Italy has been visited five times, the first, middle and last occasions being to Rome, on each occasion including the Policlinic Umberto Primo built in 1888 and undergoing extensive renovation around the millennium In 1955 the host Professor was the famous Valdone, a dominant handsome man of few words and boundless energy whose bust can still be seen in the hospital courtyard. Professor Paollucci, Director of Clinical Surgery, was known to Sir Clement Price Thomas, President of the Travelling Surgical Society. In 1962 Turin and Padua were visited. In Turin 4000 mitral valvotomies had been performed, with a mortality of 1% in the last 2000 and of 0.8% for all cardiac operations.

Florence was also visited, followed by Padua where the tour included the latter’s ancient university and its historic anatomy theatre, once attended by the likes of Fabricius, Vesalius and William Harvey. The current hospital seemed equally ancient, but by the visit in 1990 it had been replaced by a modern facility where Professor David d’Amico – a dynamic Sicilian – had just been given permission to proceed with liver transplantation, to his evident delight. This visit also embraced Modena (famous for Ferrari, Balsamic vinegar and the tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who was born here) and Bologna, the latter said to be the oldest university in the world, founded in 1158, though on this occasion we were not entirely expected.

The 1982 visit to Rome was attended by a record 23 surgeons and 20 wives, many of whom were in the crowd greeted by the Pope. The Policlinico Umberto I now had closed circuit television, and on the visit in 2001 this was the medium through which the Society followed the operating. It also visited the huge Catholic Gemelli Hospital, and the equally vast San Giovanni Hospital, built on the site of the villa of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.