Can this be used in the figurative sense as well? To say someone is "dying of hunger" in English can just mean they're hungry. Is the same true in Italian?
How about: È morta di fame? I am not absolutely certain but it sounds right.
I think that's right. Though technically, "Lei moriva di fame" is the past tense and literally means "She died of hunger" while "È morta di fame" means "She has died of hunger" or even "She is dead of hunger".
That would be "She was dying of hunger". Though I'd like to point out that in my previous comment I wasn't completely correct when I said that "moriva" is past tense. It's actually called past continuous I believe, and it actually usually is translated more along the lines of "She was dying of hunger" rather than "She died of hunger". But both can work.
Technically the true past tense would be "Lei morì di fame" but nobody actually uses this form much in speaking, though it can turn up in written material.
The fact that the past tense is so little-used (instead replaced by the present perfect or past continuous) is why Duolingo doesn't teach past tense until almost the very end of the tree.
I think in English we would only use 'died' if she had actually, literally, died - which would probably be perfect tense in Italian (correct me if I'm wrong?) So if it's imperfect tense in Italian I would always translate as 'was dying'in English