A Hole In The Wall

A little “wine window” in Florence.

If you strolled through the cobbled lanes of Florence, you’re likely to see little apertures in old buildings that are about the size of an airplane window.

Well, they are windows.

In the mid-16th century, when the grand duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de’ Medici, decreed that wine could be sold out of people’s cellars—bypassing the taverns and innkeepers—Florentine nobles built these buchette del vino (Italian for “holes for wine”) into the walls of their palatial residences. By selling directly to the consumers, they evaded taxes in the process.

In the early 1630s, when an outbreak of the plague swept through this town and elsewhere in northern Italy, these dainty architectural features allowed sellers to pass a flask of wine into the hand of a buyer, without coming into contact with him or her.

In the era of the coronavirus, they’re are enjoying something of a Renaissance.

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