What worked during one pandemic could surely work in another. That’s the thinking behind the renewed interest in and usage of wine windows.
Small arched openings known as wine windows or wine doors were added to the façades of many buildings, particularly those in Florence, in the 17th century as a way to stop the spread of the bubonic plague. By offering consumers a nearly contactless, contagion-free transaction, a wine seller with a wine door could sell not only more wine but also some peace of mind.
Now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, wine shops, bars, cafes, and gelaterie with access to wine windows are starting to use them to get back to business.
Florence-based cultural association Buchette del Vino, also known as the Wine Windows Association, provides details on some of the businesses that are taking advantage of these long-dormant architectural curiosities:
“Today, during our period of covid-19 pandemic lockdown, the owners of the wine window in Via dell’Isola delle Stinche at the Vivoli ice cream parlor in Florence have reactivated their window for dispensing coffee and ice cream, although not wine. Two other nearby wine windows, that of the Osteria delle Brache in Piazza Peruzzi and that of Babae in Piazza Santo Spirito, have taken us back in time by being used for their original purpose—socially-distant wine selling.”
Where Can You Find Wine Windows Today?
The Wine Windows Association has discovered more than 250 wine windows throughout Tuscany, most of which are located in the historic center of Florence (149) and outside its walls (24). There are 93 documented wine windows in the rest of Tuscany, from Arezzo to Siena, Pistoia to Pisa.
These numbers could change. The organization notes that “there is no official list of the Florentine Wine Windows, in that they have never been catalogued in any of the public archives of the Italian state, the Region of Tuscany, the City of Florence, or by any of the public institutions which list, survey and protect the historical monuments of the city.”
The Wine Windows Association maintains a list of all of the existing wine windows and has an interactive map.
Wine Windows as Art
While many italophiles are just now learning about wine windows, there are others who have found been obsessed with them for some time.
Tour leader and photographer Robbin Gheesling showcased her artful portraits of buchette in a 2019 exhibition called Wine Doors of Florence. You can order prints of her exhibition poster and other wine door photographs from around the city. Further, you can order her custom, hand-made photo book, which could make for a particularly special gift for the Florence lover in your life.
Featured photo © Melanie Renzulli