Tuscany's historic wine windows are a blast from the past (or are they?)

As a result of the global coronavirus pandemic many bars and restaurants have had to resort to take-away and delivery services. In some places, take-aways have even been restricted to collection via a door or a hatch, to minimise human contact. This is not a completely new phenomenon, though. In fact, in Tuscany they’ve been familiar with these take-away hatches for centuries.

Historic wine window hatch in Florence                         Cafe entrance and outdoor terrace in a street in Florence

Known in Italian as buchette del vino – or wine windows – these traditional hatches were originally created to sell surplus wine from city palaces to working class citizens. They became especially popular during the Italian plague, which raged across the peninsula between 1629 and 1631. Payment was passed through these wine windows on a metal plate, disinfected with vinegar. In return, customers could either get a bottle of wine or fill their own flask by using a metal tube which was passed through the window. In this way, people would avoid close contact whilst still being able to get their wine.

As new alcohol laws were introduced in the early 20th century, many of the wine windows lost their function. In addition, a lot of wooden hatches were destroyed during floods in the 1960s. Luckily, quite a few do remain to this day. Across Tuscany there are still nearly 300 original wine windows, with almost half of them in Florence

Hand holding a wine glass coming out of a hatch in a wall               Italian facade with a former wine window and a bike

Many of the remaining buchette del vino have been carefully restored and several have been in use again, especially those that are part of premises that now have a hospitality function. For instance, a number of bars and restaurants in Florence happen to have historic wine windows, which they have opened up to customers as a nod to the past. However, social distancing measures because of COVID-19 have once again thrown a light on the original function of these Tuscan wine windows. Although times have changed, perhaps they haven’t changed that much after all…!

For more wine window inspiration, check out the Instagram account of @buchettedelvino

Images credits: Babae Firenze, The Wine Teller and Buchette del Vino (via Instagram)