Impressions: Villa Freya, Asolo


“Solitude, I reflected, is the one deep necessity of the human spirit to which adequate recognition is never given in our codes. It is looked upon as a discipline or a penance, but hardly ever as the indispensable, pleasant ingredient it is to ordinary life, and from this want of recognition come half our domestic troubles...Modern education ignores the need for solitude: hence a decline in religion, in poetry, in all the deeper affections of the spirit: a disease to be doing something always, as if one could never sit quietly and let the puppet show unroll itself before one: an inability to lose oneself in mystery and wonder while, like a wave lifting us into new seas, the history of the world develops around us.”

― Freya Stark, The Valleys of the Assassins: and Other Persian Travels

Freya Stark was a travel writer, an adventurer, a geographer, a diplomat, a thinker. She chose Asolo, the old, gem-like Venetian town atop the hills of the Montello, as her home, her safe place amidst her explorations. She chose it for its history and its allure – the same allure that attracted countless other literates throughout the centuries, from Bembo to Browning. She chose it for its breathtaking beauty, both natural and architectural. Asolo, urbs picta. A painted town whose foundations are Roman but whose spirit encompasses time. Asolo, city of women — from Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus, who made the city the most attractive literary centre of its time, to Eleonora Duse, the actress who revolutionised modern acting. Asolo, which Freya managed to spare from the devastation of World War II through letters to Churchill. Asolo, elusive and mundane, constantly suspended between fiction and reality.

This, perched on a hill, hidden behind tall gates, built on the foundations of the old Roman forum, nestled amidst a stunning garden of roses and irises and wildflowers, was Freya Stark’s home. Walking through it for the first time on a rainy May day, I thought of how it reflected her spirit. Elegant. Eclectic. Brave. Inspiring.

Special thanks to Consorzio Vini Asolo e Montello, Studio Cru, and Bojana Balic of Bella Asolo for the visit.