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 La Quercia house book 

Welcome to La Quercia


La Quercia, which means The Oak in Italian, honors the big trees that ring the property. The house was in ruins when we bought it. Great care was taken in the restoration to balance the look and feel of a traditional casa colonica, with the comforts of home. A photo album in the living room records the restoration process. We use the house ourselves and have tried to make it comfortable and personal. We hope that you will enjoy it as we do, and that it will provide a special introduction to the pleasures of this extraordinary corner of central Italy. Please take a minute to read the following house information as you are settling in.

Contact People

Your house manager, Elizabeth Wholey, who lives about 15 minutes away on the road to Niccone, will greet you. Should you have any problems you cannot resolve on your own, you can call Elizabeth on her cell phone at 338-331-7493.



Each of the floors has its own set of keys. Upstairs there is a key for the security grate (make complete turn twice to lock or unlock) and one for the front door. Downstairs there are keys for the master bedroom, the living room and kitchen doors, with corresponding security grate keys. Please be sure to return all keys to the kitchen table before you leave on your last day, or lock the door and leave the door key under the outside doormat if you are leaving before the manager arrives.



Utility costs are high in Italy, partially due to the limited supply. An energy allowance for electricity and gas has been built into the rental fee. This allowance reflects normal, but careful use of utilities. We ask that you use resources conservatively. Lights and radiators should be left on only when needed and turned off when you leave the house.


Gas Heating

Each floor has its own gas-fueled hot water heater and gas meter. On the upper floor, the heater is located in the kitchen closet. The heater for the lower floor is in the pump room. The propane tank that fuels each one is underground, its green top just showing, below the driveway.  The gas meters for each floor are behind the metal door on the north side of the loggia staircase, at ground level near the climbing rose. Everything should be properly adjusted when you arrive. In case of an emergency: A green light means the heater is on. To turn it off, turn the main valve to the straight up and down position. The light will go off. To turn it back on, turn the valve to the sunshine (summer) or snowflake (winter) position, as appropriate. Water and radiator temperatures should both be set at 6 or 7.


The heating system on each floor is divided into two sectors – the kitchen/livingroom and the bedrooms/baths – so that you can heat the front during the day (or back at night) without incurring the cost of heating the entire floor. The upper floor thermostat for the front of the house is next to the kitchen door. The thermostat for the bedrooms is in the hallway near the back bedroom. On the ground floor, the thermostat for the kitchen\livingroom is next to the kitchen door. The thermostat for the bedrooms is in the connecting corridor. 15° centigrade is equal to about 60°F, while 20°C is about 70°F.



Italian houses do not have the unlimited access to electricity that is generally true in America. Most houses have 3 kilowatts of available energy. This house has more, but that does not mean all the appliances can be run at the same time. Please be attentive to overloading the circuits.


The main switch and main meter, which is read by the electric company, is behind the gray, plastic door in the “little house” marked Enel at the top of the stairs that lead to the parking area. When everything is working properly, the large black switch is in the up position and the meter wheel is turning. This is the “watchdog” switch.


The wattage for the house is evenly distributed between both floors and the outdoor communal functions. In addition to the main switch in the parking area, there is an overall electrical panel in the pump room with the circuit breakers for governing each of the areas and a general switch for the whole system. Next to this overall panel are the individual electrical meters for both floors of the house. Inside the house, on each floor, there is a breaker box for the floor. Upstairs, it is located near the kitchen door. Downstairs it is in the hallway. When the switches are in the up position they are on.


Two things are likely to trip the circuit breakers:

  1. Overuse of appliances or power:

Minor overuse results in simply tripping the interior breaker (on either floor) without affecting the overall electrical panel in the pump room or the main switch in the drive. However, due to the design of the electrical plan, serious overuse on any one of the 3 areas could trip the general switch in the pump room or the main switch in the drive. This would shut down all power to the house. Hence, the users on each floor have the electrical “fate” of the whole house on their hands.

  1. Electrical storms

On occasion an electrical storm will cause a power surge that trips the main circuits affecting the entire house and the general panel.


In either case, the situation is easily remedied. Simply turn off some of the appliances, or wait until the storm has passed. After the storm, check all the circuit breaker boxes beginning with those inside the house, then the master switch and the breakers outside on the driveway. If the circuit breakers are in the down position, throw them into the up position. If all the switches in all the breaker boxes are already in the up position and there is no power, it probably means the problem is in town at the main station. At that point, content yourself with candles until the electrical company gets things up and running (often within 4 hours). This is not a regular occurrence, but it does happen more often than in America. Pazienza… and enjoy the adventure.


There is plenty available current in the house as long as you are somewhat careful about not turning everything on at once. For instance, you can run the washing machine and dryer at the same time, but if you add the dishwasher, the vacuum cleaner and the ventilated oven you may be asking for trouble… or at least temporary darkness.



The wifi password is umbria5858. Please read the typed sheet on the desk. The cost for this service, payable in advance to the house manager, is 20 euros per week per house, which includes telephone calls, including to the US.

Internet Trouble Shooting:

In the event you have trouble connecting with the internet, try this one, easy step:  in the back of the 4” x 6” white box, unplug the electrical source plug. All lights will go out. Wait 10 seconds and plug it back in. If it still doesn’t come on, call Elizabeth or Paola.

VERY IMPORTANT: Do not push the Reset button or we will lose all the access codes and a technician will be required to install the wifi again.

Attn La Quercia guests: 

Lower La Quercia is laquerciasotto; upper La Quercia is laquercia_wifi2. Be sure you are logged in to the correct code for your floor or you will not have internet access.


Phone charges: We have Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) telephones and your phone calls will be very inexpensive. You will not be able to use phone cards with this system. Note that there is a delay in connecting. 


If you call a number in Italy outside our 075 area code, you will need to know the area code for that region. For example, when calling Florence you will need to dial 055 before the number. For Rome, 06. The phone number for lower La Quercia is as follows:

  • From the US:                                                              011-39-075-997-5127
  • From within Europe:                                                0039-075-997-5127
  • From within Italy:                                                      075-997-5127


The phone numbers for all the houses are:

La Pietra upper floor 075-997-5125                  La Pietra lower floor 075-997-5124

Casa Carina 075-997-5126

La Queria upper floor 075-997-5128               La Quercia lower floor 075-997-5127


Italian EMERGENCY and SERVICE numbers: 

  • Police                                                                                                   113
  • Hospital in Umbertide (via Forlanini)                                         941-5944
  • Forest Fires (Vigili del Fuoco)                                                       855-3222
  • Information for all of Italy                                                              12
  • International Information                                                              176
  • English Speaking Operator                                                             15

House Appliances


Washing Machine

  • Takes longer than an American machine. For a standard white or dark wash:
  • Load machine and close door until you hear the click
  • For a half load, push in “mezzo carico” button
  • DO NOT push “senza centrifuge” as this turns off the spin cycle
  • Pull of drawer on left (near Rex Aquacycle) and add ¼ cup or one cube of laundry soap to the middle drawer
  • Set temperature at 40°. For wool or delicates, set at 30°.
  • Set programmi knob for “C” and pull out knob to start machine.
  • When cycle is complete, the door will not open right away. The machine cools a few minutes before opening.


Clothes Dryer

Takes MUCH longer than a US machine and consumes a lot of electricity. If it is a nice day, it is better to go all’italiano and hang your wash on the clothesline, or use the drying racks. The Italians are very sceptical about dryers. The man who sold us ours advised us strongly against buying or even using them. However if you cannot do without:

  • Clean the lint filter
  • Push the button for cotton, synthetic or delicate. (You will almost always want cotton, as the heat involved is much less than the standard American machine.)
  • Be careful not to overload the machine or your clothes will never dry.
  • Close door firmly and set time gauge for 120 minutes. The machine starts automatically.


For the cheapest and most effective cycle:

  • Load machine (do not block upper rotor) and add soap cube to the pocket on the door. Click pocket flap closed. DO NOT USE LIQUID SOAP!
  • Close dishwasher door firmly
  • Set right hand program dial to “C”
  • Push in “Economia” and  “Avviso” button and light goes on
  • When cycle is finished, press Avviso again so light goes off
  • Open door by pulling latch under the word “partner”. Open door a bit and let dishes cool and dry off a bit before unloading machine.

Gas Range/Cook top

  • Turn appropriate knob ¼ turn clockwise
  • To ignite flame, press rubber starter button (upstairs in center of the knob panel, downstairs is to the right).
  • Back up plan, use a match. 

Convection Oven                     

  • Set temperature knob (far right) to desired temperature (350°F is about 177°C).
  • Turn knob left of temperature knob to desired setting. Panel light on left will go on. First position turns on the oven light; second position is the standard oven function; third position is the convection oven (circulates air around the food to make it cook faster and more evenly); fourth position is the broiler.
  • Knob of far left is the timer
  • Be sure to turn the oven off after cooking. Knob will be straight up and down and the panel light off. 

Additional appliances

There are hair dryers in the bathrooms; steam irons, ironing boards and vacuum cleaners in the linen and kitchen closets; and an American style coffeemaker in the kitchen.


Interior and Exterior House Lights

Some of the interior house lights are on dimmer switches. These are the switches with the raised round circle. To use them, switch on the light and hold the switch down until you reach the desired level of light. Release and that light level is set. To turn the lights off, push the switch in quickly and release.


All of the lower kitchen shelves have been equipped with fluorescent work lights. The switches are located above the granite splash backs under the shelves. The switches for the stove hood light and the ventilator are in this group also.


There are exterior lights on all four sides of the house and on the staircase leading to the parking area. For both floors, the switches are near the kitchen doors. To turn on the lights for the staircase up to the parking area: Going up the stairs, the switch is on the stone wall to the right of the steps. Coming down from the parking area, the switch is on the left wooden post at the head of the stairs. Please remember to turn these lights off after you have navigated the stairs.  The tall lantern near the parking area has a motion sensor that will turn on the first light as you get out of the car. This will help you find the switch that illuminates the staircase. The motion sensor will turn off after a few minutes. This works only when the left-hand switch with the red button is kept on (the down position).


Miscellaneous Services and Information


Garbage and recycling

There is no garbage pick up. We ask that you recycle, using the receptacles in the house. When the plastic bags are full, take them to the bins just inside the front gate at the top of the stairs (there are more plastic bags under the sink). The outdoor bins will be emptied during the week.

Basic House Supplies

The house will be stocked with various staple supplies – canned tomatoes, pasta, salt, pepper, dish and laundry supplies, toilet paper, soap. Please replace what you use so the cupboards are full for the next guests. 


Cleaning Services

The house is thoroughly cleaned and the laundry done for your arrival. We ask that when you depart, you leave the house in general good order – take out your trash and bottles, have washed the bulk of your dishes, etc.


If you wish to have our cleaning staff come in during your stay for a quick touch up or laundry services, please speak with your house manager to arrange a mutually convenient time. The rate for daily maid service, cleaning and bed making is €15 per house per cleaning person. For a mid-week cleaning, the charge is €75 per floor. Be prepared to pay the cleaning staff before they leave for the day.



The gardens close to the house are planted with fresh herbs in various combinations of thymes, sages, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, mint, chives and basil. Feel free to gather what you need for cooking.


In the hot summer months, we would be grateful for your help in watering the potted geraniums hanging outside the windows and on the upper loggia. In the hot, dry weather they need a drink every 2-3 days. A watering can is on the porch. Our garden staff comes at least once a week, but every little bit helps keep the garden lush.


Safety and Security Issues


The Pool

We require normal pool safety precautions be observed.

·       Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

·       No running or diving.

·       No glass should be taken to the pool. A supply of plastic glasses are provided in every house.


Vipers and wild things

Central Italy, like many parts of Europe, has poisonous vipers, which are in the same family as the English adder or asp (of Cleopatra fame). They are short, gray-brown in color with diamond shaped heads. Vipers are slow moving and very shy of people. Don’t confuse them with the more common and colourful non-poisonous snakes you sometimes see slithering across the roads. As vipers generally keep well away from humans, you will probably not see one. HOWEVER, it is a good idea to stay out of tall grass and untracked wooded areas in the summer months. Carry a walking stick when hiking (the vibration warns the snakes of your approach so they can hide) and stick to well trodden paths and short grass.


The incidence of viper sightings, let alone viper bites, is very low but it is best to be careful. If you are bitten, stay very quiet, tie a tourniquet (not too tightly) between the bite and the heart and get to the Umbertide Hospital “Pronto Soccorso” (Emergency Room) as soon as possible.


When taking wood from the woodpile, it’s a good idea to strike the pile a few times with a stick to let any sunning creatures slither away. Snakes and scorpions like to hide in the wood. The scorpions here are black and range from tiny to large. They are not poisonous (the bite is rather like a bee sting) but they turn up in odd places and take you by surprise. Generally they like cool, quiet spots away from the bustle of guests. If you should meet one, don’t be alarmed – scoop it up in a jar and release it outside. They are a valuable member of the local ecosystem and quite harmless.


You need not be alarmed by snakes or local wild things if you are reasonably prudent.


Our Cats

Our resident mousers on the property, Raffaelo, the furrier of the two, and Anabella, a tabby, should stay outside the houses. There is no need to feed them as they are being well fed on a regular basis by Paola. (However, you may feed them if you wish.)


House Security

During the warm months, there are often people in the woods– hikers, boar or pheasant hunters, mushroom and wild asparagus hunters, and sometimes a few treasure hunters. The house has been equipped with security grates on primary doors and windows for your comfort and protection. When you are away for the day, swimming at the pool, hiking, or even napping, please lock the doors and windows. If you want to enjoy the fresh air, leave the door open and lock the security grate. Each floor has a house safe (cassaforte) which operates like a hotel safe. The instructions are attached or nearby. If you are travelling with valuables, lock them in the safe if you are leaving for a day or more. Theft in this area is largely opportunistic… leave a door or window open, a car unlocked with property in sight and you invite investigation. Be smart and take precautions.


Thank you for your help and cooperation. Have a wonderful stay.

Altabella Italian Villas - A Place for All Seasons 

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