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.

Edible Filigree

A bowl of su filindeu.
A bowl of su filindeu.

Su filindeu (Italian for “threads of god”) is the rarest and the most endangered pasta in the world. Only three women know how to make it.

[It’s] made by pulling and folding semolina dough into 256 perfectly even strands with the tips of [their] fingers and then stretching the needle-thin wires diagonally across a circular frame in an intricate three-layered pattern. The base is then set out to dry in the Sardinian Sun.

After a few hours, they form into sheets of razor-thin white pasta that resembles filigree.

It’s so difficult and time-consuming to prepare that for the past 200 years, the sacred dish has only been served to the faithful, who complete a 20-mile pilgrimage on foot or on horseback from Nuoro to the village of Lula for the biannual Feast of San Francesco.

Now: It’s offered by three local restaurants.

Opening For A New Kind Job

There’s a new profession in Italy: that of codista (Italian for “queuer.”)

The job, which pays about $15 an hour, requires one to stand in a, well, long queue. It comes with the benefit of accident insurance in the event that a codista trips on the stairs of a public building.

Italians spend, on average, 400 hours a year, queuing. The money wasted, in the process, is $44 billion.

The job’s inventor offers a five-hour course over Skype, during which he trains new hires on the procedures of the various government departments.