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Italy Once Used ‘Wine Windows’ to Serve Vino During the Plague. Now They’re Back.

A hole in the wall that doles out Aperol spritz? Leave it to Italy.

Osteria Delle Brache in Piazza Peruzzi Buchette del Vino/Facebook

As restaurants and bars across the US try to reconcile with a new contactless reality, Italy has already found a nifty solution. The boot-shaped country has revived a storied tradition to get its revelers vino and aperitivo with next-to-no contact. Buchette del vino or wine windows allow bartenders to safely and easily pass beverages to customers in the time of Covid-19.

Dating back to the 1600s, the peepholes have a somewhat macabre past. They were first used in Florence during the 1634 bubonic plague as a way for merchants to sell surplus wine without touching the infected. Indeed, they were social distancing before social distancing was even a thing. Nearly 400 years on, another deadly outbreak has hit the city and the pint-sized apertures are being used once again.

The Associazione Buchette del Vino—a.k.a the Wine Window Association—estimates that 150 windows still exist inside Florence, with another 100 or so scattered throughout Tuscany. A handful of these ingenious windows have now reopened across the city to keep the spirit of the city alive and, of course, help people imbibe.

Babae in Santo Spirito

Babae in Santo Spirito.  Buchette del Vino/Facebook

“Just one wine window was active before Covid-19,” Matteo Faglia, one of the association’s founders, told Food & Wine. “There are four [open] at the moment.”

So far, a hole in the wall at the Vivoli ice cream parlor in Florence has reopened to sell coffee and ice cream, while Babae in Piazza Santo has started slinging wine of an evening and Osteria delle Brache in Piazza Peruzzi has started serving up fresh Aperol spritz. In addition to peddling Italy’s finest food and wine, the twee little windows also make for an epic Instagram snap.

Buchette del Vino

Buchette del Vino.  Buchette del Vino/Facebook

The trend seems to be spreading, too. More and more enterprising Florentine wine window owners are reopening their hatches for virtually germ-free, contactless trading and the association is tracking all new openings on its Facebook page. Last month, it proudly announced, “Another hole reopened!” and shared an accompanying pic. The association is also asking that a plaque be displayed by all the wine windows to pay respect to their incredible history.

One silver lining of this ghastly pandemic may be the fact that it has resurrected a remarkable Tuscan tradition while solving a modern-day Covid-19 conundrum. We’ll raise a glass to that.

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