from Chapter 5 - Crristoper Arrison with H in Front


The medical check is the final hurdle for those seeking residency in Italy, deliberately last in case the process leading up to it has driven the applicant mad. The reward for passing is a libretto sanitario - a ticket to free government health care.


When Daniela called her family medico, friend first and doctor second, he insisted we come round immediately, saying he was very much looking forward to receiving his first Australian patient, although he suggested Daniela register her canguro with a vet as well. Driving to the after-hours appointment at Dr Nino's home, Daniela said he was a good medico because he remembered what was wrong with you from one visit to the next. I hoped there was more to his CV than that.


In the nearby town of Soldignano, Dr Nino's freshly painted villa reflected the afternoon sun. We walked through a garden of lemon trees up to grandiose front doors, which a moustachioed man opened onto a palace of antiques and leather lounges, artworks and statuettes. The opulence of the house was at odds with the neglected township outside its gate, litter on the street and a starving stray dog. If you could take an x-ray photograph of these southern villages, to view the plush insides of houses lining ramshackle streets, you would glimpse the Italian attitude to common property. 'The street belongs to no one,' they say. But what about the dog?


Tall for an Italian, Dr Nino retold the kangaroo joke in case Daniela hadn't passed it on. Then he gave me a stringent medical, which involved drinking the best part of a bottle of his home-made Limoncello - pure alcohol with a hint of lemon. I can only assume his motive for such a medical was that, were I sick, his eccentric elixir would either kill or cure me.


'Nino made it with lemons from our garden,' boasted his wife, whose contribution had surely been nail polish remover. They insisted I drink, to the point of putting the glass in my hand; if they could have drunk it for me they would have. By the end of the 'medical' I was chatting with their parrot, who, to my disgust and their amusement, spoke Italian better than I did.


We gave Dr Nino a boomerang as thanks. I got a headache that came and went.


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