ITALY: Pharmacies and Prescriptions

Public health care covers most of your prescription drug costs. Once your doctor writes you a prescription, you will be ushered into the world of Italian pharmacies, where medicine is dispensed with a serious air and quaint packaging. Prepare for an adventure. Pharmacy schedules are confusing, but there will be at least one open at any time in any given city or town. Just look for an illuminated green cross. If the sign is turned off, it’s closed. Especially late at night, you may have to check several locations, as pharmacies take turns filling the night shift. This can be frustrating, since pharmacies are the only places in town that sell aspirin. They are also among the few places that sell mosquito spray and plug-in vapor repellents”indispensable urban survival gear in the summer, especially in the North. The moral is: Don’t wait until you have a headache or mosquito problem to go looking for relief. Always keep a supply of medicine on hand. Once you find an open pharmacy, you’ll notice that it isn’t the sort of place with greeting cards and cigarettes for sale with a drug counter tucked in the back. Italian pharmacists take their vocation very seriously, and their customers afford them due respect. Theirs is one of the most sought-after fields of scientific study, ranking just after medicine among high school students aspiring to university.

Candidates need to score rather high on entrance exams to be admitted to a pharmacy program. Your pharmacist, invariably dressed in a white lab coat, will act as a sort of physician for minor ailments such as the flu or diarrhea. If you have a cold, a stomachache, or mild headache, spare yourself the hassle of going to the hospital and head directly to the pharmacist for a quick diagnosis and over-the-counter pills. Be warned that what might be done with a tablet or capsule back home may take a more frightening form in Italy. Italians are not hesitant to administer an injection. Seek out someone’s mother for help. the green farmacia cross If you take a particular medicine back home, make sure to jot down the generic name, as brand names are rarely the same in Europe. Also, because Italian food and drug regulations are different, you will have access to medicines that might be awaiting FDA approval in the United States. Aside from traditional cures, Italian pharmacies always stock a wide array of alternative treatments, such as herbs and homeopathy. Both are very popular in Italy. Your quack detector may start beeping if a pharmacist suggests a sort of potion or oil that you’ve never heard of, but anything new is worth a try if nothing else seems to help (and as long as your life is not on the line). You could be pleasantly surprised by the results.

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