Florence’s wine holes

You can find them all over Tuscany. There’s almost 200 of them and there’s even one in Piedmont. Most of them are in Florence, especially nestled in historic walls, but many others have been discovered in Pistoia and Arezzo, for instance. We’re talking about the wine doors (or “buchette del vino” in Italian), elegant, little portals at human height set in old Florentine buildings (often on the facade and more rarely cut into doorways), created from the Renaissance onwards to sell, and in rare cases – knowing Florentines – to give, wine directly to the people, without any additional intermediation.

There’s a quirk that interweaves the threads of time, making these wonderful doors even more current and intriguing. Historian Diletta Corsini, a member of the cultural association that preserves and promotes the wine doors (about which we learned a great deal and whom we thank: www.buchettedelvino.org) enthusiastically tells us show, during the Black Death in Florence, the doors were used to contain the pestilence. A 1634 document titled “Relazione del Contagio” (Infection Report) by the Florentine scholar Francesco Rondinelli mentions the sportelli” (doors) as a method to slow the infection. Almost 400 years later, in the Florence of Covid-19, some businesses have used the old doors to safely sell their products, wine of course, as history teaches us, as well as other items, such as one of Florence’s best gelato parlors: Vivoli! History always repeats itself and, in this case, it’s the old spell of the wine doors that has come back to life.

Conviviality, which we can define as the total of two words, sociality and taste, is an essential ingredient in the recipe of happiness. It’s something that belongs to the human race alone. Have you ever seen someone in total solitude who’s fully happy and satisfied? I’m not talking about ascetics or Symeon the Stylite. In recent months, our pursuit of happiness in social situations has been unfortunately gelded. But the example of the wine doors during the plague shows us how creativity and ingenuity always manage to bring out the best of human achievements.

Humanity has always known how to find windows of light, life and taste, regardless of pestilence, restrictions, wars and famines far worse than this current predicament. Next, comes the rebirth…