“Ambulancias” were born of military necessity in Spain around 1400 and were the first health teams to follow combatants.
They stayed as such until the end of the 18th century, evolving across the centuries thanks to the drive of people like Dominique Jean Larrey (1766-1842), the surgeon who designed the first means of transport specifically equipped to transport the wounded, applying certain criteria like a suspension system and air circulation to make conditions more sanitary.
In Italy, with the creation of the MedicalCorps in the kingdom of Sardinia in 1831, the term ‘ambulance’ was used to refer both to the military teams and to the carts for the wounded that made up the Corps.
The real turning point came in the mid 1960s when emergency services really developed, thanks to the momentum provided by the federal US government once the connection had been made between deaths caused by the lack of out-of-hospital structures and emergency departments. It was the start of a revolution lasting right through till recent decades.
In time ambulances stopped being simple means of transport to get the patient to the nearest hospital and became mobile resuscitation centres; staff specialised and started carrying out stabilisation and early intervention treatments on the spot.
Judging by manufacturing records from the 1960s, most ambulances in Italy were built on van bases.
The Fiat 1100 T was probably the most widespread. Then there was Alfa Romeo’s well-known Romeo, with its simple and spartan interiors, which was much used by the army and public bodies. Ambulances built on a car frame were not very large but, being much faster, were the most suited for long journeys.
Stretchers were rather heavy and needed to be laid on a trolley once they reached hospital.
From the early ’70s the Fiat 238 turned out to be an excellent ambulance and showed how flexible it was for nearly 20 years, especially when space was an issue, which led to it being much copied.
Alternatives then started arriving on the market with Volkswagen’s first Trasporter and Alfa Romeo’s famous F12.â€¨
The emergency and rescue system was gradually but completely transformed by new medical knowledge and developments in the organisation of staff, accompanied by technical innovation in both the means of transport and the tools of the trade on board.