A quirky tradition with a dark history has been resurrected from medieval times in Italy amid efforts to socially distance during the pandemic: say hello to wine windows.
With pubs and bars opening around the world, firm measures have been put in place to keep people safe, whether it be one-way systems, perspex screens between tables or the ability to order from your phone.
However, not everyone is quite ready for that environment. To that I say, it’s time to bring back the wine windows, or ‘buchette del vino’, of Tuscany and Florence.
These small, pint-sized hatches in walls act as an effective portal to transport alcoholic refreshment. Their inception can be traced back to the 1600s due to the impact of the Italian Plague, which claimed around one million lives.
However, they’ve taken on a new lease of life due to the current outbreak, allowing patrons to access food and drink at a safe, near-contactless distance.
The Wine Window Association’s website reads:
Everyone is confined to home for two months and then the government permits a gradual reopening. During this time, some enterprising Florentine Wine Window owners have turned back the clock and are using their Wine Windows to dispense glasses of wine, cups of coffee, drinks, sandwiches and ice cream – all germ-free, contactless!
Italy has been particularly afflicted by the pandemic, with more than 249,000 confirmed cases and 35,187 deaths. However, the country has been on the mend, with spirits lifting through balcony opera singers and now, archaic ways to have a glass of vino.
Wine windows are a significant aspect of Florence and Tuscany’s architecture, with more than 150 scattered across the former’s walls alone.
The association’s president Matteo Faglia told : ‘People could knock on the little wooden shutters and have their bottles filled direct from the Antinori, Frescobaldi and Ricasoli families, who still produce some of Italy’s best-known wine today.’
However, he added: ‘The wine windows gradually became defunct, and many wooden ones were permanently lost in the floods of 1966.’
However, many have began reopening, some for the first time in living memory. For example, Osteria delle Brache in Piazza Peruzzi serves cocktails through its window, while Vivoli near the Duomo and Uffizi Gallery have started selling gelato and coffee through its hatches.
While vandalism on the windows has been a problem over the years, Faglia hopes attitudes towards them will change as we emerge from the other side of the pandemic. ‘We want to put a plaque by all the wine windows, as people tend to respect them more when they understand what they are and their history,’ he said.