Pharmacies in Italy
A traveler's guide to farmacie (pharmacies) in Italy
Pharmacies in Italy often have been around for hundreds of years—and some look it, with gorgeous frescoed ceilings and antique wood-and-glass cabinetry.When Italians feel sick, they don't call their doctor; they head to the local pharmacy, where the dying art of the skilled apothecary and knowledgeable druggist still lives on. You can do the same. Just walk in bravely, put your charade skills to work, and point to whatever hurts while moaning.
I've entered Florentine apothecaries clutching my throat and left able to swallow again, stumbled in an exaggerated feverish delirium around a Toledo drug store (Spain, not Ohio), and on one memorable occasion did a Oscar-worthy pantomime of vomiting violently in a Greek pharmacy.
How to find a pharmacy in Italy
Italy seems to have more pharmacies than banks, and rarely do you have to go far to find a corner farmacia. Pharmacies in Italy are marked by neon signs of the international cross symbol, like glowing green plus signs. (Why green and not red? Beats me.)
A farmacia (pharmacy or chemists) in Italy is always marked by a glowing green cross sign.As a rule of thumb, in an Italian town of any size you can almost always count on finding a pharmacy on or near the main piazza, and another one in or near the train station.
The drug stores in any Italian town or city also operate on a rotating schedule to ensure than a minimum number are open on any given day (even Sundays and holidays).
Also, there will either be one or two 24-hour pharmacies (in bigger cities, the farmacia inside the train station usually has this honor), or all the chemists in town will take turns staying open all night.
Whichever lucky drug store drew the short straw to be open on an inconvenient day or time is called the farmacia di turno, and all Italian farmacie post a list of this schedule on or near the front door (see the picture below)—so if you come across a closed one, at least you can peruse the list to find an open pharmacy.
Your hotel will also be able to tell you where to find the nearest open pharmacy.
What to do for more serious health concerns
A sign outside each pharmacy in Italy lists the schedule detailing which drug stores in town take turns staying open all night, on Sundays and holidays.The Italian farmacie are great, but if you're injured, or your illness seems like something more serious than the sniffles and you need to treat the underlying cause and not just the symptoms, or it's the middle of the night and you can't find a drug store, by all means head directly to the nearest hospital.
The great news is, should you need to visit the hospital, you can just find the nearest one and march right in.
There will be virtually no paperwork, and you will be seen to speedily and efficaciously.
I love socialized medicine. » more
- Hospitals in Italy
- Health insurance in Italy
- General health concerns in Italy
- Safety concerns in Italy
- The Ultimate Packing List (includes a travel first aid kit)
This material was last updated February 2011. All information was accurate at the time.
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