Just off the coast of Sardinia, Italy, there is an isolated island, Tavolara, which rises from the sea and is a jagged peak 5 km long and 1 km wide. At one end of the Italian coast, the slopes tilt downwards, forming a narrow isthmus with long sandy beaches. The isthmus is the only habitable part of the island. Giuseppe Bertoleoni's family and descendants have lived here for 200 years.
Giuseppe Bertoleoni, a Ginovese immigrant, arrived on the island in 1807 and intended to live there with his two wives and one of their children to escape bigamy charges. Upon arrival, Giuseppe declared himself king of the island, a title that was given to him orally by The King of Sardinia, Carlo Alberto, when he went hunting on the island in 1836. Since then, Giuseppe's family has ruled the island and its only resident for the past seven generations, the family itself. They make a living raising goats and fishing, and sell souvenirs to tourists. They also run two restaurants on the island.
Shortly after arriving on the island, Giuseppe found the island home to a rare wild goat whose teeth were dyed golden yellow by the seaweed and lichen they ate. When news of the golden-toothed goat reached Sardinia's ruler, Carlo Alberto, he went to Tavolara in 1836 to hunt the animal. Giuseppe's 24-year-old son, Paul, is said to have gone out to greet the king and call himself King Tavola.
After three days on the island as a guest of Bertolioni, Carlo Alberto said cheerfully, "Paul, you are the king of Tavola!" "Before setting sail. A few years later, however, when the State Property Administration tried to expropriate the Bertoleoni family on their island, Paolo Bertoleoni went to Turin to meet Carlo Alberto and obtained a scroll from King Alberto recognizing Paul as King Tavola.
Paolo Bertoleoni returned to the island, created Bertoleoni's seal, and proudly painted it on the walls of his home. In the 1900s, Britain's Queen Victoria, who was collecting photographs of world leaders, sent private photographers to the island to photograph the royal family. The photograph still hangs on the walls of London's Buckingham Palace Museum and the island's restaurants.
When the island was annexed by Italy in 1934, the sovereignty of the Bertoleoni family officially ended. Then, in 1962, NATO established a base in the eastern half of the island, which was closed to its inhabitants for almost the entire half. Today, the family owns only 50 hectares of land on the island. Although no longer rulers, they continue to act as island protectors. Now "King Tonino" is trying to get his kingdom officially recognized, which will make Tavola the smallest kingdom in the world.
Image: BBC Travel