In order to register for the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (National Health Service) it is necessary to have four documents:
Armed with these documents, you need to go to the Agenzie Sanitarie Locali (ASL) office. Here you will need to select a family doctor (it pays to have researched and chosen one previously). Having registered, you will be given temporary documents allowing you to visit the doctor and access health services, while you wait for your Tessera Sanitaria (Health Card) to arrive. This is a very neat, plastic card, the same size as a credit card, which also has your Codice Fiscale stamped on it.
Other than emergency treatment, all medical treatment starts with the family doctor. Once you have established the problem and the doctor has suggested a course of action, you will be given a 'Ricetta' (prescription) which provides access to medicines from the farmacia, hospital tests or visits to a specialist.
Visits to a hospital will require registering at the reception desk armed with the usual documents: ID card, Tessera Sanitaria and Ricetta. Unless you are a pensioner or extremely poor, you will be required to make a small payment at this stage.
Emergencies are dealt with at the 'Pronto Soccorso' department in the hospital.