Health Tips in Italy



Health Care

To enroll for Italy's National Health Service Scheme (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale/SSN) you must register at your nearest local health authority (azienda Sanita Locale/ASL). You will find the address in your local telephone directory. The following documents will be necessary:

- Residence permit;

- Passport or any other official identity document, such as an Italian driving licence; 

- A family status certificate (certificato di stato di famiglia) should you want to claim benefits for your spouse or children; 

- Fiscal code card

- A letter from your employer stating the date on which your employment began (dichiarazione de datore di lavoro) and a statement from the INPS that you're regularly employed or a registration card (attestato di iscrizione) from the unemployment office (Ufficio di Collocamento) or proof of admission from an approved educational establishment.  

After registration you will be asked to choose a family doctor with a social security arrangement. Those with children will have to choose a paediatrician. You and every member of your family will be assigned a national health number and will receive a national health card (tessera sanitaria). Thetessera sanitaria will function as your official health record. It will be valid for one year and must be renewed annually. In case of loss of tessera sanitaria or a change in address you must apply for a replacement. 

If you are already covered by insurance in your home country you may extend it to Italy. Remember to check if your company will be accepted by Italian authorities first. A foreign health insurance policy guarantees unrestricted treatment, freedom to choose any doctor, hospital and clinic in Italy and abroad. 


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There is at least one clinic (clinica) or hospital (ospedale) in every large town or city in the country. The best hospitals are found in northern and central parts of the country. Public hospitals are listed in the yellow pages under Ospedali and private hospitals under Case di cura private. There is a lot of disparity in the treatment facilities offered by public and private medical facilities. Except in an emergency you can be admitted to a hospital only after consultation with a doctor. Your choice of a hospital and specialist depends on the type of treatment that you require and whether you opt for a public or private hospital. 

Getting around hospitals in Italy can be quite confusing as very few has reception areas or even signs to help patients and visitors. In-patient treatment in public hospitals for those registered under the national health scheme is free. If you are not covered by national health insurance, you must pay before you receive any treatment irrespective of whether you have private health insurance.      


Italy has a number of well trained doctors and medical professionals. If you are registered under the national health insurance scheme, local authorities will provide you with a list of doctors and you can choose which one to register with. Many doctors who work with the SSN may ask patients to see them privately. In order to see a specialist you will need your family doctor's referral.   

It is hard to find English speaking doctors in Italy and you may contact your embassy for a list of such doctors. In Milan, the International Health Centre has a number of English speaking doctors. GPs (medici generici) are listed in yellow pages under Medici Generici, and specialists under Specialisti and their specialty e.g. Ostetrica e Ginecologia (obstetricians and gynaecologists). The word dottore is a courtesy title used to address any university graduate.  

Surgery hours vary, but are usually from 8 to 10am and from 3 to 5pm, alternatively there will be only one surgery from 8am to 1pm, Mondays to Fridays. Appointments are usually not required as most surgeries operate on a first-come-first served basis.  


You can buy medicines from a chemist (farmacia) denoted by the sign of a red or green cross on a white background. They are open for business from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm and from 3:30 pm to 7:30 pm. In certain towns and cities farmacias may be open for 24 hours.  

Prices are not controlled by the government and vary according to the brand. Doctors usually prescribe pills and may supplement these with injections, suppositories and powders. Those registered with social security will have to pay a certain percentage of the cost depending such as: 



Percentage Paid


Insulin, some painkillers (not including aspirin), antibiotics, cortisones, ulcer treatments & eye drops




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Hormone treatments, antacids & certain anti-inflammatory drugs



Aspirin, throat pastilles, vitamins, throat gargles & dermatological creams


For medications belonging to Groups A and B you will require a doctor's prescription. Homeopathic medicines are often prescribed by doctors and are very popular in the country. Look out for look for the green Omeopatia sign to know if a chemist supplies homeopathic medicines as well.   

Do not expect to find a wide range of cosmetics and toiletries with an Italian chemist though some sell prescription spectacles and even perform simple tests like blood pressure checkups. People in Italy often consult chemists for minor ailments. It is possible to import medication so remember to check on VAT regulations. Non-prescription drugs may be difficult to find or very expensive so carry your own supply.  

Herbal medications and other alternative medicines can be found at erboristerie while negozi sanitari stores specialize in orthopaedic medical equipment across cities and towns.  

Emergency Numbers

12 - Telephone Directory Assistance Number 

112 - Carabinieri 

113 - Emergency Police Help Number (Ambulance and Fire) 

115 - Fire Department 

116 - A.C.I. (Italian Automobile Club) road assistance. 

118 - Medical Emergencies 

In Case of an Emergency

Always keep the telephone numbers of your doctor, local hospital and clinic, dentist, ambulance service and other emergency numbers with you at all times. In case of an emergency, the action you will take depends on the gravity of the situation. If you are unsure about whom to call in an emergency, simply dial 113 and you will be put in touch with the appropriate service. You can also call the local ambulance service (pronto soccorso ambulanza) in case you aren't physically able to head straight for the emergency department (pronto soccorso) of the nearest hospital. Do not worry about your insurance status as Italian law offers medical aid to all foreigners in an emergency irrespective of whether or not they have health insurance.