Guardia Medica – Urgent Care, Italian Style

My sister has been visiting us here in Rome.

After a couple of days of acclimating to the time change, her voice starting getting hoarse, and a dry cough began. Because this was at the beginning of her trip, I wanted to make sure she was seen by a doctor so that her condition wouldn’t worsen, and so that she wouldn’t be bed-ridden instead of devouring all the sites at her disposal. Being far away from home and feeling like crap isn’t a great combination.

Enter guardia medica

—which is a form of urgent care. In Italy, it isn’t the emergency room, and it usually is reserved for times when a person’s regular doctor isn’t available through normal business hours. Here in Rome, you can find guardia medica offices dedicated mainly to tourists. This is a great convenience. I visited a guardia medica office once in Umbria, and I was seen within 15 minutes. At the time I wasn’t under the Italian Healthcare system, so I had to pay a (very) minor fee.

For my sister’s situation, we took her to a guardia medica at a local hospital. She was seen immediately by the doctor on duty (no, this isn’t a fairy tale), and my partner translated for her so there would be no confusion of symptoms, and subsequent treatment. Within fifteen minutes, a diagnosis had been made, antibiotics, cough syrups, and throat gargle had been prescribed. When asked about payment, the doctor said there would be no charge, and further added that in Italy (unlike in America) they feel a keen responsibility for treating sick people, without onerous financial consequences. This is an interesting and informative perspective from a country whose healthcare system is highly rated in the world.

Thank you guardia medica for “saving the day” and for providing yet another great example of Italians going out of their way to help someone through a crisis.

My sister is on the mend now, and getting the most out of her visit. Grazie a Dio!

The green neon cross of a farmacia.

The green neon cross of a farmacia.




By |2020-09-15T15:45:12+02:00February 4th, 2015|Healthcare in Italy|2 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Ralph November 29, 2017 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    I would like to share a story of my experience at the pronto soccorso or emergency room. I fell and received a large burse which swelled to a fist size lump. An Italian friend suggested I go to the pronto soccorso in Orvieto. The service was quite good you are given a color code red, yellow, green or white. Red you go right in (and most likely not even stay in the emergency room yellow go in quickly but treated there (mostly kids with cuts requiring stiches etc.. Green (I was green) you will be seen when a place opens and white you shouldn’t have come. I liked there service but the doctor (a real doctor) will make sure of how the accident happened and treat you for that. I didn’t have a lot of checks such as BP and temp but I didn’t come in with any complaints of that. I wasn’t ill just bruised. He treated me and told me what to do over the next few days and let me go all free. Most Americans expect a whole battery of test and might feel they are not getting proper treatment but for me I though it was great. After all I did not tell them I was sick or complain of pains in my chest but it was different than what you come to expect in the US>

    • Jed November 30, 2017 at 3:30 pm - Reply

      Hi Ralph, Yes, the experiences with the medical system vary considerably, as you relate in your experience, from the standard experiences in the U.S. It also can depend on where a person is geographically in Italy. Some areas are more well-funded and, consequently, are able to attend to people more quickly. But, the big thing I’ve seen (in my fortunately limited experience with the health system here in Italy) is that they don’t rush you and aren’t looking at their watches nervously concerned they’re going over the “allocated” window of time. Also, the doctors aren’t quick to push medication––especially when it comes to pain. From what I’ve seen and heard, a person has to be pretty ill and with a high level of pain to get something that is more of a heavy-hitter. The latter sometimes has to be communicated by the patient, and I believe it’s important to be a bit of a squeaky wheel. Otherwise, Tylenol seems to be the most often used treatment. I’ve been impressed with the medical system here, and I believe, in many ways, it’s good that they don’t over-treat and over-test. Still, a person may have to be more assertive with the doctors, and this is yet another reason why having more than a passing command of Italian is important. Thanks for sharing your story!

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