Posts Tagged With: Health Insurance

Snow shoes, navigating the Italian health system and kitties


How is everyone? Well what a few weeks!

2017 hasn’t got off to the glowing start I had hoped! We have had unbelievable amounts of snow blocking people in their houses for up to two weeks, often without electricity. If that wasn’t bad enough, there were four strong quakes and where can you go when the roads are all closed and your car is buried under a couple of meters of snow?! And then the heartbreaking avalanche that buried Hotel Rigopiano killing 29 people, and a helicopter that was attempting to rescue a mountain climber crashed killing everyone on board. Central Italy just can’t get a break at the moment.


My neighbour took his photo of our poor abandoned house in Sarnano when she eventually managed to get through the snow to reach it!

Thankfully the snow on the particular ridge and valley where I am temporarily living was only a foot deep and the snowplow came and dug us out that night even up the drive – but the ridges and valleys on either side of us had over a meter of snow and lots of power issues. The damage from the earthquakes this time seems to be minimal (surprising given the additional stress on the houses that the snow added) but the damage from the snow itself has been quite widespread mainly in terms of damaging barns and there doesn’t seem to be a tree in Le Marche that has been left unscathed!

Meanwhile, I’ve been suffering with awful headaches every night (any of my readers suffer from cluster headaches?) so it’s been an interesting week testing out the Italian health system.

Unfortunately if you don’t have a ‘proper’ job and you’re not registered as unemployed, you have to pay about 380 euros for a “tessera sanitaria” (a health card) to be able to access Italy’s national health service. Although if it’s an emergency they’ll see you anyway. You pay for a calendar year, running from January to December, regardless if you’ve paid the full amount in November the previous year. I had a very exasperating visit to ASUR (Azienda Sanitaria Unica Regionale), the administration side the health service to try and get my card renewed. Frustratingly the office workers didn’t seem to know they were responsible for providing this service. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I can confirm if you burst into tears of frustration, stuff gets done! When it seemed I would leave with nothing, I left with a health card, free drugs and an appointment with the neurologist 5 days later.

On a slightly related note, purchasing medicine in Italy is odd: prescription-only drugs in the UK can be purchased over the counter in Italy (albeit at an eye-watering price, unless they’re antibiotics in which case they’re really cheap and freely available!), and basic painkillers which cost a pittance in the UK cost a lot here. If the UK and Italy teamed up, I think we’d have quite a good health service and drug provision.

Meanwhile, it hasn’t all been bad. I went  for an organised ‘Ciaspolata’ (snow shoe walk) with a group called Con in faccia un po’ di Sole at the weekend in Bolognola (in the Sibillini’s). It was an absolutely stunning day for the walk and though I’ve walked in those mountains quite a bit now, it’s totally different when everything is so snowy! The guide was excellent too and was able to identify which animals had made the various tracks in the snow.


This photo taken by our guides was our Ciaspolata group – a colourful lot!

In other good news, I have two kittens staying with me at the moment! Batfink has been distinctly unimpressed but yesterday marked a breakthrough – I came in to find them all in a tangled cuddly heap. Those who have followed this blog know that I don’t have much luck with kittens and cats – they pretty much all get run over, poisoned or die of flu. So in order to keep my expectations in check, I’ve dubbed the kittens Doomed and Fated. In fact, to illustrate my point, they did have a sweet little sister. I’ve retrospectively called her Mauled. You’ll never guess what happened to her 😦

This year, I decided I was going to try and become a ‘professional’ artist. I thought the easiest and most pleasant way to do this would be to get portrait commissions as I really like painting them. I have about 4 commissions and each one is driving me insane! I think a less stressful strategy  is to just paint stuff, and then if people like it they can buy it. So that shall be the plan going forward! Still, I bought some mounts in nice cellophane wrapping – it’s amazing how that kind of things gives everything a much more professional feel. Check out the latest pics here.

I think that’s about it from me. I hope you’re all having a good week.

A presto,




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Ferragosto, Falling stars and learning new things…

Ciao a tutti!!!

How is everyone?! Not loads to report on this week…

Monday, I headed out with a friend to Marcelli for a drink and found a good spot in a bar right next to where there was a polish/argentianian dancing and singing (not together mind) extravaganza.


The Polish dancers. Polish dancing is not about releasing unbridled passion as opposed to….


The Argentians… Now that’s how to do it…

Then we headed down to San Michele beach in Sirolo for some star gazing. Every year around the 10th August it’s a busy time for shooting stars (or falling stars if you’re Italian), The Italian theory is that Saint Lorenzo cries and his tears come to earth in the form of shooting stars. There have been so many that worried for the state of the sky, I investigated. I have problems enough trying to find the Plough without stars missing. Anyway, they’re not shooting stars at all. They’re shooting meteors. Phew!

I’ve been feeling rough for a few days and by Tuesday, I decided I should probably go to the doctors. I found an English speaking doctor (thankfully!) that’s a couple of minutes walk away and who seems to be nice yet credible (a rare mix). It was a bit of an odd experience. I wandered into this guy’s house and sat in his front room whilst an angry man glared at me (angry because I didn’t know that the front door made a large booming echoey slamming sound when it closed) and hoped there was a doctor behind one of the closed doors. I have now learnt the terms for a variety of symptoms, ailments and body parts in Italian “bleeding, sore, swollen, ulcers, gums, glands” etc. Apparently I have a virus of my upper respiratory tract. Alas, I think next week I’ll have to learn the terms for “BUT WHY WONT IT GO AWAY?”

I’m confused by the doctor situation here – I thought the way it worked if you were European was this: You go to the doctor, they’ll see you, they’ll want paying for the appointment and so they’ll take your European Health Insurance Card details and set about getting a reimbursement from the country where you usually live. But he didn’t take any details down and when I asked him about it, he said he’d only need them if he was giving me a prescription (he didn’t). I think that must mean he only gets paid if he gives me a prescription but then that would lend support to him giving prescriptions out willy-nilly which he didn’t. So, I think he’s a good’un.

My neighbour, the artist, popped in this week and we had a productive chat. He’s seen a few of my drawings now and has asked me to be part of an exhibition with him next year in Camerano. I’d want to do some big canvases inspired by the local area – though I’m still sorely missing a shop in Italy that sells big canvases (oh Hobbycraft, how I miss you). I still think there’s a market in portrait drawing too and I still need to get better particularly at drawing beards/stubble. Unless of course I sell a combined “wet shave / portrait drawing” experience.

Anyway, that would be for 3 months next year during Summer in what sounds like a disused building by the main piazza. He’s done an exhibition there before and made a fair bit of money he says so on the face of it, it sounds interesting (though I’d have to share the cost of hiring the place – though sounds cheap).

He also told me about his house in Cuba that I can stay for free whenever I want which is jolly nice of him……….

There’s a big event starting on the 23rd August and running until the 29th for “la contesa del sacro Vassoio di San Giovanni”. So, in the unlikely event you don’t know what that is, I’ve copied some text from the Camerano Tourist website

 “The 29th August is the Patron Saint’s Day of Camerano – St. John Baptist. Every year the Contest of the Sacred Plate of St. John is held in Camerano in which the eight suburbs of the town participate with great enthusiasm. There are also food stalls, bands, pageants and shows while the day ends with the late-night lottery”.

Who knew we had 8 suburbs?! I thought we barely warranted enough space/people to be classed as a single suburb!

And after that, there’s the “Rosso Conero”  3 day wine festival on the 7th, 8th and 9th September, also in the hip and happening Camerano. It’s well known in the area and sounds like the centre will be full of wine stalls where you can taste wine from the local areas and buy some if you like. I will be taking part in the tasting of the wine (and I will most certainly spend some time considering buying the wine too… all the way to the corner shop where the wine is a lot cheaper and tastes the same).  Friends/family – I’ve been suggesting you all wait to visit until I eventually get a car but actually, if you come down in the next two or three weeks then I think there’s enough to keep you occupied without a car.

Thursday was Ferragosto. Ferragosto marks the date that Mary was “assumed” into heaven and so the Italians like to mark this occasion by going to church, to the beach. I went to a new beach called Misano in the next region up (Emilia Romagna) with a new group of people. Going out with a group of Italian people always fills me with mixed emotions: Hooray – I’m going out with a new group of people! 🙂  And boo – I’ve no idea what they’re saying 😦  This time though, it was alright – I could pretty much keep up with the conversation. Having said that, I do have a habit of filling in the gaps with random flights of fancy that bear no resemblance to what they’ve actually said and not realising. So though I think I coped alright, perhaps their impending trip to the moon to buy a snow leopard wasn’t an accurate interpretation.

The beach was lovely – sandy and wide with actual beds to sleep on (though there’s nothing that could convince me to actually touch them let alone lie on one).

Beds! On the BEACH!!!

Beds! On the BEACH!!!

I learnt a few new things that day too:

1) I learnt that there are breathalyser tests in pubs there (see exhibit A below). Alcohol in Italy is called “Alcool” which I think glamorizes it…

Breathalyser machine in the bar/ restaurant where we were. Great idea - if you get caught drink driving, you lose your license for 3+ months.

Exhibit A: Breathalyser machine in the bar/ restaurant where we were. Great idea – if you get caught drink driving, you lose your license for 3+ months.

2) I learnt how prostitution worked in the old days (see exhibit B, thanks to Catherine for the photography)

Apparently this is a real sign (as in actually used!).  So, prices go up from a er, quickie, "twice", 20 minutes, half an hour, a full hour and two hours. I'm a little confused by the "doppia" - two times. I don't think it makes good business sense. I've thought about it - if I were a guy and wanted a couple of hours, I would just pay for a "Doppia" and string things out.

Exhibit B: Apparently this is a real sign (as in actually used!). So, prices go up from a er, quickie, “twice”, 20 minutes, half an hour, a full hour and two hours. I’m a little confused by the “doppia” – two times. I don’t think it makes good business sense. I’ve thought about it – if I were a guy and wanted a couple of hours, I would just pay for a “Doppia” and string things out…

3) I learnt how to play beach tennis. I use the term “learnt” loosely. I’ll never understand tennis. Why don’t the numbers go up properly? Stupid game (we lost).


Exhibit C: Picture of the beach tennis…….

4) I had my first piadina which is an Italian delicacy but which tastes exactly the same as an Indian bread that I can’t remember the name of. Anyway, delicious and I had mine as a sort of “toastie” with tomato and mozzarella.

Camera 360

Exhibit D: Tasty tasty tasty

So let me tell you about my health insurance quest. Italians – you may want to look away now. I hold my hands up – at times I *may*  have given the impression that Italians are a bit workshy (admittedly this would have more weight coming from someone who had a job) what with their daily 4 – 5 hour supermarket lunch break closures, Sunday closures, random other day of the week closures and I-don’t-really-want-to-work-today unplanned closures. But Ferragosto really is something to behold – EVERYTHING IS SHUT! For at least two weeks!

So, I just want to take some time out to summarise my varied thoughts and feelings about Italy: The countryside looks like it’s been painted by a grand master, the sea is like a warm crystal clear bath of splendor, the villages are stunningly picturesque whilst being bathed in history and architectural delights, the wildlife never ceases to amaze me with its sheer variety, the food is heavenly (particularly the tomatoes)… but I just can’t hide it under layers of sarcasm any longer:  HOW DOES THIS COUNTRY FUNCTION?! I just want to buy health insurance! There are about 30 (a slight exaggeration maybe) insurance companies in the centre of Camerano – every single one is closed until the beginning of September. It is INSANE. I.N.S.A.N.E.  And, and, and…no, I’m going to stop. Launching into a string of suggestions about how the country I think I’m illegally squatting in, might improve their economy is rude. However, I shall be providing a short private thesis on this for my therapist.

I did actually make it to an insurance company in fact, a few minutes before they closed down. In short, I need health insurance to get the carta di residenza (which I need for a whole bunch of other things). But (deep breaths) it turns out I need a carta di residenza to get health insurance. I have no words…

Yesterday I went for a long walk in Monte Conero national park. Since my first walk here I’ve been determined to try and find a round trip as so far, my walks have been characterised by me walking for hours in one direction in the hope of finding a convincing looking return path, giving up and walking hours back the same way. But yesterday I found a circular path (still 5 hours!). My next task will be to try and find a circular path without a couple of kilometers teetering on the side of a busy road. The walk was lovely all the same – the countryside has completely changed in the last month or so: wheat fields have been ploughed, the sunflower fields are all dried up, the blackberries are out and I have never ever seen so many butterflies! Beautiful!

Camera 360

The white specs aren’t your eyes going…there’s a million butterflies in this photo…

For this week’s “what’s a bit odd” – see all of the above.

Not much else to report. I have new housemates – a family. I don’t think I can have made a very good impression – they lock their bedroom doors when they leave the apartment! I can’t believe they don’t trust me! (Thank goodness I made copies of their keys).

Right, onwards and upwards. Have a lovely week all!



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