Read This: Altared: A Tale of Renovating a Medieval Church in Tuscany

Penny Sadler's picture

As anyone who has ever traveled to Italy knows, movies like Under The Tuscan Sun, Letters To Juliette, and others are simply fuel for the fire of passion that is kindled once the visitor has had a taste of La Dolce Vita. After several years, and many trips to visit friends in Tuscany, Kyle Ball decided she wanted to buy a house in the Bel paese, or the beautiful country. Inexplicably, she was moved to buy an abandoned church in a tiny village near Greve in Chianti. Further, she spent untold amounts of money renovating it. And then she wrote a book about it: Altared: A Tale of Renovating a Medieval Church in Tuscany.

Read This: Altared: A Tale of Renovating a Medieval Church in Tuscany

I was curious to read Altared because my dreams of renting an apartment in Rome (for a longer stay) have morphed into something bigger that includes acquiring my own place in a tiny Italian village. I hoped that Altared might give me some insight, one way or another, about the process. I’ve heard the paperwork makes it impossible, and alternatively, that nothing could be easier. Kyle sets the record straight. I also admit to a more than passing interest in ghosts and the paranormal, and it seems Le Convertoie is a treasure trove of paranormal activity. Buying my own Italian hideaway aside, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Altared; Kyle is funny and insightful and I've always wanted to restore a historic building. 

Altared is the story of Kyle’s love-hate relationship with Le Convertoie and the three-year renovation. As you read the story told in Kyle’s unmistakable voice, you’ll laugh—a lot—and maybe metaphorically pat yourself on the back for not succumbing to the many charms of a crumbling structure in the Tuscan countryside. 

The famous “Chianti Rooster” from Read This: Altared: A Tale of Renovating a Medieval Church in Tuscany
The famous “Chianti Rooster”

We were lucky enough to chat with Kyle Ball about her book, inspiration, challenges, and more. Here's what she had to say...

Author Kyle Ball. From Read This: Altared: A Tale of Renovating a Medieval Church in Tuscany

What inspired you to write the book?
After purchasing Le Convertoie, there was a constant barrage of questions about our adventures there. People were genuinely interested in what brought me to buy such an unusual property, what was involved in the renovation, and what it was like to live in Italy. I wrote the book to answer those questions, but I also wanted to leave a legacy for my granddaughters, aged 13 and 8. After I’m gone, they’ll have a record of what I was like—and hopefully, they’ll see their grandmother as an adventurous spirit who had a sense of humor.

Is the text in the ebook and the hardcover the same? 
They are exactly the same. I published through a hybrid firm called SheWritesPress and had an excellent publisher, Brooke Warner. At the time my book was ready to go in 2020, they were backed up as far as publishing hardcovers, for 18 months. I wanted to get the book out there, so I went with the e-book first. I then organized the recording of the audiobook on my own in 2021, and the hardcover came out this year.

What were some of the joys of the renovation process and the finished project?
Le Convertoie’s church was magical, even before it was renovated. I can’t say there was a lot of joy during the renovation process, which took three years to complete. There were tons of surprises thanks to the Italian permitting processes and increases in costs, and I would often experience sleepless nights and frequent panic attacks about the mess I’d gotten my husband and myself into. But, I loved the people I was working with—in particular, architect Marco Vidotto and interior designer Susan Schuyler Smith—and the family that lived at Convertoie in the apartment above us. I have a chapter in the book about Bianca, who became such a good friend and inspiration to me.

It was incredible to see the church slowly transform into the living space it became. I hired the right people for the job, and it was like watching a caterpillar turn into a spectacular butterfly.

What were some of the biggest challenges? I know you outlined quite a few in the book. At the beginning of the book, you wrote that two brothers jointly owned the property and that the realtor said it would be no problem. If I read correctly, you went on to say this should have been a huge red flag...could you talk about that? 
The purchase of the property, the permitting for the work, and then the long renovation process itself were all challenges. I did meet the brother who sold me the property on several occasions. He was a nice gentleman, and the brothers ended up talking to each other again during the purchasing process. (This was a bonus for my friend, Bianca, who was their mother.) Everything in Italy is complicated, and this project was no exception.

What is your favorite memory of the church?
Hosting our family and friends—both from the States—and the two sorority sisters who lived in Florence, are some of my favorite memories. Everyone was so excited to be at Le Convertoie and see what we were doing with the place. It is true that one of my friends, KK, spent more time there than we did. She took students from her college every spring to Italy, and then would stay at our house for a couple of weeks to unwind after the students flew home. I always loved having her there, because she took care of it like it was her own.

My favorite personal memory is arriving at Convertoie after being away for a while. I had a routine where I would come in, grab a glass of wine, turn on some tunes by Sting (who actually lived nearby), and walk around and see what had or hadn’t been done. I really needed the wine before I did that.

“The Bishop” who stood guard on one of the altars at Le Convertoie. From Read This: Altared: A Tale of Renovating a Medieval Church in Tuscany
“The Bishop” who stood guard on one of the altars at Le Convertoie

Did you ever master the Italian language?
Absolutely not. I got by and had a decent accent, but no vocabulary or grammar to back it up. I was fluent in French, and that only got in the way there since the two languages have nothing in common except that they are both considered Romance Languages.

Why did you sell Le Convertoie?
 I felt as if my job there was done, and I wasn’t quite sure how I had gotten the job in the first place!

Piazza Matteotti in Greve. From Read This: Altared: A Tale of Renovating a Medieval Church in Tuscany
Piazza Matteotti in Greve

Would you do it again—and do you regret selling Le Convertoie?
Absolutely. There were several depressing moments where I wanted to give up and wished I’d never seen the place, but it was one of the most interesting and fulfilling things I’ve done in my life. One of my biggest regrets is that I wasn’t able to stay for long periods of time, but that wasn’t possible with Chuck still working in the States and my parents in declining health.

Have you ever gone back to Le Convertoie?
I have not had the nerve to do that. I have seen pictures of the interiors as the new owner rents it out through VRBO, and it’s impossible to do a drive-by, since it’s tucked down a gravel road. I am a big proponent of “You can’t go home again,” and never drive past my former homes. 

A butcher shop in Greve. From Read This: Altared: A Tale of Renovating a Medieval Church in Tuscany
A butcher shop in Greve

What advice would you give to someone who wants to remodel a property in Italy today?
Be prepared to be frustrated frequently, have lots of patience and cash, and have a close friend (or two) on the ground who speaks fluent Italian and is willing to constantly help you. Learn some Italian before you start the process. 

Find her online at

Instagram @altareditaly


Penny Sadler, an Editor for Wandering Educators, is a freelance writer and content provider for consumer and B2C platforms worldwide. Her works appear in numerous publications including Inside Hook, Cheese Professor, Vintner Project, Wine 365, Wine Country Media, and other outlets. She is always planning her next trip, usually another fabulous wine region. Curious about life and people, her glass is always full. Find her at and


Word photo courtesy and copyright Penny Sadler, adapted by Wandering Educators. All other photos courtesy and copyright Kyle Ball, used with permission.