Want to sip an aperol spritz, enjoy a gelato or have your morning espresso from the comfort of outdoors? Tuscany’s got you covered. As if Italy couldn’t get any more charming, restaurants and cafes in Florence are now serving their customers through little windows carved out of their exterior walls -- "wine windows," to be precise.
Back when Italy was facing its bubonic plague outbreak in the 1630s, wine was at a surplus in the country, much like cheese has been at a surplus in France during COVID-19. Restaurants and winemakers needed to sell their goods, but even back then, social distancing and self-isolation was widely understood as the only way to effectively contain the disease.
It was a little more classist back then (winemakers would use the windows to serve the lower, working class without needing to come into contact with them), and the sellers wouldn’t take any payment by hand, opting to pass a metal pallet through the windows and then disinfecting them with vinegar. Sound, uh, familiar?
The wine windows, unique to Florence and small, surrounding Tuscan villages, were shuttered when laws for selling wine changed as of the 20th century -- open container laws were ruining all the fun even back then, apparently. Some windows were even destroyed altogether after flooding of the Arno River in 1966.
But this is business, baby, and the restaurants have now satisfied a need in the market, reopening their wine windows for the socially-distanced vinos of 2020.
And it’s not just wine! Coffee and gelato shops serendipitously housed in buildings with these little hatches have also started using them, handing out cones of ice cream or other desserts plus takeaway coffee from inside.
According to the president of the Wine Windows Association (an organization set up in 2016 to preserve the historical relics, even giving them protected status), the windows were started by prominent Italian families, as they were often only attached to palaces and households of noblemen.
"People could knock on the little wooden shutters and have their bottles filled direct from the Antinori, Frescobaldi and Ricasoli families, who still produce some of Italy's best-known wine today," Matteo Faglia told Insider.
The city does their best to keep track of the wondrous little windows, keeping a map for tourists on the association's website and cataloguing as much as possible. You’ll find most in Florence proper, with a few additional windows scattered outside the central part of the city.
Petition for America to follow suit?