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Italy uses the metric system. Basic terms for weights include un etto (100g) and un chilo (1kg). Travellers from the USA (and often the UK) will have to cope with the change from pounds to kilograms, miles to kilometres and gallons to litres. A standard conversion table can be found later on in this information pack.

Note that for numbers, Italians indicate decimals with commas and thousands with points.


Coin-operated laundrettes, where you can do your own washing, are catching on in Italy and you'll find them in most of the main cities. A load will cost around 4.

Lavasecco (dry-cleaning) charges range from around 3 for a shirt to 7.50 for a jacket. Be careful, though - the quality can be unreliable.


Public toilets are not exactly widespread in Italy, although coin-operated toilets are becoming increasingly common in major tourist areas. Most people use the toilets in bars and cafes (you might need to buy a coffee first).


Travel health depends on your predeparture preparations, your daily health care while overseas and how you handle any medical problem that does develop. While the potential dangers can seem daunting, in reality few people experience anything more than an upset stomach.

Health Insurance

Make sure that you have adequate health insurance. Some travel insurance policies will cover aspects of health  insurance. EU citizens are covered for emergency treatment on presentation of an EHIC card. Australia has a reciprocal arrangement with Italy and it is advisable to carry your Medicare card. Treatment in private hospitals is not covered, and charges are also likely for medication, dental work and secondary examinations, including x-rays and laboratory tests.

Citizens of New Zealand, the US and Canada and other countries have to pay for anything other than emergency treatment.

Travel Health Guides

There are a number of excellent travel health sites on the Internet. On our website in the section Positions Abroad if you click on insurance there are links to the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Other Information

Dental treatment is particularly expensive in Italy. If you wear glasses and you lose your glasses you will be able to have them replaced within a few days (sometimes within a few hours) by an ottico (optician).

Basic medicines are widely available and indeed many items requiring prescriptions in countries such as the USA can be obtained over the counter in Italy.

Medical Services

If you need an ambulance anywhere in Italy, call 118.

The quality of medical treatment in public hospitals varies in Italy. Simply put, the father north, the better the care.

Private hospitals and clinics throughout the country generally provide excellent services but are expensive for those without medical insurance. That said, certain treatments, tests or referrals to specialists in public hospitals may also have to be paid for and can be equally costly.

Your host family should be able to recommend a doctor or  your embassy or consulate in Italy can provide a list of recommended doctors in major cities.

The public health system is adminstered along provintial lines by centres generally known as Unita' Sanitarie Locali (USL). Increasingly they are being reorganised as Aziende Sanitarie Locali (ASL). Through them you find out where your nearest hospital, medical clinics and other services are. Look under "U" or "A" in the telephone book (sometimes the USL is under "A" as Azienda USL) or ask your host family.

Under these headings you'll find long lists of offices - look for Poliambulatorio (Polyclinic) and the telephone number of Accetazione Sanitaria. You need to call this number to make an appointment; there is no point in just rolling up. Clinic opening hours vary widely, with the minimum generally being about 8am to 12.30pm Monday to Friday. Some open for a couple of hours in the afternoon and on Saturday mornings too.

Each ASL/USL area has its own Consultorio Familiare (Family Planning Centre) where you can go for contraceptives, pregnacy tests and information about abortion (legal up to the 12th week of pregnancy).

For emergency treatment, go straight to the pronto soccorso (casualty) section of a public hospital, where you can also get emergency dental treatment. Sometimes hospitals are listed in the phone book under Aziende Ospedaliere. In major cities you are likely to find English-speaking doctors, or a volunteer translator service. Often, first aid is also available at train stations, airports and ports.

IAMAT (International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers) + Tel 1 716 754 4883 Fax + 1 519 836 3412), 417 Center Street, Lewisston, NY 14092, a non-profit organization based in New York, can provide a list of English-speaking doctors in Rome who have been trained in the USA, the UK or Canada.


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