Small openings that, in the Renaissance, noble families used to sell bottles of wine from their palaces

In the 16th century, the upheavals of European markets led to a redefinition of the international trade routes. This caused the decline of the activities that had made Florence powerful. Thus, great aristocratic families like Antinori, Ricasoli, Frescobaldi, to make money, turned from manufacturing to farming. Wine production soon caught on because, in such a decadent period, it still managed to guarantee considerable income. At that time, the sale of wine took place through small openings – as big as a bottle – with stone frames. These ‘wine windows‘ on the facades of noble palaces were known as ‘buchette del vino.’

A wine window in Florence

Today, it is not easy to spot them because they are set inside the thick walls of Renaissance buildings. Many wine windows are walled up or they house letterboxes or intercoms.

However, they are attracting much attention thanks to a dedicated Florentine cultural association run by history and wine lovers: “Buchette del Vino.”

In the Tuscan capital alone, there are 170 but other 88 are distributed among other 32 municipalities. Some of them are regaining their original role. One of them is that of the Babae restaurant in Florence. Here, every day from 12 to 13 and from 19 to 20, wine is poured in glasses and offered through the wine window. Because of the use of glasses instead of bottles, Matteo Faglia, president of the Buchette del Vino, explained to Corriere that “we cannot speak of a faithful restoration of the original function. But we are perfectly on topic and the idea was very much appreciated by Florentines, even more by tourists.

Wine windows are popular because they bring people back to an intriguing past. “For this reason,  – continued Faglia – we intend to sensitize restaurateurs and institutions to the recovery of one of the most fascinating pages in Tuscan history.” They recently did it with a photographic exhibition. 30 copyright shots exhibited at the Teatro della Pergola in Florence. Through the images, Andrew Barrow and Robbin Gheesling looked at the wine windows with the intent to document the history of these suggestive elements of urban art.

Ilona Catani Scarlett

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