Italy: The Vending Machine Takeover

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Italy: The Quiet Vending Machine Takeover. While travelling in Italy many will think of it as the land of pizza, pasta, ancient buildings and La Dolce Vita. There is a quiet 24 hour revolution happening on the streets. Up and down the country, vending machines are taking over. In fact, entire rooms filled with machines can be found along main avenues. Clean and well lit, they offer a large range of products at exceptional value compared to vending machines in other countries. They seem incongruous at first, in the land of slow living and indulgence, but they seem to have been embraced by locals.

Takeover bari vending machines
An Italian ‘vending room’ just off a Main Street in Bari.

What do Italian vending machines sell?

Perhaps a better question would be, what do they not sell? As you’d expect the usual fare is available. Soft drinks, chocolate and savoury snacks are the most common vending products. In addition, there are machines dedicated to serving chilled alcoholic drinks, with a full range of beers and cider. To ensure that anyone purchasing beer is over 18, they have an ID system installed. This only works with European ID cards, but any lingering Italian will help you by lending theirs (provided that you’re lucky enough to be over 18!) There’s also coffee machines, as would be expected. But the more unusual machines are those dispensing toiletries and wellness products – here beauty products, pregnancy tests, sexual health products and even Covid tests can be found.

vending machine
Hot drinks, alcohol and snacks.

Italian retail opening hours are not the most easy to understand, especially for out of towners. With shops and restaurants opening and closing throughout the day for Siesta. Then there are the long Summer and religious holidays to add in the mix, as well as Sunday opening hours.  This creates a perfect opportunity for unmanned vending machines to thrive, as a consumer knows that they are always there to serve.

One of the most interesting things I noted is how vending machines are useful when doing joining La PassegiataA brief walk around your neighbourhood at night can be combined with a trip to a vending machine and sitting on some church steps, rather than visiting a restaurant or bar is a common sight.

Some Italian vending machines tend to be placed alongside each other in small shop spaces without a door. Located along the busiest streets, discreetly hiding in plane sight. They always seem to be well stocked and in good working order.

Do people vandalize vending machines?

While not a major issue for the vending machines I came across here in Italy.  One of the main reasons vending machines don’t exist in outdoor spaces where I come from, the UK, is that they would probably be accidentally damaged or deliberately vandalised. But the vending machines in Italy appear clean, well looked after and safe.

Many would assume that the USA or Asia are the most advanced when it comes to 24/7 vending. However here in Italy Sanden Vendo one the largest vending machine manufacturers has been around for decades. Almost all vending machines here in Italy and large parts of Europe are manufactured by this firm. It is perhaps this history of vending prowess that has lead to so many machines being on Italian streets.

machines in a building
Fully opened to the elements, clean and well lit.

Are vending machines good value?

In Italy, the vending machines also appear to be good value. Most products sold in the vending machines that I’ve come across elsewhere, are expensive. Italian vending machines seem to making a much lower margin.  A 330ml bottle of Peroni can normally be found (in 2022) for around 1 euro to 1.20.  This is ever so slightly more expensive than the supermarkets. But taking into account that the vending machine keeps the beer chilled, this seems only fair!  Other items follow similar patterns.  With this level of convenience combined with price it’s no surprise that they are extremely popular.

The machines nearly always accept cashless payments making it easy for anyone to purchase without having coins or notes. Like many other countries free ATM’s are a dying breed so this added function has only made them more popular!

Italy: The Vending Machine Takeover alcohol for sale
The machines offer great value compared to vending machines abroad.

What will vending machines sell next?

Vending machines in Italy seem to be covering all bases when it comes to consumables, particularly cold drinks and snacks. So what next? Will we see Pizza, Pasta and Panzerotti being dispensed in future? Eeessssh, perhaps that’s a step too far!!

Seen these vending machines around Italy? Let us know if you feel there is a Italy: The Quiet Vending Machine Takeover in the comments below!


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