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The Vending Machine "Store"

Posted on May 25, 2009 | 17 comments

A strange new phenomena has overtaken Rome in the past 6 months or so. Slowly I’ve seen these “stores” popping up in spaces where there used to be actual stores. You know, ones with doors and windows and actual humans who work inside. The first one I noticed was on via Cavour, toward the end by via dei Fori Imperiali. You really can’t miss them because the bright orange and yellow literally singes your retinas. This particular vending machine “store” is on Corso del Rinascimento (close to Piazza Navona).

If you can’t figure it out from the photo, let me describe. Essentially where there was once a shop, a little inlet has been made (no doors or windows) and all of these vending machines are housed inside. You will find a change machine, cappuccino machine, gelato, drinks, chips, “sandwiches.” You get the idea. It’s very “convenient.” It’s just weird to me. I really can’t see how this is surviving in Italy. I mean, this is a place with a population full of people who are extremely precise and exacting about their food. Seriously, I bow down to the pride that Italians take in the quality of their food (even if many times they’re so obsessive they refuse to try other food styles). Of course I get that these kiosks are not meant for Italians. They are for tourists or “foreigners” (like me) who don’t “know any better” and will take convenience over quality. Hey, I’m not going to lie….I’m all about convenience. But I guess this falls a bit into my rant that I made about the American Apparel store that opened in Monti. Though I want Italy to progress, something seems so wrong about this. Also, it’s really not that hard to just go into a store. I mean, I’ll fork over the 2 euro for a gelato or 80 cents for a water. Do these exist in America? Have I missed the invasion of vending machines in the four years I’ve been gone? I doubt it. That’s why we have 7-Eleven.

PS. Lest you think these are only in tourist areas, they’re also trying to hit up students. Check out this space in San Lorenzo, which has been massacred by graffiti. The written sign is part of a project by street artist Urka and says “Shut me off. I beg you!” Love it.

17 Comments

  1. Very strange! Soon there will be pizza vending machines. I read about them recently! I agree with you that this is a bad development for Rome and Italy.

  2. Nice shots. Nice post. Though a fan of convenience, I am still confused by these ‘shops’– can they sell liquor during the city’s blue hours?

  3. It is a sad day when you go to a machine for ice cream instead of those wonderful gelaterias. Progress is not always a good thing and this fits into this category:(

  4. How is that American Apparel store doing?

    Not sure why I would get ice cream from a machine when there are hundreds of gelatos places. Maybe if you need one at 4:00 a.m.?

  5. Vending machines are popping up all over the place down here in and around Bari, too. It’s nice to have them in the office or at the hospital where you otherwise might not have the time or opportunity to go out and get something to eat or drink, but I think in general they are de-personalising…they take the person-to-person interaction out of purchasing. And that greater quantity of human contact is one of the things that I like about life in Italy.

  6. very well.. nice post..

  7. nice post very well..

  8. Keith and Nonna – I agree! I hope they will go away soon (fingers crossed).

    Moscerina – I didn’t get to check out Cavour’s vending shop today, but I’ll go by tomorrow. It’s weird to me they sell beer.

    NYC – I think it’s ok? I see people wandering in there every once in awhile. The funniest was one time we saw an old grandma in there, she seemed kind of confused. The window displays are hideous though. And yeah I can see at 4 am but eh, still don’t like it.

    Saretta – Nooo…not in Bari too! It’s totally a thing for a hospital waiting room. I’m sure a lot of travelers also go because they’re scared that maybe someone in a shop won’t understand them? However, isn’t that part of the beauty of travel?

  9. The Americanization of the world is a sad, sad trend which I hope reverses soon but fear it won’t.

    Great photos!

  10. Hi Pamela – Is it Americanization though? Aww, we poor Americans get such a bad wrap 🙂 Do they have them in the US now? I’d never seen one like it in Boston when I lived there.

  11. hi jessica & congrats on your blog of note! i just saw angels and demons last night and thought-i have to move to rome! phyllis

  12. Jessica: Wow! “Blog of Note”! Well deserved I might add.
    Well, I’m here in the Netherlands now, anxiously awaiting our trip to Rome on Sunday. Will keep checking your blog for places to go and things to see. And I will add that I have never seen a store like what you describe in the US, and I’ve traveled quite a lot in the last year from coast to coast. We do have vending machines, but I have not seen a place solely dedicated to rows of vending machines. And I would NOT use them. I LIKE to give my business to “mom and pop” shops, and will pick a small restaurant over a chain restaurant ANY DAY!
    Now, if I can just figure out how to get over this terrible jet lag so I can ENJOY my time in Rome!!!

  13. Jessica: Thanks for sharing such fabulous photos and stories about Rome. I went for a few days at the end of April. It was my favorite place in Italy. It has been on my mind ever since 🙂

  14. Phyllis – I’m not sure if Angels and Demons is quite what Rome is actually like, but it’s not a bad place at all to live!

    Judy – Grazie mille! Wow, how is Holland? I really have to visit at some point. Thanks for giving me the update on the US. I didn’t think they’d all of a sudden sprung out of nowhere! Keep me posted on when you get here.

    PianoJess – Glad you had a good trip and glad you found the blog! Hope this will keep memories fresh in your mind.

  15. Great photos. Fully deserving of Blog of Note.

    Years ago Denmark always had pretty complete little vending machines outside the stores for off hours. I loved them.
    These seem terrible though. They will fail, and back to a smiling store keeper again.

    Thanks for the great blog.
    It’s wonderful.

  16. Rand – Thank you very much. Interesting about the vending machines in Denmark. Those are a bit different though because at least there’s an actual store attached to them that operates during normal hours. For instance, in Rome there are a lot of cigarette vending machines outside stores for off hours. I hope the store keepers come back! Haha even if a lot of them here aren’t smiling 😉

  17. That is so neat! I haven’t seen anything like that here in Canada, but I’m not going to doubt I’ll probably see them soon!

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