Your interactive guide to living abroad as recommended by local mums | Last updated 5 months ago

Healthcare

Accessing Healthcare in Italy

Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will enable you to access the necessary state-provided healthcare in Italy at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free when on a temporary stay. The EHIC also covers you for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions, although it does not cover you if you are travelling for the express purpose of obtaining medical treatment. The EHIC also covers you for routine maternity care, provided the reason for your visit is not specifically to give birth. Non-EEA nationals are not covered in Italy‚Ä® 

Find Help in Emergencies

If you find yourself in a serious, life-threatening emergency, you should call 112. This number is free of charge and valid in most European countries. Emergency treatment is available free or at low cost to anyone in need in Italy.

It is important that you stay calm and provide the following details when calling emergency services in Italy:

  • Who you are and your phone number

  • Describe the emergency situation

  • Specify the place of the emergency

  • Where you are and possible points of reference

Other important phone numbers to note down:

112 – general emergencies (medical, fire and police)

118 – ambulance (Emergenza sanitaria)

113 – police (Carabineri)

115 – fire brigade (Vigili del fuoco)

170 – International Operator (English speaking) (Informazione internazionali)

There is no guarantee that all emergency services and doctors will speak English. If possible, have a local person assist you with your call. In addition, take a note of these useful Italian phrases for emergencies and doctors appointments.

Health Services and Costs

Your EHIC does not cover private treatment. Any costs incurred for private healthcare are non-refundable. You should be particularly careful if healthcare arrangements are made by a hotel or travel representative. They might reassure visitors that they can claim back whatever is paid out, but they are referring to private insurance and not the treatment given under the EHIC.

It's always advisable to have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. Repatriation for medical treatment is not covered by the EHIC.

Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies if necessary) as they might be needed by you or your insurance company to apply for any refund or reimbursement.

If you move to Italy or stay in the country for more than three months then you need to register with the National Health Services (SNN). The Italian NHS provides free or low-cost health care to everyone registered, including their families, university students and retirees.

Download the InformaSalute – Access to the NHS by foreign citizens information leaflet (PDF, 571kb) for detailed information about the Italian healthcare system, how to register with the SNN or obtain your SSN medical card which you will need to  present every time you want to use a health service.

General Practitioners and Paediatricians

Once you are registered with the SNN you are entitled to register with a local GP. You can find GPs in your area via your ASL office (local health authorities).

If you have children under the age of 14 then it is recommended that you also register with a paediatrician. Each GP or paediatrician has an outpatient department which guarantee free general medical examinations at the fixed hours. 

Dentists and Hospitals

In case of an emergency (general or dental) while on holiday in Italy visit your nearest SSN hospital or any Guardia Medica, which offers an after-hours First Aid Service. Make sure you have your EHIC card with you.

Italy treats dentistry as specialist treatments. So just like in the UK, you'll need to be referred by a doctor for any hospital or dental treatment. Make sure you are referred to a public hospital, that you have a valid EHIC or SSN medical card and double-check you are not treated as a private patient.

Hospital or dental treatments are not necessarily free of charge and you may be asked to make a patient co-payment ‘the ticket’. The cost should be marked on you GP’s referral documents.

Hospitals in Italy are called 'Ospedale' and have emergency rooms 24h. Private hospitals are called 'Casa di cura' or 'Clinica' and do not have emergency rooms.

Note not all doctors and nurses in Italy are fluent in English.

Co-pay fee (ticket) exemption

The ticket is the co-pay fee provided by the SSN. The co-pay fee must be paid at the payment counter of the outpatient department or hospital before using medical services. Some particular circumstances (disability, chronic diseases, and status of inability, low income or age reasons) entitle patients to co-pay fee exemption. For further information on the requisites for exemption and on the issuing of the exemption certificate or card, you can refer to the exemption office of your ASL (local health authorities in Italy).

Prescriptions

You can take your prescription to any pharmacy (farmacia) in Italy. They can be identified by a green cross. Prescriptions are generally not free and you are expected to make a co-payment towards it. However, some medicines are considered ‘life-savers’ and those are free of charge. Others are not covered by the SNN and you will have to pay the full costs for those.

Italian pharmacies are regulated by law, which means you will always find an open pharmacy in your area at night, holidays and Sundays. Each pharmacy displays information about its opening hours and out-of-hours emergency telephone numbers.

Bringing your own medicines to Italy

If you have a condition that requires you to bring your own medicines to Italy, you should have a letter from your GP stating what the medicines are and why you need them. If possible, have the letter translated into Italian, as this will also be useful in case you need to see a health professional during your stay. You should also carry your medicines in their original containers. Make a note of the generic scientific name of your medicines in case you need to refill them at a pharmacy.

If any of your medicines fall into the controlled drugs category, you need to comply with regulations on drug exports in the UK.