Italy’s Renaissance-Era Wine Windows Return to Use

August 18, 2020

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced countless companies around the world to come up with new ways to sell products or else risk going out of business. For instance, many bars and restaurants have made the switch to carry-out service and installed take-out windows to easily access waiting customers. For some lucky Italian entrepreneurs, though, their businesses come with built-in to-go kiosks constructed more than 500 years ago.

Known as “buchette del vino,” or “little wine holes” in English, these small windows allowed Renaissance-era winemakers to sell directly to customers on the street. Although many producers of the day sold their wares to merchants or taverns, wine windows served as a way to avoid paying alcohol taxes while passing on the savings to customers. They then became a vital part of daily life during the 17th century Italian Plague, with records showing that wine windows were in wide use to distribute many types of products. And while these windows largely fell out of fashion during the 20th century, they’ve made a big comeback recently as businesses and consumers work to avoid the spread of another harmful disease. 

A famous ice cream parlor in Florence named Gelateria Vivoli was one of the first companies to reopen its historic wine window. “We chose to use our buchetta during Covid-19 both as a protective measure and to bring a smile to passersby,” said Giulia Vivoli, the fourth-generation owner of the gelato shop. “We’ve had it open in the past, but to reuse it at this particular moment in time has felt especially apt.” All told, Florence has about 180 wine windows while many others reside in small towns throughout the region of Tuscany. And as long as the pandemic continues, these old Italian to-go windows will likely remain in use. “For four centuries, the buchette were one of the preferred ways to get our wine fix,” said restaurant owner Naghy Kamal. “They offered on-the-go transactions and convenient, direct exchanges between seller and client, which is exactly how we all want to handle our purchases during Covid-19.”

Questions:

  1. Why are some Italian businesses using historic “little wine holes” to serve customers during the pandemic?
  2. Do you think Italian businesses should keep their wine windows open even if coronavirus restrictions ease in the coming years? Why or why not?

Source: Marianna Cerini, “The Re-Emergence of Charming ‘Little Wine Holes’ in Florence,” CNN, August 11, 2020. Photo by Buchette del Vino.

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