Il Rientro

Known in and around Paris as La Rentrée, when in Rome, the end of summer return is called Il Rientro, and is neither chic with closed-toe shoes, new handbags and patterned scarves, nor attractive with Fall colors and joie de vivre. I'd say the rientro connotes more of a joie di leave, as September is remarkably similar to sweaty August, and the return to work and life includes not just the non-encouraging 25˚Celsius, tour buses and tourists but also tough competition for concrete footing, with streets overflowing with students, businessmen, politico-bodyguards, daredevil motorini, policemen, excavations, and singularly-hued women head-to-headbag-to-toe in this season's must-have color: violet, Fall 2008. Everyone is back in Rome.

I shouldn't sell it short. The rientro does guarantee gallery openings, new exhibitions, soccer games and, again, never enough of the season's Must Have color. With a quick dip back into city life, Rome is also offering the very next phase of affordable living and tourism:

Automatic Free Shop
Yep, an ersatz and Italianized 7/11 filled with bibite fresche, where one can buy a near frothy Budweiser for 2 euro at 4 am. The soft drinks are far more chilled than anywhere else in Rome, and bottled water is cheap, with no bias (and inflated price) towards foreign speakers.

I have been now told that my penchant for kitsch goes far beyond gusto cattivo. However, I ask you, dear reader, to think about the value of condom vending machines found filled, late night on not-so-centro streets, before you judge the Automatic Free Shop so vainly. Useful, necessary, and at times, a life saver for those with small change.

Note: I've found and frenquented two Free Shops: Corso Rinasciamento and Via Cavour. [According to Il Velino, there is a third by the Colosseo that I have yet to discover.]