Not even covid-19 can keep us sober.
Most people living on earth today are experiencing things unprecedented in their lifetime, but it doesn’t mean these sort of crazy plagues haven’t happened before, or that we can’t learn from the past. In Italy, that means using wine windows, a technique for safe drinking learned during the last plagues to serve the people without fear.
In Florence and neighboring areas like Siena, Montepulciano and Pisa, 400 year old windows are new again, providing the perfect delivery device for a safe tipple during covid-19. In a way, they’re exactly how you’d expect them to be. Gothic, big enough for wine, not big enough for you, and providing at least a meter of distance between server and customer, without much shared air.
In the times of the black death circa 1630, no Palazzo was complete without one.
Long before their epidemiological use, Cosimo de’ Medici, the banker and de-facto Renaissance ruler of Tuscany devised a plan to keep powerful opponents happy during his reign, decreeing that wealthy Italians could sell their own wine from their palazzos tax free, but no bars could be established.
The wine windows became a safe way to sell wine without pause, be it plague or conflict, while keeping lesser fortunate paisanos out of the immaculate renaissance era palazzos. Most wine of the times, and even still today are produced by the same few noble Tuscan families.
Today, over 275 wine windows still live on, almost all nestled around Tuscany and covid-19 has seen many brought back into use. As bar owners attempt to maintain safety but also healthy balance sheets, they’ve once again become a safe way to get a great glass of wine, or Aperol Spritz to the people.
If you’re headed to Tuscany, don’t worry, you won’t be looking around blindly. The windows, known in Italian as Buchetta De Vino have all been mapped out for your viewing, and perhaps sipping pleasure.