For a real medical emergency, call 118. Ask passersby to call for you if you don’t have a cell phone; in Italian, 118 is “centodiciotto” (pronounced CHEN-toh dee-CHOH-toh). If you call out this number when there are people nearby, someone will surely make the call for you. This is not a generalised emergency number like 911 in the United States so don’t call it in case of a crime or a fire, unless someone is injured.

In Italian towns and cities with a sizeable tourist presence, there are special emergency health clinics for tourists, with multilingual assistance. In Rome, the “Guardia Medica Turistica” is on via Emilio Morosini, 30, at the Nuovo Regina Margherita hospital in Trastevere – it can be easily reached from the Vatican or from piazza Navona. If you just need a doctor for a simple matter, or to get a prescription, ask at DOC24 ( www.doc24.eu phone +39 3897624802 or +39 0692927701) they will send you a private doctor who can help you.

In Italy, simple medicines like aspirin and cold remedies are sold only in pharmacies – and even in pharmacies, they are kept behind a counter: you’ll have to ask the pharmacist if you want something. It helps if you write down the generic name of the medicine, as the brand name may vary from one country to another. If you have an empty container containing the name of the active ingredient, show that to the pharmacist. Antibiotics need a doctor’s prescription. The price of medications like aspirin is much higher in Italy than in many other countries – however, a little first aid kit, with bandaids, aspirin, and an antiseptic cleanser is always good to have on hand. You can often find travel sizes of these items.

Blisters are probably the biggest health problem you will encounter in Rome. Make sure you have comfortable walking shoes, with cushioned soles to protect your feet from the paving blocks. You should always have bandaids, and maybe cushions for tender spots, in your purse or backpack. In summer, you may also need sunscreen and a hat.

Beware that toilet seats are often missing from public toilets, especially in train stations, as are toilet tissue and paper towels. Museums and public places such as bars and restaurants usually have clean toilets. Bathrooms along the autostrada (highway) are usually clean and well equipped: you may want to carry a pocket package of seat covers, although many toilets have an automatic sanitizing mechanism. It’s always a good idea to carry a pocket-sized pack of tissues for the occasions when there is no toilet paper.