As with other medical practitioners, it isn't necessary to register with an optician or optometrist (ottico). You simply make an appointment with the practitioner of your choice, although it's wise to ask your friends, colleagues or neighbours if they can recommend someone. Opticians are listed in the yellow pages under Ottici and eye specialists under Oculisti. Prices for spectacles (occhiali) and contact lenses (lenti a contatto) aren't controlled, but the eye care business is competitive, so it's wise to shop around and compare costs. A pair of spectacles typically costs between â‚?00 and â‚?60, which may include â‚?0 for the frame. Italy lacks large optical chains where spectacles can be made on the spot or within 24 hours, although if you have a prescription you can sometimes buy ready-made reading spectacles from pharmacies. Always obtain an estimate for lenses and ask about extra charges for fittings, adjustments, lens-care kits and follow-up visits.
To receive free treatment under the national health service, you must have your eyes examined by an eye specialist or oculist (oculista). You must first obtain a referral from your family doctor, which you take to an oculist, who usually works in a state hospital or local ASL building. An oculist can make a more thorough test of your eyesight than an optician, and is able to test for certain diseases that can be diagnosed from eye abnormalities, e.g. diabetes and some types of cancer. If glasses are necessary, he will write a prescription to take to an optician.
It's recommended to have your eyes tested before arriving in Italy and to bring a spare pair of spectacles and/or contact lenses with you. You should also bring a copy of your prescription in case you need to obtain replacement spectacles or contact lenses urgently.
This excerpt has been republished with permission from Survival Books. Some of the information may apply to EU citizens only. If you would like to get the inside track on moving to Italy, pick up your copy of this great book by clicking here.