Last Updated on 3rd March 2023 by Sophie Nadeau
Florence is a foodie city that is a veritable delight for those in search of the good life. Birthplace of Gelato, and home to many a pizza and pasta dish, Firenze is also where you’ll find the ‘Florence wine windows,‘ a rather unique method of selling that bar men and women adopted during the Renaissance to keep their patrons happy, all the while avoiding the plague.
Here’s everything you need to know about the wine windows of Florence, as well as how to visit a wine window for yourself!
For even more Florence inspiration, be sure to check out our suggested guides for spending one day in Florence, the best cooking classes in Florence, and the top day trips from Florence. For those looking to visit Tuscany, be sure to check out our suggestions for spending one week in Tuscany.
What are the Florence wine windows?
The Florence wine windows are characterised by their small arched windows in the side of otherwise unassuming walls throughout the city and are known in Italian as Buchette del vino (exact translation: little wine doors).
Also referred to as wine doors, these little openings were created so as to serve food and drink while maintaining as little human contact as possible. After all, only a hand or arm can fit through these little openings. The buchetta are typically around 30cm tall and 15cm wide.
Today, there are almost 150 wine windows remaining in the city centre of Florence. However, it should be noted that the majority of these are walled/ bricked off and only a handful are in use as wine windows now.
Wine windows are not exclusive to Florence and can actually be found in cities all around Tuscany, though they are indeed most associated with Firenze. Arezzo, Siena, Pistoia, and Pisa all have their very own wine windows.
In total, there are over 90 documented wine windows across Italy, though no one is quite sure of the exact number as there has never been an official study of them!
A history of the wine windows
The first recording of a Tuscan ‘wine window’ was during the Bubonic plague in the 17th-century, when shops installed these little windows as a way of distributing food and drink while, quite literally, keeping the Plague at bay.
Since Tuscany is such a rich wine region (see: Chianti), during the Middle Ages, many noble families residing in Florence would have earned a fair bit of their income from winemaking. From 1559, Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany allowed these families to sell wine directly to customers from their homes.
As these nobles didn’t want to welcome people directly into their homes, they came up with the idea of installing little hatches, which would be big enough to pass a flask through for wine selling.
These soon came to be known as sportellos and proved particularly useful during the Bubonic Plague. The little windows were typically quite ornate in their design, with a little wooden hatch that would be pulled down between opening hours. On the wooden hatch, a still life or religious painting would be painted.
These relics of history were somewhat revived in 2020 by the global pandemic and ordering a glass of wine in one of these windows is now one of the more unusual things to do in Florence. Vendors that put these little windows to use do not only sell wine, but other products such as gelato, coffee, and even food.
Where to visit wine windows in Florence
In truth, one of the best ways to get to enjoy Florence is to simply stroll around the city centre and allowed Firenze to reveal itself to you (so be sure to wear comfortable shoes!)
Via dell’Isola delle Stinche at the Vivoli: This café and geltaeria use their wine window to sell coffee and dispense ice cream. Unfortunately, no wine can be purchased at this venue!
Osteria delle Brache in Piazza Peruzzi: During 2020, wine by the glass was dispensed here from the wine window. Unfortunately, this eatery has since permanently closed down.
Babae in Piazza Santo Spirito: One of the most popular wine window establishments in Florence. A number of tipples are on offer, as well as an orange wine. During busy periods, you may have to ring the bell at the window to be served! You can go inside afterwards for food and drink after.
Wednesday 28th of September 2022
I hope you were able to find my photo book of the wine doors of Florence!