Italy’s ‘wine windows,’ used during the plague, reopen for contactless food and alcohol sales

Published: August 12, 2020 11:56 AM EDT
Italy's wine windows (via CBS News)

In Florence, Italy, small, quaint windows offer a glimpse of old-world architecture – and some also serve, once again, as a place to get wine. 

These little windows date back centuries and were once used by wine producers selling their wine directly to customers. They became especially useful during the plague, according to Buchette del Vino, an Italian cultural association dedicated to wine windows.

The plague ravaged northern and central Italy from 1629 to 1631, during which these little windows offered a way to buy and sell wine while limiting the spread of germs.

Like other contactless-delivery methods, wine windows are now having a resurgence during the coronavirus pandemic, which earlier this year prompted Italy to impose a nationwide lockdown. The country has had more than 251,000 coronavirus cases and 35,000 deaths due to the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

According to Buchette del Vino, two restaurants in Florence, Osteria delle Brache and Babae, are now selling wine through their wine windows. The Vivoli ice cream shop also reactivated its wine window to serve ice cream and coffee.

Wine windows in Florence were described in a book published in 1634, according to Buchette del Vino. Its author, academic Francesco Rondinelli, reported that sellers using the windows during the plague nearly 400 years ago understood contagion.