As the rest of the world continues to power through the COVID-19 pandemic, a delightful and intoxicating respite has returned to Italy — one of the planet’s most ravaged and earliest hit countries — in the form of tiny windows scattered throughout the luscious Tuscany region. The surprise awaiting imbibers on the other end of the opening is vino, pure and simple. A staple beverage that is ubiquitous to Italy; presented, with discreet charm, in a historic display that seems to indicate that things, finally, might just be returning to normal.
The handsome little windows in question, known locally as “buchette del vino,” are more than just a pleasing architectural flair. In fact, they date back centuries (they were used as a conveyance to sell surplus wine to members of the working class). Simple enough, however, their function is now experiencing a resurgence in popularity due to the implementation of physical distancing measures.
And this isn’t the first time that the sweet nectar has been dispensed to townspeople during a crisis. According to the Wine Window Association, the windows served a similar purpose during the Italian Plague, which hammered the region in the early 1630s. As locals were struck down by disease, those fortunate enough to live through the terrifying time paid for their drink through the narrow passage via a metal pallet, while vinegar was used to disinfect the coinage. In exchange, a vessel of wine was passed through.
In Florence’s Santo Spirito neighborhood, local restaurant Babae became one of the first sites to reopen a wine window for customers, while many others have followed suit.
Presently, there are about 300 such windows in the area — many of which are now fully operational. Fortunately for you, the same association has cataloged their location. Once travel restrictions have resumed, you might want to consider trying to find them all.