The first of many steps to getting a driver’s license is to get a Medical Certificate from your family doctor.
Except we don’t have a family doctor.
While visitors living in Italy can have a family doctor … and are encouraged to pick one … having one isn’t a requirement because we have American insurance. And it hasn’t been a problem, since we can self-refer to a specialist … either to a local private clinic or Misericordia, the “chain” of Italian clinics that is in most towns. If we have a cold, we go to the ENT … for an eye problem, an ophthalmologist.
I began to think who could help.
Maybe the head of the private clinic, Dr. P, would do it. She likes us. NO. But, she said that Dr. F works at an office in the next town, near the pharmacy. We knew that office … it’s lo studio where Dr. G, the physician David saw a few years ago, works. Where the median age is 75. There was Misericordia. NO. I tried calling Dr. G, but there was no answer. I looked up Dr. F’s phone number … and it was the pharmacy’s number. I sent a message to Chiara, one of our pharmacist-friends … she replied saying she would think about who could help me. I sent a message to Sandra, whose brother-in-law prepared David’s certificate all those years ago, but she didn’t think he’d help me. I sent a message to Stefania who had suggested other doctors over the years, but she drew a blank. I was still hoping against hope that we’d find kindly Kildare or a wonderful Welby would oblige us.
I was getting nervous.
As the days passed, I wondered if Italy would require me to buy into the national insurance plan so I’d have an official physician to help me. That would be as expensive as it would be unnecessary. I’d go to the office once … for the certificate. Everyone kept saying, with surprise in their voices, “You don’t have a family doctor?”
I scrolled through my phone. The Linda … every MD we had even seen or called was listed, with “M.D.” after his or her name. Hmm, I mused, maybe the podiatrist who now does zumba … possibly the physiotherapist we see regularly …
I called Dr. G’s office again. I was practicing my explanation (I was the wife of a patient he saw once several years ago) when, much to my surprise, a receptionist answered. She said, much to my surprise, I could simply call if I wanted to talk with him. (Um, I am calling.) He’s with a patient, she added. I knew that leaving a message is never an option in Italy, so threading the needle of when to talk with the doctor seemed uncertain.
Studio 75 has walk-in hours to see patients … that might be the best way, the only way to talk with Dr. G or Dr. F, because I needed paperwork. But wait … before we walk into the waiting room, maybe I should talk with the nearby pharmacist, who I had talked with at a couple of recent parties. Maybe he’d help and simplify the process.
Dr. C, the pharmacist, smiled when he saw me, and I explained about the certificate. He made a few phone calls … and then said I should talk with the woman at ASL. Do you know where that is? Yes, I said, sighing mentally (it was the woman who told us oh those many years ago that coverage would cost 1,800 euros a year). He added that Dr. G or Dr. F were equally good choices … if I did need a GP.
ASL, with its limited hours on limited days, was still open. I walked in and pulled a number … five minutes before closing. The next person to be helped. And being a small town, we knew someone who works there … a zumbera, who greeted me with a kiss and announced to her colleagues that we were zumba friends.
My number … I walk into the room. I always smile when I greet someone. Was I smiling …? I don’t remember.
ME: I need a family doctor.
HER: You need health insurance.
ME: (thinking) WTF.
She handed me the same form … reprinted so it wasn’t an 8th-generation photocopy askew on the page, but it was easily recognizable. She said there’s no need to come back here, it’s all done by email and wire transfer now … just complete and email and wait. They’ll tell me the rate for the year. The calendar year, without prorating the rate.
Oy. Or as they say in Italy, oioi.
I postponed the paperwork, hoping for another solution. There did seem to be a bright side … that if I had insurance … I could submit all of my expenses to our accountant (one of our two Italian accountants, not to be confused with our one American accountant) and they could be deducted from our taxes. More correctly, my taxes … because our taxes are separate, paid under our separate codice fiscale. Twice as much paperwork. The dark underbelly of la dolce vita.
One evening, as we drove back from an afternoon with Giovanna in Florence, I suggested that we stop at Dr. G’s office … the day and hours were right. I was the only one waiting to see him.
The door opened, and a patient left. “Avanti,” came the voice from inside. It’s showtime. I exhaled … smiled … walked in. I re-introduced myself, not sure if Dr. G remembered me or not. He smiled and asked how he could help me. I smiled and explained.
DOCTOR: Are you healthy?
He grabbed a sheet of paper from his desk and filled out the form. Then he turned the paper toward me, said “You don’t have any of these diseases, do you? Sign here.” He signed the form, stamped it with the much coveted rubber stamp, and said “Do you need anything else?” I smiled and said “no thank you!”
“Guida con prudenza” … drive carefully … “arrivederci.”
Still smiling, I left … and once outside, I did my happy dance. That was easy.
I took a photo of The Form and WhatsApped it to Chiara at the driving school. And the next day, I went to the driving school, four photos in hand (step 2), and did steps 3 and 4 … eye exam and enrollment.
Let the games begin.
(… to be continued …)
BANANA-CHOCOLATE CHIP BREAD
1 cup sugar
½ cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup banana, mashed (2 large or 3 medium)
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350° F (170° C). Grease 8x4 inch loaf pan.
- In large bowl, mix eggs and sugar, then stir in oil, vanilla, and banana.
- Fold in dry ingredients until blended, then chocolate chips.
- Pour into prepared pan.
- Bake for 40–45 minutes, until done and lightly browned.
- After 5–10 minutes, remove from pan.
- Serve at any temperature.