San Francisco de Paula
A former cattle farm on the site of a Spanish fort
Southeast on the Autopista (Via Monumental) is the suburb of San Francisco de Paula, 12 km (8 miles) from the city center, with the Hemingway Museum at Finca Vigía. Journalist Martha Gellhorn, soon to be Hemingway’s third wife, was not content to live in a room at the Hotel Ambos Mundos. She found a house called Finca Vigía – a former cattle farm on the site of a Spanish fort.
The couple bought it in 1940 for US$ 18,500, and, although Gellhorn later divorced him, Hemingway stayed on at the finca for most of his life. The house lies at the end of a long, leafy driveway and is surrounded by lush gardens. The views over Havana are splendid. The mansion looks much as he left it, but meticulously renovated by a joint US-Cuban project to restore the house and preserve the author’s papers.
Among the relics are 9,000 books, Hemingway’s original Royal typewriter, and innumerable bullfightingposters and animal heads – mementoes from Spain and Africa. As a precaution against theft, visitors can only look in through the open doors and windows, but you get an excellent view of the large, airy rooms and their contents. Close to the main house is a fourstory tower, from which the estate gets its name – vigía means “lookout.”
The pool where Ava Gardner swam naked and Gary Cooper once lolled, tanning his famous torso, is still there.