Tuscan Wine Windows: Charming Remnants of Ancient Social Distancing

By: Katy Spratte Joyce  | 

Tuscan wine window
A buchetta del vino, a small 16th-century window through which wine was passed, on a street in Florence, Italy. As Florentines succumbed to the plague, survivors drowned their sorrows in wine, passed to them through these small windows – an early form of social distancing. TIZIANA FABI/Getty Images
Tuscany is so full of history and beauty – you meet wonders of art and architecture on almost every corner. But I love the region's homier aspects: the special sweetness of the tomatoes, the soft mozzarella, the heady scents of basil and garlic everywhere.
— Actress and director Trudie Styler

The charming plague wine windows you still find dotting the streets of Italy today are another homey and enchanting Tuscan tradition that has historic roots. Originally created as a way for wine merchants to safely pass their product to customers during the plague, these windows have come back into use during the COVID lockdowns of 2020.

Buchette del vino, which means "little holes for wine" or "wine windows," is apparently a unique Tuscan tradition; there are said to be over 150 wine windows in Florence alone, with another hundred sprinkled under the Tuscan sun throughout the region. There's even an organization that catalogues them, the Associazione Buchette del Vino, which started the project in 2015 before coronavirus and social distancing became the norm.

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Tuscan wine window
A beautiful and rustic example of a buchetta del vino, or wine window, on a street in Florence on Aug. 12, 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
TIZIANA FABI/Getty Images

The first wine windows were actually a likely result of a 1559 decree from Florentine Cosimo I de Medici, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany. At that time, de Medici stated that families could sell wine directly from their homes instead of through merchants or taverns, which led to the rise in buchette del vino.

Due to the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, some of these charming little wine windows have been reopened, drawing eerie parallels to the plague from centuries ago. But this time around, some of the windows are offering more than just wine. Food & Wine reported that Osteria delle Brache sells an Aperol spritz, another iconic Italian beverage, via the special opening, while Via dell'Isola delle Stinche at the Vivoli ice cream parlor in Florence dispenses coffee and ice cream out of their wine window.

A recurring theme of this ongoing pandemic has been pivoting and resiliency from small businesses, so we send cheers to these Italian purveyors. They've found a remarkable way to honor their viticultural history in a way that works to keep both employees and consumers safe. The next time you're in Florence, be sure to find a buchetta de vino and raise a glass of Chianti. Salute!

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