Wine Windows Used During The Black Plague Have Reopened In Italy

By Jacob Shelton


(Wanted in Rome)

As the novel coronavirus continues to ravage the globe, people are finding new ways to connect and, more importantly, new ways to drink. In Florence, Italy, locals have revived the centuries-old trend of picking up a safe, socially distant glass or bottle of wine at designated wine windows. Only one foot tall and a few inches wide, these windows were once the lifeblood of Italy, allowing family businesses to sell their product and stay safe during the Black Plague. It makes perfect sense that they've made a comeback.

Plagues And Profits

Most wealthy Florentine families in the 1500s owned a vineyard in the Italian countryside, but in order to sell their wine, they had to go through some kind of middleman. The tavern owners and innkeepers who brought the wine to the thirsty masses took a hefty cut, which meant the vineyard owners lost out on profits. In 1559, however, Cosimo I de' Medici finally permitted Florentines to take part in the majesty of direct sales. No longer were vineyard owners asked to part with a delicious slice of the money cake in order to sale their wine. All they had to do was set up a wine window.

The practice came in handy during the second wave of the Plague. The best precaution against infectious disease at the time (and today) was staying away from other people and their germs, so wine windows, with their convenient walls between server and customer, allowed the people of Florence to carry on some semblance of normalcy without coming into direct contact with a wine merchant.