An Idea Worth Reviving: Italy’s Wine Windows

The brilliant windows were first used in the 1600s during a surge of the bubonic plague.

August 12, 2020

Not sure where to file this one. Under “History has so much to teach us?” Or maybe “Necessity is the mother of invention” or “Everything old is new again?” Or simply “OMG?”

Wine windows.

Italy has revived a brilliant method used during a surge in the bubonic plague in the early 1630s to safely, sanitarily, socially distantly and charmingly serving wine. Italian cities like Florence are apparently dotted with buchette del vino, or wine windows, which were used for contactless service back in the Renaissance. They’re basically small arched windows — big enough for a hand holding a vessel to reach through — cut into the side of buildings, precluding the need to walk into a crowded bar to enjoy a nice glass of wine.

In a blog post, the Wine Windows Association explains that, in the early 17th century, purveyors “passed the flask of wine through the window to the client but did not receive payment directly into their hands. Instead, they passed a metal pallet to the client, who placed the coins on it, and then the seller disinfected them with vinegar before collecting them.”

Yep, germ-avoiding genius.

Many of the windows had been boarded up and graffitied over following centuries of pandemic-free neglect. The Wine Windows Association has been working to recognize, celebrate, catalogue and map the windows, tallying about 200 throughout Italy, most of them in Florence, and installing little plaques identifying them to passers-by.

Now, with the need to avoiding contagions revived (and a thirst for wine no less present), wine windows have taken on a new relevance and some bar and restaurants are actively using them to dispense not only wine, as was their original purpose, but also cocktails, coffee, sandwiches, ice cream and other treats.

Same idea as curbside pickup, sure, but so much cuter!

Actually, I’m filing it under “Somebody in my city, please steal this idea.”

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