Italy Reopens 17th-Century Wine Windows Used in a Previous Pandemic


Italy has revived an old plague tradition in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wine windows or ‘buchette del vino’, as they’re known in Italian, are tiny little hatches found scattered across the walls of Tuscany.

In the 1600s, these little doorways were used to serve alcohol to patrons during the Italian Plague of 1629–1631, and now, as Italy continues to navigate around the coronavirus pandemic, some cafe and bar owners have opened them up once more to safely serve customers as they social distance.

The reopening of these historic wine windows is being documented by Buchette del Vino. It’s a “cultural association” established by three Florentine residents — Matteo Faglia, Diletta Corsini and Mary Christine Forrest — all of whom founded the site after their mutual appreciation for their city’s most peculiar, hidden architectural treasures.

The three friends are working to protect, preserve and provide history around the existence of the Tuscan wine windows, and are working to build a detailed map of the windows’ whereabouts in Florence as they discover new ones.

The wine windows, while appearing somewhat medieval, worked effectively to prevent contagion between merchants and patrons during the plague.

“They passed the flask of wine through the window to the client but did not receive payment directly into their hands. Instead, they passed a metal pallet to the client, who placed the coins on it, and then the seller disinfected them with vinegar before collecting them,” an explanation on the Buchette del Vino site reads.

When the plague had ended and patrons could sit in bars once more, many of the windows were boarded up. Now, a few have reopened, but they’re serving more than just wine this time.

“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!”

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