In the 1300s, Europeans lived in fear of the plague claiming lives across the continent. In 2020, Europeans face the threat of the coronavirus, a pandemic that has killed more than 728,000 worldwide.
While much about life has changed between the two cataclysmic health crises, one thing has not: mankind’s thirst for wine.
Between the wrath of the Black Death in the 1300s and the Italian Plague in the 1600s, wine merchants in the Italian region of Tuscany built “wine windows” to protect buyers and sellers from coming into close contact.
The socially distant precaution was ahead of its time.
“It’s kind of amazing, because people didn’t know about germs in those days,” said Mary Forrest, one of the founding members of the Associazione Buchette del Vino, or Wine Windows Association. The association is a nonprofit established five years ago to document and protect the historic structures. “People didn’t know where the plague came from; they didn’t discover that till much later,” she says.
The windows fell out of fashion over the centuries, but the coronavirus outbreak has inspired their comeback. Businesses in Florence are opening their wine windows once again to sell wine, cocktails, gelato and coffee, Lonely Planet reported.
In May, Osteria Delle Brache restaurant and bar posted photos on its Facebook page of an employee passing an Aperol spritz through its wine window, marked with an Associazione Buchette del Vino bronze plaque confirming its authenticity. “We continue the traditions,” the post reads.
Travelers looking for the historic wine windows can use the Associazione Buchette del Vino’s interactive map that marks the locations of known landmarks. The map updates nearly every week, as people hear about their project and contribute. Forrest says they’ve documented at least 150 in downtown Florence alone.
Forrest says she’s unsure whether the trend will be able to keep growing as many of the wine windows aren’t located on businesses, but in former palaces that are now offices and private family residences. But whether wine windows continue to remain functional after the pandemic, travelers can admire them for their individuality.
“There aren’t any two alike, it seems,” Forrest says. “There’s this infinite variation in this very simple thing, and [it] makes you realize the human imagination knows no bounds.”