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The re-emergence of charming 'little wine holes' in Florence

Renaissance-era "wine windows" are making a comeback in Florence as a way for bars and restaurants to serve customers during COVID-19.

Credit: Robbin Gheesling

Bars and restaurants around the world are having to rethink the way they interact with customers during the pandemic. In the Italian city of Florence, some are looking to the past: using centuries-old wine windows to dole out food and drinks.

Rising just above ground level, blink and you might miss these tiny openings, called "buchette del vino," (literally "little wine holes") in Italian. The small windows were used to sell wine-to-go during the Renaissance period and were intended to be cheaper, direct-to-consumer alternatives to taverns and other drinking dens -- not to mention a discreet way for merchants to avoid paying taxes on the alcoholic libations they were peddling.

A glass of wine being served through a 'little wine hole' Credit: Buchette del Vino

Those merchants were Florence's elites, many of whom had the foot-tall windows built into street-facing walls of their palatial residences, usually next to the main entrance. Back in the 1500s, a number of the city's aristocrats were also major wine producers in the surrounding countryside. The "buchette" allowed them to trade (or rather, have servants do it for them) their spirits straight from their in-house cellars to basically anyone, with a reduced need for physical contact.

An Aperol spritz being served through a wine window at Osteria delle Brache Credit: Buchette del Vino

In May, as Italy eased its two-months-long lockdown, several F&B businesses in Florence, who happened to be based in premises with existing buchette, decided to reopen them, capitalizing on the design's minimal-contact aspect. Wine, Aperol spritzes, ice creams and sandwiches have since been served through the holes, at a safe distance

A tiny cultural patrimony

Today, there are an estimated 180 buchette del vino in Florence, though hundreds more are believed to have dotted the city back in the 1500s and 1600s. More are found in other towns in Tuscany, from Pistoia to Siena.

Robbin Gheesling documented some 140 wine windows Credit: Robbin Gheesling

Source: CNN Style

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