“Social distancing” may be the year’s catchphrase, but the idea behind it dates back to the 1600s. After the Plague swept through Florence in 1634, a man named Francesco Rondinelli wrote about the ways the city was coping with being distant—one way was the tiny wine windows.
The tiny wine window allowed merchants to pass vino through a small hole in the wall to avoid direct contact with clients. Fast forward to 2015, three individuals launched Associazione Buchette del Vino—also known as, the Wine Windows Association.
The idea was to catalog the historical phenomenon for future generations. Now in 2020, the practice has met its match; a modern pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus has swept through the city and to cope with the social distancing, the windows have become a hot trend.
The Wine Windows Association says no official records were ever kept on the number of apertures in the city, though it is estimated that roughly 150 exist inside Florence’s old city walls, albeit covered up or removed. It is estimated other 100-plus windows have been identified throughout Tuscany.
Despite the many windows in existence, only four are currently in use due to COVID-19. Several have reopened since the outbreak, but are not serving wine specifically; instead, they are serving food and other beverages.
Via dell’Isola delle Stinche at the Vivoli ice cream parlor in Florence is dispensing coffee and ice cream, while Osteria delle Brache in Piazza Peruzzi and that of Babae in Piazza Santo Spirito are dispensing pizza.
Matteo Faglia, one of the Wine Windows Association’s founders, said that they want to put a plaque by all the wine windows to document its history. The holes have definitely been a huge hit, but more than anything reignited and continue to preserve a beautiful Tuscan tradition.