What you need to know about Italian pharmacies

Pharmacy in Italy
Pharmacy in Italy

What you need to know about Italian pharmacies

by Stripes Europe
Stripes Europe


An Italian pharmacy, or farmacia, will be your first stop when you or a family member has a cold or an upset stomach. Farmacia's are universally recognizable by the green cross symbol.

In Italy, their opening hours are regulated by law, and operate on a rota system to ensure that there is a pharmacy open for medical emergencies at all times of day. Every farmacia will display a card identifying its own opening hours, an emergency number to find the current after-hours pharmacy and instructions for emergency services. 

Over the Counter Medicine

At the Farmacia, you need to wait in line and talk to the pharmacist to describe your, or your family member's, medical issue. Any medication, even things you might find on shelves in the U.S., are distributed by the pharmacist. In fact, this is why such medicines are called "over the counter" as they are actually given to you over a counter from a pharmacist. Medications such as ibuprofin or Tylenol (called paracetamol in much of Europe) are not on open shelves. You will not, however, need a prescription to get them.

Be prepared to talk to the pharmacist by describing symptoms. Italian pharmacists are likely to ask a series of questions to discern which remedy best suits your problem. Since a stuffy nose might be allergies or a head cold, the treatments are different. Italian pharmacists are well qualified to provide advice about minor ailments and dispense appropriate medications.

Prescription Medications

If the symptoms are too severe for over-the-counter medications, the pharmacist will recommend a doctor's visit. At your appointment, the doctor may issue a prescription for stronger medicine. This is a piece of paper you need to hand carry to the farmacia.

If you have a prescription from your Italian provider, simply hand it to the pharmacist and they will retrieve the medicine. They are also available to answer any dosing questions.

Have your Codice Fiscale on hand as the pharmacist may need to see it. This is your Italian identification number; issued when you arrive and in-process in Italy. Note that opiates, narcotics or other closely regulated medications are difficult or sometimes impossible to get filled in Italy. 

As with doctors and dentists, pharmacists may speak limited English, so it is a good idea to come prepared with a translated list of symptoms or use a translation app on your phone.


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