I guess it was inevitable…and an opportunity for another cross-cultural experience. I got my first viable illness out of the country: strep throat. I frutti della stagione — fruits of the season — says the check-out lady at the supermarket.
After realizing there was no getting better on my own, I stopped by a pharmacist (5 minutes on foot), and he recommended a doctor nearby (another five minutes on foot). I entered a small waiting room where there were two other people, and sat down. There was no receptionist, nurse, nothing; just a room with people sitting patiently (no pun indended). The next person who came in greeted everyone, Buon giorno, and they responded. I must have seemed like a bit of an ogre walking in in silence.
A few minutes later, a man came out of the only other door, and from behind it, a voice said, Avanti!â€ Next! When it was my turn, I went in to find a woman in a white coat behind a desk, in a large, one-room office that seemed well-equipped enough for all general practice eventualities.
I must have seemed a little stunned, but hopefully she wrote that off to not feeling well. We spoke first about payment, I said my throat hurt so badly Iâ€™d pay anything. She then told me where I could go, once I felt better, to sign up for health service, so that the next time I came I wouldnâ€™t have to pay anything. I would specify her as my doctor of choice (you betcha). She examined me, wrote me a prescription, and I paid her â‚¬20. Twenty euro.
I then returned to the pharmacist, who filled the prescription, and also told me about where to sign up for the health service. If I had it, he said, I would only pay â‚¬2 for my prescriptions. Then, he told me to keep my receipt, and once Iâ€™d signed up for the health service, to go back to the doctor, have her write another prescription, bring it along with the receipt back to him and he would refund the difference in what I would have to pay today, which was…twenty euro.
An office visit with only a doctor, antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory, in about an hourâ€™s time, for â‚¬40, with lots of advice on how to pay less.
Welcome to Italy.