Restoring a Home in Italy
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Restoring a Home in Italy

by Elizabeth Helman Minchilli, Elizabeth Helman-Minchilli

This breathtakingly photographed volume offers an inside, and outside, look at twenty-two lovingly restored homes, labors of love by people whose passion for Italy just couldn't be ignored. Owners and designers share anecdotes about their experiences with local artisans, vendors, and bureaucracy, while offering real-world advice on the tactics of restoring a house


This breathtakingly photographed volume offers an inside, and outside, look at twenty-two lovingly restored homes, labors of love by people whose passion for Italy just couldn't be ignored. Owners and designers share anecdotes about their experiences with local artisans, vendors, and bureaucracy, while offering real-world advice on the tactics of restoring a house in a foreign country.

Whether the plan is to embark on a complete redesign, begin a restoration, or just move in and let the house evolve on its own, home owners and dreamers alike will value the information and thrill to the dream of Restoring a Home in Italy. This is a book at once lush and beautiful, and invaluably practical.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Three November titles from Artisan explore the pleasures of home and table at the most exalted levels. Elizabeth Minchilli provides both practical information (e.g., many local boards have imposed bans on new swimming pools) and reason to dream in the beautifully photographed Restoring a Home in Italy. The 22 featured residences include a compound of conical houses, called trulli, in Puglia, and a former candle factory in Rome, as well as plenty of traditional villas. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Outstanding in terms of both production and subject matter, this is a coffee-table book for the ages. Dividing the text into five geographical sections, Minchilli, who has restored an Italian home herself and written several books on Italian art and culture, considers the various challenges encountered while restoring an old house. She presents problems of site, structure, and design along with the chosen solutions. The lucid text is illustrated by 180 large and magnificent photographs by McBride, whose work has appeared in such publications as Architectural Digest, House & Garden, and Country Living. A seaside home in Liguria, a rooftop apartment in Rome, a farmhouse with loggia near Siena, a convent in Lombardy, and a watchtower in Tuscany are just some of the restoration projects described. Not a bad consolation prize for those of us who will never restore an old house in Italy, this volume is strongly recommended for travel, art, home improvement, architecture, and preservation collections. It is also recommended for anyone with a passion for all things Italian. Alex Hartmann, INFOPHILE, Skokie, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.58(w) x 12.26(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt


My love affair with Italy has deep roots. No, my ancestors weren't Italian. My introduction to Italian life came about much more abruptly. After passing a fairly uneventful first twelve years of my life in St. Louis, Missouri, I came back from summer camp one August to find that my parents had rented out our house, sold their business, and were in the process of packing us up to move to Rome, which they had visited for the very first time while I was away.

Despite the initial trepidation any twelve-year-old would feel, it didn't take me long to settle into the Italian way of life. We moved into an ancient palazzo in the city's historic center, and I was allowed to wander the city on my own, such was the safety of Rome at the time. Maybe it was the sudden freedom I was given. Maybe it was that I was at such an impressionable age. Whatever the reason, it added up to my forming a lasting love affair with all things Italian. After two years in Rome, and traveling the country on family holidays, we moved back to the United States.

Although we continued to come back for vacations, I was always trying to devise a more permanent solution: a summer studying Italian in Florence, two years living in a Florentine attic while researching my dissertation on Renaissance gardens in the archives at the Uffizi. I felt truly at home only within the sights, smells, and welcoming embrace of Italy. Finally, my appointment with destiny came in the form of love-of course. I met my husband, Domenico, an Italian architect, and settled for good in the country where I knew I belonged.

As an architectural historian, I studied buildings and gardens, and I saw my share of Medici villas and papal estates. I worked in the archives, pouring over dusty lists and inventories, plans and drawings, reconstructing palatial residences from centuries before in my mind. The work Domenico was doing - restoring abandoned farmhouses and bringing them lovingly back to life-was something completely new for me. I have to admit that my eyes had never lingered on the crumbling farmhouses that dotted the countryside. If they weren't on my historic or academic itinerary, I hadn't considered them one way or another.

That was all to change, of course, as I began to take an interest in Domenico's projects. Eventually, I became intimately familiar with the language of restoration. My Italian is fluent today, but when it comes to vocabulary I feel much more comfortable talking about beams and plaster than, say, hemlines or the latest movie.

I learned pretty early on that there are as many reasons, or even rationalizations, for turning ruins into homes as there are home owners. Most people have very romantic and emotional explanations: a love affair with the light or the way of life in Italy, a desire to sink down roots in a country that has a history stretching back thousands of years. Some people want to make wine, others want to escape. The motivations are endless, and endlessly fascinating.

But what I found most gripping was the actual nuts and bolts of turning crumbling walls into a real home. And over the years, based on the steady stream of questions both Domenico and I get, I realized that most people have absolutely no idea of the work involved in achieving that end.

This book is an attempt to fill in the blanks. I hope it answers some of the major questions and eliminates much of the confusion. I've traveled the length and breadth of Italy and have chosen a wide range of homes and home owners to showcase here. Since this is Italy, there are no rules to follow, except for those that guide your heart. These are homes that were created with love, and often against all odds. What does it take to imagine a warm hearth while you're looking at a pile of cold stones? How do you even begin to picture a table set for a Sunday lunch when sheep have been the most recent residents? Of course, this is part of the charm, and the magic. This is what I hope to convey in Restoring a Home in Italy.

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Helman Minchilli is the author of Artisan's Restoring a Home in Italy (now in its third printing), and the recently published Italian Rustic. Her passion for Italy led her from her native United States, where she studied architectural history, to Italy in 1987. She writes on architecture, design, and food for a variety of publications and is the author of four other books on Italian culture.

Simon McBride has been photographing gardens and interiors for over two decades, working regularly for Architectural Digest, Country Living, and House & Garden, among other magazines. His numerous book credits include Ski Style and Private Tuscany. He lives in Bath, England.

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