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Everything You Need to Know about Renovating a 14th Century Italian Home

Have you ever dreamed of moving to Italy and having your own villa? That’s exactly what Massachusetts natives, Doug and Leah Johnson, set out to do. 

The couple constantly visited Europe and went to property viewings while on vacation. When they traveled to Lazio, they found a home with the price tag of 13,000 euros.

“The idea of something that was built in the 14th or 15th century was just really intriguing,” Doug Johnson told CNN Travel. Doug and his wife have a passion for taking old homes and renovating them into modern living spaces. 

Doug immediately saw potential however, actually buying the home took more convincing. The couple spent hours on Google Earth surveying the town, weighing their decisions before finally deciding on the adventure of a lifetime. They decided to put 9,000 euros down and call the house their own. 

“When we arrived, I knew the town so well,” Doug explained. The hours researching helped them get to know the area. “I knew exactly where to park, and how to get to our apartment, where our realtor was waiting for us.”

(Photo Credit: Doug Johnson via CNN Travel)

The purchase of their house came on the festival day of “Infiorata del Corpus Domini”, when local residents pave the streets with flower petals. After arriving at their new home, they opened the shutters to soak in the magic. 

During the renovation, they discovered the downstairs unit was used as a storage space. Instead of giving up hope, they tracked down the owner, purchased the cantina and decided to expand. Since all but one of the structural beams had deteriorated, they decided to connect two units with a spiral staircase. As their expansion continued they made more discoveries. After purchasing the wine cave below the cantina, they encountered a door with an antique lock and uncovered a cask of wine bottles. 

For the interior of their home, they kept an “ancient feel of the original property.” They drew inspiration from Vasanello’s Orsini Castle, built in 1285 and other historic buildings in the village.  

The most surprising thing about the home was that it was connected to an actual palace. Mercuri Pozzaglia Palace was once owned by the Italian government - the former Mayor of Tuscany, Sebastiano Mariani. While it has passed through many different owners, it is now on the market and eligible for restoration. 

By the end of the renovation, Doug and Leah spent a total of 15,000 euros on three properties. The price for renovations was roughly between 75,000 and 105,000 euros. 

AJ Forrisi

Assistant Editor for America Domani, AJ Forrisi is a Brooklyn-based writer and photographer. His work focuses on food, travel, sports, landscapes, and urban scenes. You can find him on Instagram @aj.photo.works