ISSUE 55  |  Roman Holiday

La Dolce Vita: A Restored 17th Century Convent in Italy

January 14, 2013 12:30 PM

BY Julie Carlson

Located in the Piacenza hills outside Milan, Villa Chiesuola is an imposing structure with a private chapel, an enclosed courtyard, and more than 20,000 square feet of living space. "The house was built in the seventeenth century to house a convent, then transformed into a country residence in the nineteenth century, and finally inherited by my husband in a state of complete 'abbandano,' " owner Marina Sinibaldi Benatti says.

In overhauling the interiors, Benatti came up against numerous challenges (the layout features dozens of small bedrooms arrayed off a corridor; and there was an absence of large living spaces). She transformed the former nuns' bedrooms into a series of thematically rooms; some spare and modern, others featuring traditional Italian furniture and design. During the renovation process, Benatti, who has worked in fashion, textiles, and jewelry design, found her metier; today she works almost entirely to interior design. "The choice was inevitable, given that the restructuring of Chiesuola began a decade ago and involved me—or rather overwhelmed me—full time."

To see more of her work, go to Marina Sinibaldi Benatti.

Above: A view of the courtyard.

Above: A corner of the kitchen, with an original marble sink. Benatti describes the project as a "labor of love and do-it-yourself design."

Above: Touches of modernity (steel shelves, L, and a modern fireplace surround) added by Benatti.

Above: A small dining room.

Above: A seating area with reupholstered vintage pieces.

Above: A trio of mirrored armoires anchors the study.

Above: Throughout the interiors, Benatti contrasts new with old.

Above: A dramatic red bedroom.

Above: A guest bedroom with sectional sofa.

Above: A classic Italian bedroom with traditional furniture.

Above: A dramatically tiled shower room with velvet-upholstered midcentury chairs.

Above: A bathing room with stone floor.

Above: Another view of the stark, stone-tiled bath.

Above: An outdoor dining area featuring a pair of Ikea wicker pendants.

Above: Benatti transformed an old irrigation tank into a swimming pool with shower.