The wine windows of Florence

To bring a smile to everyone’s face this Monday! Discover the ‘buchette del vino’ of Florence. These are little doors, found in the walls of grand palaces, all over the city centre. They look like little fairy-tale entrances to huge, fortified buildings. Typically these little doors are wooden, with a large bolt securing them from the inside of the building. These small doors or windows could be opened, on to the street, and used for the sale of wine from the wine cellar within. A type of medieval off-licence.

In renaissance times Florence was a densely populated city, the streets were narrow and the houses were built in heavily fortified, almost military style, with thick walls and huge imposing doors. The city was surrounded by walls and the gates to the city were closed at night. The wealthy families of Tuscany owned land and vineyards in the countryside and palaces in the city. Each year after the grape harvest they would transport vast quantities of wine from their estates to their city homes. These houses would all have a wine cellar on the ground floor, or in the cellar, just to the left or right of the main entrance to the building. This wine cellar or ‘cantina’ would be connected to the outside world via a tiny window ‘buchetta’ that could be used for wine sales to passers by. The wine was sold one bottle at a time, offered in a raffia covered ‘fiasco’ of the kind used by Chianti Ruffini until well into the 1970s. Many of the aristocratic families that had ‘buchette’ in their palace walls are still important wines makers today including Antinori, Frescobaldi and Ricasoli.

In recent years many of these ‘buchette’ have been bricked up or painted over. However in 2016 an enterprising local gentleman Matteo Faglia set up an association in Florence with the aim of listing and recording all the existing ‘buchette’ in the city. As Signore Faglia says in the video below, they expected to list about 100 ‘buchette’ but in fact they’ve unearthed more than 180. When the plague or black death arrived in Florence in the 1630s many people died and citizens stayed in their houses terrified of catching the disease that lurked in the streets below. The ‘buchette’ were useful in times of plague because wine could be bought in a socially distanced way.


Now 400 years later we are surrounded by ‘the pandemic’ our very own 21st century plague. It has closed our economies, locked us in our homes and prevented us from travelling. However an enterprising group of friends in Florence managed to think laterally and find a solution. In Summer 2019 they opened a small bar with kitchen called ‘Babae’ in Via Santo Spirito. Within six months of opening the shadow of Covid-19 reared its head over Europe and Italy was the first victim. By early March 2020 Florence was in lockdown. Bars and cafes were closed but take away was permitted. The young owners of ‘Babae’ realised they had a small ‘buchetta’ in the wall of their bar. What luck! They opened it up and started serving wines and cocktails and certain food through the medieval ‘takeaway’ window. Watch the video below for more details from ‘Babae’.

In fact just three months before ‘Babae’ opened I was in Florence with a group of business executives, we’d been driving Ferrari super cars in Tuscany. For the Farewell Dinner I’d organised a night at ‘Cantinetta Antinori’ a fabulous restaurant owned by the Antinori family and offering a superb selection of Antinori wines and fabulous Tuscan dishes. I didn’t know about the ‘buchetta’ at the time, when I go back I’ll have to look out for it.

In these ‘socially distanced’ times the ‘buchette’ are being used as a way to serve drinks and cocktails to customers in an imaginative way, allowing business to continue (at least partially) whilst we struggle to bring the pandemic under control.

‘Buchetta del vino’ Florence – small window where wine could be purchased – opening hours carved in stone above the window

NOTES:

  • Complimenti to Matteo Faglia who started buchettedelvino.org – the association that has promoted and catalogued these fabulous ‘buchette’ and so far have listed 180 in Florence alone. There are also many to be found in Pistoia, a city about 45 minutes from Florence.
  • Here’s a very nice video from the BBC telling us more about ‘buchette’ ……
  • http://www.bbc.com/…/20200910-florences-wine-portals…
  • I believe #SearchingforItaly and Stanley Tucci have discovered them too…………
  • And for those that prefer gelato to wine even Florence’s famous ‘Vivoli’ Gelateria is in on the act!
  • Vivoli Gelateria – www.vivoli.it and FB @vivoligelateria


AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT……

For other adventures in Tuscany by www.educated-traveller.com and www.grand-tourist.com explore these articles:

March, 2021

10 thoughts on “The wine windows of Florence

    1. Hello there Mari – nice to hear from you – yes it warms my heart when I hear of these young guys finding a solution – especially when it seems so difficult. Andiamo in avanti!!!

      Like

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