Benuzzi’s original title for his memoir was Fuga sul Kenya – 17 giorni di liberta [Escape on Kenya – 17 days of liberty]. But being deeply impressed by Vivienne de Watteville’s Speak to the Earth, her memoir of camping on Mount Kenya, * he renamed the narrative No Picnic on Mount Kenya.

What particularly impressed Benuzzi was de Watteville’s description of her plan and its reality: “I planned to go up to the Nithi (sometimes called Gorges) Valley to see Lake Michaelson and collect flowers. It was to be a stroll, a pleasant picnic; but I should have learnt by then that no expedition on the mountain was ever a picnic; and this one proved the hardest of them all, for it was one unending battle with the tussocks [dense clumps of grass here about waist high and a yard across].”

Primarily de Watteville was in Kenya and on the mountain because she desired it. She wanted the freedom of living close to nature where she might give up the “false values of civilization,” if only for a few months.  Benuzzi was an Italian officer living under duress in a British P.O.W. camp in Kenya. He climbed to alleviate extreme boredom and to restore his drifting sanity. “I thought, at least I shall stage a break in the awful travesty of life,” he writes, “I shall try to get out, climb Mount Kenya and return here.” With two other companions Barsotti and Balleto, they prepared for eight months before accumulating equipment and supplies. It took two weeks to escape from the camp, trek to the mount, climb it, and return.

A map of Benuzzi’s climb on Mount Kenya.

The climbers did not get to the summit at 17,000 feet called Batian. Exhausted, Benuzzi and Balleto climbed together Lenana, a side peak, at 16,300 feet.

Rations were meager, and their supply consisted mainly of tins of sardines, meat, cheese, buttered biscuits, bread, and Bovril

*Nearly forgotten now, De Watteville’s travel memoir was avidly read by Edith Wharton, Karin Blixen, and Ernest Hemingway. Benuzzi probably read her, too, but after his adventure on Mount Kenya.

See: Vivienne de Watteville. Speaking to the Earth: Living Outside Time and Space. London: Methuen & Co.,1935; Felice Benuzzi. Fuga sul Kenya – 17 giorni di liberta [Escape on Kenya – 17 days of liberty] Milano: L’Eroica, 1947; No Picnic on Mount Kenya: The Story of Three P.O.W.s’ Escape to Adventure. London: William Kimber, 1952).