right in the middle of the sea

Source: Wikimedia

The battle with the Italian authorities

The ever-increasing popularity of Rose Island soon caught the attention of the Italian government, which immediately demanded the platform to be dismantled. The authorities feared that illegal activities were happening on the island, including Russian submarines spying the country from beneath it.

Any attempt to shut the island down only made it more popular. Let’s not forget that 1968 was a year of tumultuous political protests, with young people rebelling against the establishment, and in such a scenario, Rose Island represented the ultimate act of freedom.

Guess what happened in the end: the Italian government declared war against Rose Island! It took Italy two attempts to destroy the platform with explosives. Then, a storm put a definite end to the island by submerging it under water. In the meantime, this Italian story had become an international case and the UN decided to move the border of territorial waters from 6 to 11 nautical miles away from the coast of the state in order to prevent similar cases from happening again!

4 life lessons to learn from the story Rose Island

1. Never give up on your dreams, no matter how bizarre they may sound

An oldie but a goodie. When Mr. Rosa first came up with the idea of building a platform in the open sea, everyone thought he was crazy. Never for a second did he let anyone discourage him from working on his project, though. It took him 10 years and countless headaches to realize it, but in the end, he made his dream come true.

Of course, Italian authorities tried to stop him with their most powerful arm – bureaucracy – but he never lost heart. And although Rose Island had a pretty short life, it will go down in history as Italy’s only declaration of war after WWII!

2. Knowledge makes everything simpler

I’m quoting American designer John Maeda here to stress the key role of knowledge in allowing things to happen and overcoming problems. Without knowledge, Giorgio Rosa would have never come up with the innovative engineering solution that allowed him to create his island. Let’s face it, building such a platform in the middle of the open sea was pretty complicated and required a great deal of technical know-how.

Giorgio Rosa gathered lots of data and created various models before starting the construction works. He conceived a structure of steel tubes that were empty inside and could float in the sea. This way, he could easily transport them to the chosen point, where he planted them on the seabed and filled them with concrete. He even managed to implement a drinkable water supply system for his island by drilling 280 meters below the platform.

3. The magic of thinking outside the box

Rose Island was primarily an entrepreneurial project conceived to capitalize on Rimini’s heavy tourist flows. In the 1960s, the Riviera Romagnola was one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations and when the island officially opened to the public, it quickly hit the headlines as the hottest tourist attraction in town.

Giorgio Rosa could have easily built a hotel but chose to challenge conventions instead. His ingenuity teaches us that no idea is too crazy and that creativity is precisely what fuels big plans. We should embrace it and have fun all along!

4. Always stand up for what you believe is right

The Italian authorities did everything they could to convince Giorgio Rosa to demolish Rose Island. They discredited him and even offered him money to abandon the island, but he always refused to accept. After all, he wasn’t breaking any law, right?

In the end, Mr. Rosa lost the ‘war’ against Italy and his platform survived for less than two years, but hey, what an adventure. Now, that’s talking about living life with no regrets!

You can watch The Incredible Story of Rose Island on Netflix with English dubbing and subtitles. Just consider that, as often happens, the movie adaptation altered the story a bit, but I think both the director and the actors did an excellent job in depicting the vibe of those years.

Did you know about this crazy Italian story? Let me know in the comment below 🙂

Ciao for now,

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1 Comment

Krista 6 February 2021 at 21:47

I love reading interesting stories like this! I had no idea about this island so this was a great post for me to read!

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Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I'm Valentina, an Italian blogger with a huge passion for my country, its culture and traditions. My Italian Diaries is the online space where I share my expert knowledge of itineraries, activities and off-the-beaten path places to help you experience the best of Italy like a local.

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