Roberto Anfosso – Italy’s Horseback Doctor

Roberto Anfosso has become an iconic figure in his home of northern Italy. 

The local doctor has gained notoriety (and some worldwide attention) by attending to his elderly constituency on horseback. As he rides through the northern Piedmont region from patient to patient, Anfosso is simply utilising the most practical method of transportation.

The doctor, who is 63 years old, specialises in caring for the elderly residents of the rural region of Verduno, which is a vineyard-rich area renowned for its fine wine and nuts.

The surprising thing about this quiet locale is that the residents all seem to live relatively long and happy lives. “This is one of the pockets of Italy with the longest life expectancy,” explained Anfosso in a recent interview. “The patients I visit are at least 70 years old. The oldest was 104.”

The doctor’s horse, Ambra, has been his trusty companion for the past decade and is used predominantly for non-emergencies. Anfosso details that he prefers to use the horse for things like routine check-ups and monitoring procedures.

The views and epic, Italian scenery are one reason why Roberto Anfosso maintains this arduous and labour-intensive method of attending to his duties. They have also all contributed to him stacking up some impressive mileage over the years.

Every week, I ride 80 to 100 kilometres (50 to 62 miles) on horseback,” he told Digital Journal, “In the first three years, I made 1,000 visits, now I’ve stopped counting.”

He also talks about the comforting effect which arriving on horseback provides his patients, as well as the conversation which it always inspires.

Elderly people often fixate on what is wrong with them and talk about it constantly. The horse distracts them from their current situation. If a visit lasts 20 minutes they spend 10 talking about the horse, their memories…

It brings into question the validity of introducing an interruption to the norm for elderly people. Many believe that variation of routine can result in an enriched life, regardless of age, but particularly relevant for older people.

Either way, Anfosso is often rewarded greatly for his efforts;

Very often, they offer you food and wine… Almost all of them are producers. They uncork a bottle and you can’t refuse because that would be like refusing the hospitality and fruits of their labour,”

And with one visit often developing into several, once the neighbours spot his horse going by, that’s a lot of hospitality to contend with.

Colin J McCracken
Colin J McCracken

Director and Executive Editor

Colin J McCracken is an Irish editor and writer of both fiction and journalism. Coming from a background in education and film, his passions are split between the environmental and the entertaining. Constantly striving for a more sustainable existence and trying to balance it while simultaneously buying too many books.