As coronavirus cases continue to climb and threats of another lockdown loom, some Florentine business owners are practicing social distancing by bringing back a 400-year-old tradition.
They are called buchette del vino, or wine windows, and have been around since the 17th-century. During that time, the bubonic plague was spreading across northern and central Italy. Often called the Great Plague of Milan or The Italian Plague, this particular outbreak killed about 25% of the population. It lasted about three years, during which residents struggled to maintain their livelihoods while quarantining from potential carriers.
Amid this economic struggle, enterprising wine merchants came up with the idea for the buchette del vino. The window allowed them to serve patrons while maintaining minimal contact. This practice continued after the plague ended, as sellers used the windows as a way to sell their wares direct to consumers and avoid paying taxes on their alcohol.
The trend eventually faded out. The windows were forgotten, often vandalized, or damaged in floods, like the one that hit the city in 1966. However, the buchette del vino is back in business.
During Italy’s coronavirus quarantine, a local ice cream shop, Gelateria Vivoli, opened their buchette to the public. The owner of the shop said the window is useful for ensuring the safety of the customers and employees, but it also brings a smile to anyone who sees it.
Word began to spread, and other businesses started to utilize their buchettes. Now, customers can purchase wine, cocktails, gelato, and coffee through these windows.
Naghy Kamal, the owner of Osteria delle Brache, said, “Reopening [the buchette] at this difficult time has proved incredibly helpful and has really shown that some traditions never die.”
Meanwhile, The Wine Window Association has spent the last four years preserving these historic features. Since 2016, the organization has been locating remaining buchettes across Tuscany and installing plaques to acknowledge their significance.
The association president, Matteo Faglia, said, “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.”
The wine windows have been an incredible success for Florence and there are currently about 150 buchette del vino open across the city.
- Italy Revives Ancient Tradition of Wine Windows [The Drink Business]
- Wine Windows Open in Florence [CNN]
- Medieval Wine Windows are Reopening Reviving Italian Plague Tradition [NY Post]
- Feature Picture: buchettedelvino on Instagram