Historic Wine Windows Reopen in Italy, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
The bubonic plague, otherwise known as the Black Death, originated in Asia during the late Middle Ages and spread north into Europe through the bacteria Yersinia pestis on infected fleas. To counter bubonic plague, much like today’s situation with coronavirus, 17th-century Italians in Tuscany built 'wine windows, or ‘ buchette del vino,’ which were holes with hatches carved into the concrete walls of urban wine producers who served customers at safe social distances.
The Italian Plague of 1629–1631 AD (the Great Plague of Milan) was a series of bubonic plague outbreaks that ravaged northern and central Italy claiming an estimated million lives, or about 25% of the population, adding to the one-third of Europe’s population that died at the time.
Wine for sale the writing in stone says in Italian from the ancient days when ‘wine windows’ first appeared during the bubonic plaque in Florence, Italy (Buchette Del Vino)
Contactless Historic ‘Wine Windows’ Appear Again in Tuscany
It wasn’t quite clear what these historic ‘wine windows’ were originally used for until a new one was built this year. Consequently, under the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Italy’s historic ‘wine windows’ are open again in Italy for the safe purchase of vino and other things.
The Italian Wine Window Association website says that while the Italian population is currently confined to home as the government permits a gradual COVID-19 reopening “during this time, some enterprising Florentine Wine Window owners have turned back the clock and are using their Wine Windows to dispense glasses of wine, cups of coffee, drinks, sandwiches and ice cream - all germ-free, contactless!”
A variety of the ‘wine windows’ found on the old streets of Florence (Buchette Del Vino)
Speaking with Insider, Matteo Faglia, the president of the Wine Window Association (Associazione Buchette del Vino in Italian) said that within Florence’s walled city more than 150 wine windows exist, many of which are permanently filled. Faglia went on to say that people used to knock on the little wooden shutters and have their wine bottles filled directly from the Antinori, Frescobaldi and Ricasoli families: three aristocratic historic Florentine families synonymous with wine in Tuscany who still produce some of Italy ’s best-known wine today.
Historic 1966 Florence Flood Destroyed Many ‘Wine Windows’
Alongside the stone holes in walls many wine holes were lined with wood but most of these were lost in the 1966 flood of the Arno river in Florence which killed 101 people and destroyed countless art masterpieces, rare books and wooden wine windows. The Wine Window Association has now begun the process of mapping these forgotten and often lost artifacts throughout Italy ’s wine country, “marking them with a plaque to designate their import and authenticity” to raise awareness of these historic architectural features.
According to the World Health Organization Italy lost 35,000 residents in the first wave of COVID-19, and a report in the New York Post states that ‘in spite of this tragedy, the world has witnessed the culture and camaraderie that likely helped Italy through the medieval epidemic.’ The article also reports that at the height of their national coronavirus outbreak, ‘choruses of Italians could be heard singing in solidarity through open windows and on rooftops with a glass of wine in hand all the while.’
What Could Go Wrong With 2020’s Historic ‘Wine Windows’?
It is alarming when reporters around the world celebrate Italian culture for their love of wine without a single mention of how the consumption of alcohol contravenes current COVID-19 medical advice. A recent Euro advisory paper presents the known facts about the consumption of alcohol and COVID19 stating: ‘Alcohol use weakens the immune system and thus reduces the ability to cope with infectious diseases, leaving aside the fact it is known to cause certain types of cancer, alter thoughts, judgements, decision-making and behavior.’
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The world’s health experts are telling us to “avoid alcohol altogether,” so that you do not undermine your own immune system and risk the health of others. Perhaps over drinking is one of the factors that contributed to Italy being hit so badly hit by COVID19. The alcohol consumption problem got so bad in Italy in April that the country’s Health Ministry had to publicly debunk a dangerous social myth that claimed ‘alcohol is a good a method to boost the immune system.’ And in a statement the Ministry stated, ‘alcohol consumption increased the risk of infection because alcohol weakens the immune system and therefore reduces the body's ability to cope with infectious diseases.’
Thus, no matter how “safe” receiving wine from a ‘wine window’ might be, the population of Tuscany is weakening its resistance to COVID19 with every sip of wine. And they should be reminded that it was wine producers that told the world a glass a day is good for you and not doctors.
Top image: Florence’s historic ‘wine windows’ have reopened in response to COVID-19 Source: Buchette Del Vino
By Ashley Cowie