Do you also think that the things which are right in front of you are sometimes the easiest ones to miss?
When you find yourself surrounded by the great beauty and the architectural achievements of Italian historical towns, your eyes can be lost in the history and the excellence of the artistic details.
Le buchette del vino, called „little wine windows”, a particularity of Florence, but already spread across other parts of Tuscany, are a kind of arch-shaped holes located in the main facades of the Florentine palazzos, on the ground floor, in the vicinity of the main entrance or on the side of a palazzo. They can also be cut in the wood of the main entrances tall heavy doors.
Despite the fact that In most cases they are positioned at eye level in the palazzos of the Renaissance, the pride of the city, most often however, they are passed unnoticed even by the most inquisitive of observers. Occasionally they are even mistaken and taken for a little tabernacle.
By now these little windows are out of use, but for centuries the descendants of many prominent families sold wine through these little doors. To be more precise, only dedicated workers assisted the direct sale of the wine, which could happen only during well specified hours. The buyers would knock and ask for a specific wine and its quantity, and the seller passed the desired units of wine through the buchette. That way the payment was made directly from the customer to the producer.
The size of the buchette is not accidental. They are as high and wide, approximately 30×20 cm, to fit a fiasco di vino, a typical glass container for wine (flask) used in Tuscany, until recently.
These little windows differ in their shapes, material and a style of the framing, for pure aesthetics and not the practicality.They were always in line, however, with the architectural style of a given palazzo. We find the buchette very similar to each other, but never the same.
Le buchette del vino were a very intelligent and profitable way of selling the surplus of wine made at the estates, cutting out the middlemen. This particular form of sales reached its pick towards the end of the 18th century. Another very significant stimulus to open more of new „wine windows” was the bubonic plague epidemic (1630-1633). In order to avoid the spread of the disease and keep it under control, a measure to avoid any kind of gatherings was introduced. It also meant a ban on consumption of food and beverages outside the premises at which it was purchased. Once the doors of the osterie and trattorie remained closed for a long while, the only way to stock up on wine was to buy it through le buchette del vino (along with the official guidelines).
Le buchette fully stopped operating in the 50’s of the 20th century, but in May 2020, during the first lockdown due to coronavirus, some of the buchette found a new life, providing a perfect solution, yet again, for social distancing.
In fact, Il Bistrot Babae in Via Santo Spirito reactivated its little wine window during the summer 2019 but it wasn’t until the pandemic of Covid-19 that this antique tradition was reborn in full swing, selling spritz, wine, coffee and gelato. Currently I think it’s the only one open in the city. Other places, like La Gelateria Vivoli in Via Isola delle Stinche, followed the idea, at least during that specific period of time. We live right next to the gelateria Vivoli, its wine window is definitely closed, but the Vivoli ice cream is regarded as the best one in Florence, a must try.
Another must try are beans, a very important ingredient of the Tuscan and Florentine cooking.
The Tuscans really know how to cook them, very slowly and gently, so they turn soft from the inside but still hold their shape and literally melt in your mouth.
One very simple way of cooking them, is to flavour them with garlic and fresh sage, then generously drizzle with olive oil before serving.
A tuna, white bean and red onion salad, which I tried at Alla Vecchia Bettola many moons ago, I’ve found myself making most often. It’s dressed with olive oil and seasoned with a good red wine vinegar and black pepper. With hunks of crunchy bread it makes for a perfect and nutritious meal.
I treat myself to it especially when I’m on my own at home for a couple of days. It just couldn’t be easier and more delicious at the same time, and I couldn’t recommend it more.
Fagioli all’Uccelletta are white beans cooked with sage, garlic and tomatoes. The way that I’ve tried only just recently and was fully beguiled by the deliciousness of this dish. Of course we can’t forget about the olive oil and the seasoning, salt and pepper.
These are very traditional and simple recipes, where you have to make the most of and be creative with a few available ingredients, quintessentially Italian cooking.