Bologna Inside - Second Edition

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The agency that administers the SSN in Bologna is called the ASL - Agenzia Sanitaria Locale (local health agency), also known as Azienda USL. You can call the regional Azienda USL’s free information numbers, one of which offers multilingual assistance. For an extensive list of useful telephone numbers, look in the phone book under AZIENDA USL or click on the guida telefonica (telephone guide) on the agency’s website. For Italian speakers, the city of Bologna’s health care services website is also informative:

Azienda USL

Numero verde 800.033033
Numero verde multilingual 800.663366


The SSN is also known as the mutua. EU citizens have the right to coverage whether or not they have officially become residents in Italy. Non-resident EU citizens must obtain a clearance form, called E111, issued by the health authority in their home country. If you are not an EU citizen, you must be a resident in order to register for the system, see Chapter 1: Plugging In.

Registering for coverage is a simple procedure. The Azienda USL has divided the city into districts. Each district has an anagrafe sanitaria, an office that oversees administrative details. Call the general Azienda USL information hotline or ask at the URP in Piazza Maggiore if you are unsure about your district. The anagrafe sanitaria have a central URP office: 051.2869265.



Via Colombi, 3
Tel. 051.6173516


Via Tiarini, 10/12
Tel. 051.706205


Via Montebello, 6
Tel. 051.2869232

San Donato/San Vitale

Via Mengoli, 32
Tel. 051.396111

Savena/Santo Stefano

Via Toscana, 17/19
Tel. 051.6221587

Years ago, I broke several bones, including two neck vertebrae, in a serious car accident that hospitalized me for months. After a month, I could wash my curly hair, which is impossible to control if left on its own to dry. When I can’t blow it dry, I twist it into a bun or braid. I caused a scandal by returning to my hospital bed with wet hair. “Cervicale!” they yelled. “If you don’t dry your hair immediately, you’ll get cervicale.” Perplexed (I had done this for years with no ill effects), I asked my American friends what this was. Smiling, they said it was something like a neckache, caused by drafts and dampness. Something no one in the USA ever gets.

Maria Cromwell


When you register with the SSN you will be given a tessera sanitaria (health care card) with your registration number and codice fiscale. A plastic version that looks like a credit card will arrive later in the mail. Your doctor may ask to see your tessera when filling out a prescription and you will have to show it when you make an appointment to see a specialist or sign up for other services.


When you sign up for the SSN, you will choose a medico di base. Ask friends or neighbors in your district for a recommendation. In the absence of advice, you can try choosing from the list by studying names and birthdates, to at least select a doctor on the basis of his or her age or gender. Once you have chosen a doctor, you will receive a slip of paper with regular office hours. If you move out of your district but still want to keep the same doctor, it is possible to do so upon request. Likewise, with a little extra paperwork, you may request a doctor in another district.


Most general practitioners see patients on a first-come, first-serve basis during regular office hours. Although some doctors also schedule appointments, be prepared to spend some time in a waiting room. If you are used to having long conversations with your physician, you might be in for a surprise. General practitioners usually see many patients in a limited amount of time. They are adept at making quick diagnoses and tend to keep small talk to a minimum.


For non-emergency medical care after hours, call the guardia medica (doctor on call) for your neighborhood. The guardia medica is available nights from 20-8, pre-holidays from 10-20 and holidays from 8-20.

Quartieri Borgo Panigale, Reno, Saragozza, Porto, Navile

Tel. 848.831831

Quartieri San Donato, San Vitale, Savena, Santo Stefano

Tel. 848.832832

or other areas of the city or province, see:


It’s universal: prescriptions are written in hieroglyphics in Italy too. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor to clarify the name of the medication prescribed and the dosing regimen while in the office. Many doctors also schedule regular times when they accept telephone calls from patients with questions about medication or a health issue.


Your medico di base might refer you to a specialist or order diagnostic tests. You will be sent off with a formal request slip and it will be your responsibility to book your appointment through the CUP - Centri Unificati di Prenotazione (Unified Reservation Center). There are about 150 CUP reservation offices all over the city. It is also possible to book appointments in many pharmacies (look for the CUP sign) and online through eCup2000 at, or via phone by calling 848.884888. Note that phone bookings are not accepted for many services. A comprehensive list of CUP reservation desks is available on their website and at the URP in Piazza Maggiore.

You will be charged a fee for most specialist visits and tests. You can pay at the CUP office when you book the appointment or make a special trip back before your scheduled visit. Upon payment you will be given what is called a ticket, pronounced tee-ket, a piece of paper with a list of the things you need to have done. You must bring your ticket with you when you go for your tests. It will list the date and time of your appointment and may also include instructions for you to follow in advance of the test. You also have to bring your receipt to show that you have paid for the exam.

You may wait as long as a month to see a specialist or get a test done, even longer if you have requested a specific location or physician. If it really seems that too much time will elapse before you can be seen, book the appointment for the first available date without paying for it and call your doctor. He or she may say it’s fine to wait. If not, they will probably be able to refer you to a private clinic or specialist a pagamento (fee for visit). Tip: it is easy to get specialist appointments in August during vacation time.