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 La Pietra House Book 

Welcome to La Pietra

La Pietra means stone in Italian, a reference to the dramatic sheer wall of stone that slopes down behind the house. 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 large photograph in the upstairs hall and a photo album in the living room record 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 front and back bedrooms and for both kitchen doors, with corresponding security grate keys. You will be familiarized with the keys during the house walk through. Please be sure to return all keys to the desk by the phone upstairs before you leave.

Think Green!

An energy allowance for electricity and gas has been built into the rental fee. Please conserve electricity and propane: re-use towels, turn out the lights, turn down the heat at night and when you leave the house. We want you to be comfortable; however, we ask that you please be conservative with the utilities, which are very expensive in Italy.

Gas heating

Each floor has its own gas-fueled hot water heater and gas meter. Both hot water heaters are downstairs. For the upper floor, it is located in the kitchen. The lower floor heater is in the laundry room. The gas meters are under the small “roof” just outside the lower kitchen door. 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 upstairs is divided into two sectors – the kitchen/living room 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 fireplace. The thermostat for the bedrooms is in the hallway. On the lower floor, the thermostat is in the connecting corridor. 15° centigrade is equal to about 60°F, while 20°C is about 70°F. As you turn it up, you will hear it click on.


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 start of the driveway that leads 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.

Inside the house, in each kitchen, there is a breaker box for the floor. 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.

  1. Electrical storms

Occasionally electrical storms 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, check all the circuit breaker boxes beginning with those inside the house, then the main 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.

There is plenty of 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.


Phone charges: We have Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) telephones and your phone calls will be very inexpensive, even to the US, so we have included them in the 20 euro charge for wifi. 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 upper La Pietra is as follows:

  • From the US:                                                               011-39-075-997-5125
  • From within Europe:                                                       0039-075-997-5125
  • From within Italy:                                                                    075-997-5125

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
  • Ambulance/Medical Emergency                                                              118
  • Hospital in Umbertide (via Forlanini)                                      075 941-5944
  • Forest Fires (Vigili del Fuoco)                                                                 115
  • Information for all of Italy                                                                                          12
  • International Information                                                                         176
  • English Speaking Operator                                                                         15

House Appliances


Note that some “plugs” in sinks are opened and closed by pressing down.

Washing Machine (Upstairs)

  1. Load clothes in the machine. Don’t fill it more than about three-quarters full.
  1. Pour 50ml of detergent into dispenser cup.
  1. Open drawer at top left of washing machine and pour detergent into left-hand channel.
  1. Close the door firmly.
  1. Press the On/Off button.
  1. Press the (programme) button until the light next to Cotoni is on.
  1. Press the (temperature) button until the light next to 30 is on.
  1. Press the spin speed button (the spiral) until the light next to 1400 is on.
  1. Press the  options button until the light next to Rapido is on.
  2. Press the Avvio/Pause (start/pause) button.  /var/folders/nq/mqpr6gcn2mn9dgyskv96ggq40000gp/T/
  1. The cycle takes 1 hour and 39 minutes. The machine is locked while the cycle is in progress and the door cannot be opened. The machine will beep when it’s done.
  1. Leave the door wide open in between loads, or the machine will get mildewy.

Dryer (Upstairs)

  1. Load the dryer no more than half-full.
  1. Remove the condensation receptacle (the drawer at the top left of the machine) and empty it. (When the weather is hot, consider emptying it onto the plants outside.)
  1. Remove lint from the lint filter, in the bottom of the doorway.
  1. Shut the door firmly.
  1. Press the On/Off button so the lights come on.
  1. Turn the dial to select Cotoni Eco.
  1. The Livello Asciugatura (drying level) will automatically set to Normal Dry .
  1. Press the /var/folders/nq/mqpr6gcn2mn9dgyskv96ggq40000gp/T/ (start/pause )button so that the light in it stays on, will run 2 hours.


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 “Rapido” (brief cycle)
  • Push in “Avviso” button and light goes on
  • When cycle is finished, press Avviso again so that light goes off
  • Open door by pulling latch under the word “Bosch”. Open door a bit and let dishes cool and dry off a bit before unloading machine.

Gas Range/Cook Top/Smaller Oven

  • Cook Top: Turn appropriate knob ¼ turn, press and hold down to ignite flame. Back up plan, use a match.
  • Oven: In order for the oven to work, the timer must be set, along with the temperature and the setting.

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 at the 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.

Professional Stove (Upstairs)

In the upstairs unit of La Pietra, our larger Professional oven on the right has more settings than the smaller oven. On the knob on the far left, clockwise from “0” they are: Defrost, Fan-Assisted Cooking, Even Cooking, Maxi Broil with Fan-Assisted Oven and Rotisserie, Maxi Broil and Rotisserie, Broil or Rotisserie, Cooking from Above, Cooking from Below, and Oven Light. Stovetop: Light the small burner in the lower left, hold it down, and the other burners will light.


Microwave Oven (Upstairs)

To open, pull down the oven door toward you from the top. The instruction book is in the bottom drawer, next to the refrigerator.

Additional Appliances

There are hair dryers in the bathrooms; steam irons, ironing boards and vacuum cleaners in the hall 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 the front, entry and pergola sides of the house. The switches are located near the entry door. The outdoor lights are on a photocell and should go on automatically at dusk. The switch for the photocell is at the entry door.

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 in the parking lot. 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 hour per cleaning person, and €15 per load of laundry taken offsite. For a midweek cleaning, the charge is €75 per floor. Be prepared to pay the cleaning staff in cash (euros) 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 is 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 colorful 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, and call Elizabeth or Paola.

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 can 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. They are being well fed on a regular basis by Paola. However, you may feed them with the cat food provided.

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. Theft in this area is largely opportunistic… leave a door or window open, a car 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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