Italian Pharmacy General Information
Pharmacists in Italy are allowed more leeway in dispensing health advice and selling pharmaceuticals than in the US. If you can describe your condition well, you may be able to procure a prescription directly from a pharmacist in Italy. Likewise, if you need a prescription filled on an emergency basis, you may be able to do so--if you know the scientific or generic name of the medicine you need and can make a good case for the pharmacist to dispense it.
When to go to the Italian Pharmacy
Many Italian pharmacists speak at least a little English, but if you are staying in Italy a while, you might want to learn some handy Italian at the Italian Language Audio Phrasebook: Pharmacy. The list will give you some idea of what you can purchase in an Italian Pharmacy.
If you are suffering something more serious, or have had an injury not likely to be helped by aspirin, you can go to the 24-hour casualty departments, or pronto soccorso, at any hospital. If you are unable to transport yourself, the toll-free medical emergency telephone number in Italy is 118. You may get an ambulance by calling this number, or if you do not require transport to a hospital, the First Aid Service (Guardia Medica) will be sent.
Your Medicines in Italy
- Carry the medications in their original container.
- Accompany each medication with a physician's written description of the medical problem
- Know the generic or scientific name of the medicine.
The latter advice is crucial if you need to replenish a medicine during your trip. American pharmaceutical firms often give proprietary names to their version of common medicines and these names are not always recognized overseas.
The information you carry above should be typewritten for clarity.
Other Things You May Find at an Italian Pharmacy - Elixir di China
Besides herbs, alcohol was (and is) a fundamental part of the medical pharmacopoeia. Ingredients dissolve well in it--and besides, water in medieval times wasn't the best choice to offer to sick folks.
My local pharmacy in Italy carries its own formula of China elixir, called Amaro Clementi, elixir di Fivizzano. The Farmacia Guidetti in Bergamo provides a recipe for their Elixir of China, as well as a guide to drinking it.