Anyone with a careful eye can spot interesting little windows, set in century’s old palazzi, all around Florence. There are allegedly 130 of them in the city.
These little windows, known as the bucchette del vino, are relics of Florence’s wine trade in the medieval period.
Whenever such a window appeared, indicating the home of a wine producer, a customer could knock on the nearby door of the palazzo, order the amount, and collect their merchandise from the small window. The windows thus served as a counter for the exchange of the product and the money. The small openings were a crucial component of how local wines were bought and sold, directly from producer to consumer.
Customers typically brought their own jug, bottle or glass, placed it through the window, waited for a servant inside to fill it, and then passed money through to complete the transaction.
A typical window featured a small door, and when the customer knocked, it was opened for business.
Windows were generally large enough to accommodate a fiasco, the straw-bottomed bottle traditionally used for Tuscan wines.
Millions of bottles were passed through the windows without the need for “go-between” taverns or wine vendors: this intriguing commercial enterprise was unique to Florence.
Of course there is an association devoted to preserving the historical heritage of Florence’s wine windows: http://www.magentaflorence.com/association-ancient-wine-windows/ You might be surprised to learn the the Association was formed formed only last year, but has the mission of acquainting the modern world with the story of the wine windows.
Of the more than 130 extant wine windows in Florence, most of them belonged to prominent dynasties such as the Ricasoli, Antinori, Niccolini and Martelli families. The wine producing family would bring wine produced on their Tuscan estates to their city homes and market it in the city using this informal manner, a forerunner to the ever-present vinaio (wine and sandwich counters) of today.