Italian architect renovates 700-year-old home

Written by By Evan S. Heller, CNN

A well-preserved gallery in the Tuscan village of Pietrogiore di Spagna, first built more than 700 years ago, is set to open to the public this month. The home was once owned by the wife of the town’s seventh-century mayor, but her current proprietors, Adriano Pisciotta and his partner Vincenzo Sinopoli, bought it years ago when it was considered to be rundown. “We were simply looking for a possible location to renovate,” Pisciotta said, adding, “we never expected to find a historical one like this.”

Built using slate slate — a concrete stone manufactured by individuals before fires destroyed much of it over the last century — it was once the mayor’s refuge when he was exiled by the pope during the reign of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

But the house’s current reality is very different from its history, as Pisciotta said. “We lived here for a year and a half, in a rooming house, so the stone walls were damaged, but in a good way, because they haven’t been lived in for close to 1000 years.”

Nurturing projects

The exterior of Pietrogiore di Spagna. Credit: Designed by Antonio Ernesto Sales

One of the “curators” of the current project was made possible thanks to Potenza-based architect Antonio Ernesto Sales. He took on a six-month lease of the space in order to embark on a hand-crafted project: a series of spaces, all decorated in harmony with the old building’s stone surface, including an even grander dining room, where Pisciotta and Sinopoli will celebrate their two decade anniversary with family and friends.

Despite the modern look of Pisciotta and Sinopoli’s newly completed master plan — transformed from a cluttered galley kitchen into a modern family room and dining room and rebranded by the new owner as dining space ‘Pomodoro del Colpo Thespina’ (“From Spagna’s Valley of Great Taste”) — Pisciotta says the plan isn’t very different from their initial conception.

“In the beginning, when we were just considering to rent it, we didn’t really think about it, because it wasn’t something we really thought about,” Pisciotta says.

The same goes for the focus of the renovation, although some expansion has been added to the property. Pisciotta and Sinopoli, however, say that they never wanted to tear anything down. “For us, nothing is being changed, we just updated the house for modern use,” Sinopoli said. “The goal is not to change the house to preserve what it had been, but to update it for the period of modernity it belonged to.”

The level of expertise required to renovate and restore historical sites is becoming increasingly difficult to finance, especially in a country with a slim tax base. In order to balance out their budget, Pisciotta and Sinopoli founded a group, called La Famiglia Cattolica (the Cattolica family) — a hospitality-based arts initiative and the first Italian-made hospitality company in the nation.

Pisciotta said that they are producing pop-up events “with a 70% margin,” as they invest in infrastructure such as hosting food and wine tastings and ‘venture dinners’ based on local cuisine, which will allow them to earn revenue for future renovations.

But the creative director of interior design company Matteo Associati, Anthony Dipot, said that while restoration work is important to preserve historical spaces, the question of aesthetics goes well beyond such conservation.

“For me, the most important thing is to preserve the soul of the buildings,” Dipot said. “There are people who want to have the building in the best condition possible, as far as their great antiquity — the same is not true for most artists.”

So what exactly is Pisciotta and Sinopoli’s most unique craft? Pisciotta shared an anecdote about visiting the home of one of the historical group’s clients, architect Antonio Cama. “He showed me around his house, which really is a place that must be of some importance in the world,” Pisciotta said. “And he said to me, ‘don’t ever let anyone come there to buy a part of you,’ which was really the message we wanted to give the world.”

Leave a Comment