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Before You Go
Italy has a public health system (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, SSN) that is legally bound to provide emergency care to everyone.
EU nationals are entitled to reduced-cost, sometimes free, medical care with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), available from your home health authority. Non-EU citizens should take out medical insurance.
If you need insurance, make sure to get a policy that covers you for the worst possible scenario, such as an accident requiring emergency repatriation.
Find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.
Also, check if there is a reciprocal arrangement between your country and Italy. If there is, you may be covered for essential medical treatment and some subsidised medications. Australia, for instance, has such an agreement; carry your Medicare card.
No jabs are required to travel to Italy, though the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all travellers should be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, the measles, mumps, rubella, polio and hepatitis B.
Availability & Cost of Health Care
Health care is readily available throughout Italy, but standards can vary significantly.
Pharmacists can advise on medical matters and sell over-the-counter medications for minor illnesses. They can also point you in the right direction if you need more specialised help.
In large city-centre pharmacies (farmacie), you’ll probably find someone who speaks a little English.
Pharmacies, marked by a green cross, generally keep shop hours, typically opening from 8.30am to 7.30pm Monday to Friday and on Saturday mornings. Outside these hours, they open on a rotational basis. When closed, a pharmacy is legally required to post a list of places open in the vicinity.
In the larger cities, English-speaking doctors are often available for house calls or appointments through private clinics.
For emergency treatment, head to the pronto soccorso (casualty department) of an ospedale (public hospital), where you can also get emergency dental treatment.
If you need an ambulance anywhere in Italy, call 118.
Tap water in Italy is safe to drink. The only exception is where a tap is marked 'Acqua non potabile' (Water not suitable for drinking).