A treasure hunt around Florence to spot these curious miniature wine windows is the exact kind of activity I would plan a holiday around…

What’s a wine window you might ask? Well, once upon a time in 16th-century Florence, with a knock and a few coins, any Florentine citizen could buy a glass or bottle of wine from a buchette del vino – curious miniature hatches set into the walls of palazzos owned by rich families with vineyards outside the city walls.

In their peak, they could be found all over the city. Nowadays, most have been either plastered over, cemented shut, or turned into letter boxes, but there are still a fair few to discover – 150 left inside the old city walls and 25 outside the city walls (and counting). It’s certainly enough to worthy a treasure hunt around the city. Luckily I found this handy interactive map here.

They’re also having a moment. Since Italy emerged from strict lockdown, several businesses in the Tuscan city have started using them as contactless hatches, to serve glasses of wine, cups of coffee, drinks, sandwiches and ice cream to customers on the street – as they were in 1634 when the Plague swept through Florence, according to records.

Originally though, they would have been connected to the palazzo store rooms (cantina), where a member of the household staff would sell “fiascos” of wine (those old-fashioned straw-covered bottles) or pour wine directly into a customer’s cup or flask. The cantiniere could also take orders on barrels of wine for home delivery and sell other products through the window such as flasks of olive oil, cured legs of pork, flour and vegetables from the family’s farm.

What’s also fascinating is that the little wooden doors were often designed as replicas of the main entrances to the palazzo, and that many windows even had a plaque stating the opening hours and holidays of the buchette.

Dive into the wonderful world of wine windows here and this great photography book where some of the photos in this post are from.

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