Before and after: a ruined Italian monastery restored

See how this crumbling ruin was respectfully converted into a modern, family home.

By Hugh Metcalf | 5 February 2020

After buying a crumbling monastery on a hillside in Naples, a couple set about respectfully converting it into their dream home.

exterior of a ruined monastery on naples hillside - granddesigns

Image: Kaldewei

After studying and working abroad for a number of years, the new owner of this once-crumbling monastery in Naples wanted to move back to his childhood hometown to live alongside his parents and family. In searching for the ideal spot to return to, Giovanni, with new wife Janine, turned up nothing in their desired area of Vomero Hill, so turned their attention to a ruined monastery nearby as a potential solution.

A more challenging prospect than they first considered, there was not only a strict preservation order on the 700 year old monastery, but Vermora Hill also sits in Naples 13th district, known as ‘upper town’. The area stands on a hill, overlooking a spectacular view that incorporates Vesuvius, the Gulf of Naples and the isle of Capri, and can only be accessed via cable carts and a series of steep steps.

Building materials and products would have to be transported up 150 steps during the build – and as result, one person was hired throughout the 15 month construction process to drive up and down the hill in a tracked vehicle.

A restoration project

exterior of converted monastery on naples italy hill - grand designs

Image: Kaldewei 

The preservation order meant that the same building materials used to originally construct the monastery had to be specified by the couple. Chalk and regional sandstone had to be used for the renovation, while no cement was used at all. “It was particularly important for us to use traditional materials as much as possible both for the building and the internal restoration, and to work with suppliers from the local region,” explains Janine.

Honouring the original structure

Italian monastery ruin windows before conversion - grand designs

Image: Kaldewei 

The architecture and the interiors sought to be restrained and respectful of the ruin’s history. The curved arches of the windows, most notably, have been replicated in the restored building, while designer Stephen Poeppelmann explained that they chose not to remove corners and niches in existing walls, using them as spaces to integrate shelves and seating instead.