Before March 2020 came around, the phrase “social distancing” was pretty much unheard of, according to Google Trends. However, Google doesn’t account for times dating back before the days of the Internet. You could travel back to the 1600s, the days of the Plague, and revisit how people dealt with it.
In 1634 Florence, Italy, an Italian scholar named Franceso Rondinelli described a phenomenon that people adopted in order to cope with the situation. These were wine windows that allowed merchants to pass wine through the small window opening in order to avoid direct contact with their customers. Sound familiar at all?
In 2015, three residents of Florence decided to start the Associazione Buchette del Vino, or in English: the Wine Windows Association. It was as if they knew what was coming, as these wine windows are no longer just a fun trend, but are actually needed to be used with their original purpose in mind.
According to the Wine Windows Association, there are an estimated known 150 wine windows around the city of Florence. There could be more, but many have been covered up or completely removed. There are also about 100 found outside the city of Florence but still in the rest of the region of Tuscany. However, these windows are not found anywhere outside of Tuscany at all. If you want to find all of these windows, the Buchette del Vino’s website has a list and map of all of them.
Matteo Faglia, who is one of the founders of the Wine Windows Association shared that: “The wine windows gradually became defunct, and many wooden ones were permanently lost in the floods of 1966. We want to put a plaque by all the wine windows, as people tend to respect them more when they understand what they are and their history.”
So how many are being used now that there is an actual need for them? Faglia told Food & Wine magazine: “Just one wine window was active before COVID-19. There are four at the moment.”
Some window operators launched other creative ideas before the pandemic. For example, some decided to branch out and serve coffee and dessert in addition to wine. However, the Wine Window Association co-founder Diletta Corsini explained that: “The owners of the wine window in Via dell’Isola delle Stinche at the Vivoli ice cream parlor in Florence have reactivated their window for dispensing coffee and ice cream, although not wine.”
Corsini continued: “Two other nearby wine windows, that of the Osteria delle Brache in Piazza Peruzzi and that of Babae in Piazza Santo Spirito, have taken us back in time by being used for their original purpose — socially distant wine selling.” At Osteria delle Branche, there are other alcoholic beverage options available as well. You can order an Aperol spritz among other cocktails.
It turns out that there are some up sides to a pandemic, as people have to become creative and inventive in order to continue life as close to normal as we once did.