Restaurants in Florence have been able to keep part of their businesses open during the Covid-19 lockdowns this year, by serving customers through 17th-Century buchette del vino, or ‘wine holes’.
1. History of the buchette del vino
It was during the bubonic plague of 1630 that the buchette del vino, or ‘wine holes’, became so important for Florence. Although people did not understand how the disease was transmitted, they wanted to avoid contagion and so the wine windows, already in regular use, became particularly important. In 1634, Florentine scholar, Francesco Rondinelli, wrote a report about disease contagion and described the use of the many buchette del vino of Florence for the safe sale of wine, without direct contact between client and seller. Nowadays there are still more than 180 of them remaining throughout the Italian city and dating back from the 17th Century.
2. The return of the buchette del vino
During Italy’s nationwide lockdown, Vivoli ice cream parlour in Florence realised the potential of the buchette del vino to enable contactless transactions between customer and seller, and in May started to sell coffee, drinks and ice cream through their own buchette del vino. This hygienic way of providing food and drink was an immediate success and three other restaurants in Florence joined in: Babae in Via Santo Spirito, the Osteria delle Brache in Piazza Peruzzi, and Il Latini in Via dei Palchetti. With the pandemic still ongoing, the historic buchette del vino have allowed restaurants to continue serving even through lockdowns.
Before the pandemic, few locals knew of the original function of the buchette del vino, but their use during lockdown drew media attention and has consequently piqued the interest of people around the world. Many of these have come to see and admire this clever and extremely functional part of the city’s history, which has now gained a place in modern Florence.