My house is 103 years old, a youngster compared to the Gables' Renaissance villa, but I found a lot of similarities between our situation - all old house owners' situations - and theirs. They face many of the same issues all old house owners do - how do you modernize, how do you repair without compromising the historic integrity of the structure? How do you protect your house if the government decides they want to build a soccer field on your property? I can definitely identify with the Gables' infatuation with learning the history of their house and solving its mysteries.
And they have the typical complaints about previous owners - when the villa was turned into a parish kindergarten prior to their ownership, the penises were sanded off all the terra cotta cherubs.
Of course, they have bonus struggles - like learning to speak Italian and the local dialect, Venetan, enough to communicate their renovation needs.
I've never been to Italy, but the portrait the Gables' paint of Italian life and the amazing historic villa make me want to book a flight and go there right now. I want to see Villa Cornaro - yes, they give tours. It was designed by Andrea Palladio and "introduced to Western architecture the two-story projecting portico-loggia motif. Palladio's device influenced Western architecture for hundreds of years, becoming a recurrent feature in Georgian, Adam and Colonial American architecture." Wow. Talk about living in a slice of history.
Click here and here for history and photos of Villa Cornaro.