The Italian Almanac

young Freya Stark

Italian News - March 8

The Italian town where British adventurer Freya Stark lived and died is fighting a last-ditch battle to keep it open to the public. Regional authorities have put the pioneering travel writer's villa in Asolo up for sale, saying they can no longer afford the upkeep.

Asolo Mayor Daniele Ferrazza was tight-lipped Tuesday about the villa's prospects but confirmed that "contacts at all levels" were still going ahead with unidentified cultural organizations. "My hope is that the buyer, whoever it is, will turn the villa into a permanent museum to Freya, preserving the cultural legacy she left behind"

He pointed out that Stark, a pathbreaking solo traveller, reporter and photographer who went boldly into areas never before visited by western women, had written most of her two dozen books in Asolo. Stark died at the villa in 1993, aged 100. Asolo, a charming medieval town whose other residents included English poet Robert Browning, American novelist Ernest Hemingway and Italian actress Eleonora Duse, had been her home since the 1960s.

A nurse in World War One, Stark was rumoured to have had a fling with Lawrence of Arabia, and in WWII worked for British intelligence in Aden, Baghdad, and Cairo, where she founded the anti-Nazi Brotherhood of Freedom. She later visited Asia, notably Afghanistan and Nepal. Even well into her 80s, against doctor's advice, she trekked into the Himalayas.