A Well-Hidden Wine Window by Diletta Corsini
At first I wanted to entitle this article “The Houses of the Spirits”, after the famous book by Isabel Allende, a well-known storyteller. The reason was that the search for wine windows often results in mysterious coincidences and serendipity, leading one to think about the playful intervention of supernatural beings. For example, the last two wine windows we discovered were both carved out of the shutter of the front door and hidden by subsequent restoration. It is understandable that the most visible wine windows have already been noted and counted. Those which are less visible remain to be discovered. The amazing thing is that the two most recent discoveries were in buildings in piazzas of the same name but in different cities: Piazza Santo Spirito in Pistoia and in Florence.
The newest discovery in Florence is in the Guadagni Palace, situated at the corner of Piazza Santo Spirito, the most well known of the piazzas on the “left bank” of the Arno in Florence. The Guadagni Palace contains a beautiful porch constructed with horizontal beams which served as a model for many Florentine palaces. This magnificent Renaissance palace, constructed in the early 1500s for the Dei family and decorated by Andrea del Sarto, remained in the possession of wealthy gold merchants until 1683. It was then left to Buonomini di San Martino who sold it to the Guadagni family, whose crest it bears, and then was inherited by Dufour Berte in 1837.
To discover the wine window it is necessary to turn the corner to the side of the palace on Via Mazzetta, n. 10, the old entrance of the “Thouar”, which was perhaps the first public library of the city. On this door you can see a small, covered opening, as shown in the photograph. Behind the small door, at the top, you can see an arch which is the remains of a wine window which has been closed up. The dimensions and height of the opening demonstrate that this was a window used for selling wine to the public. Unfortunately also the internal part of the door has been modified, the small shutter has been sealed up and painted. Only a ghost of the antique wine window of the Guadagni Palace remains.
Here are some of the questions regarding Wine Windows about which we are uncertain how to respond:
“Was it possible to buy olive oil directly from the producer through the wine windows, or only wine?”
“Was it possible to buy vin santo as well as normal wine?”
“Is it true that the wealthy Florentine families would leave a glass of wine and a plate of food in the wine window for a
poor person to enjoy?”
FALSE WINE WINDOWS
Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli speaks about Florence and then Rome by Alessandro Cambii
There are numerous writers who, having visited Florence and become curious about the small doors found in the large palaces, have written about these Wine Windows, but Giuseppe Gioachino Belli plays a special role among these for three reasons.
The first is that he was a writer from Rome and visited Florence in
1824, leaving a precise testimony of the Wine Windows in his “Prose di
viaggio” (Travel Writings). Belli says that in Florence wine is sold on the
ground floor of all the large palaces and many houses, through a small
rotund opening in the top part and closed with a wooden or iron door,
complete with a knocker. The small window is opened from the inside by the cellarman or porter or general factotum who is given an empty flask or bottle and some money in exchange for filling the flask with wine.
The Prince of Vintners by Diletta Corsini
The direct sale of wine from small windows in the noble palaces of Florence must have appeared to foreign visitors on the Grand Tour as a very singular characteristic of our city.
Not only the brilliant Lady Morgan (see the following article by Corinna Carrara), but also other English writers passing through Florence, have remarked upon the wine windows. Tobias Smollet said, shortly before the arrival of Pietro Leopoldo, that although Florence was densely populated, it seemed that there was very little commerce of any type.
Lady Sydney Morgan (1783 - 1859) was one of the most
controversial Irish authors of her time due to her diary/book
"Italy", published in 1821, in the wake of her successful
novels. Along with her husband, Lady Morgan went on a
Grand Tour commissioned by her editor, Colburn, who
wanted to publish the impressions seen and described by her.
"Italy" recounts just that, the disastrous political, economical and social situation in that country: causing heated diatribes and...
The Wine Windows Association was founded to draw attention to these fascinating apertures in the old palaces in Florence and surrounding Tuscan cities. The scope of the Association is to protect and to help citizens and tourists to appreciate these unique architectural features which are particular to the Florentine culture.
What are Wine Windows? They are small openings in the facades of many large houses and palaces in Florence, through which, over the course of three centuries, millions of bottles and glasses of local wine were bought and sold. The wine was sold directly from the producer to the consumer, rather than using a go-between tavern or wine-seller. This unique commercial enterprise, which is particular to Florence, was the result of the imagination and invention of wine producing families in Tuscany who had residences in the city of Florence.
The Wine Windows Association was created to emphasize this unique reality, and to protect these antique apertures from demolition, damage and disrespect.
The Association intends to do a census of the existing Wine Windows, to assist owners in protecting them, restoring them, or even uncovering them—as some have been removed, destroyed, covered up.
We welcome you to peruse this website, which has the intent of inciting your curiosity about these very special architectural features in Florence.
President, Wine Windows Association
Wine Windows Buchette del Vino
THE WINE WINDOWS WEBSITE AND ITS CONTENTS
The intention of the Wine Windows website is to communicate, share, collect and show to the public all the information available regarding the unique Florentine Wine Windows. The Wine Windows have several different Italian names: “buchette” (small holes), “finestrini” (small windows), or “tabernacoli” (tabernacles). We will indicate where they still exist and search out their histories and diffusion in Florentine culture, with the aim of enhancing their value, helping to recuperate them when they have been removed, and to protect them from further damage.
The website is easy to use. The Home Page has various titles and links to recent articles, notifications and book reviews regarding Wine Windows, which will form a permanent archive of the existing information regarding these architectural features.
The Who and What section talks about our Association, its goals and initiatives, with the intent of encouraging participating from the public.
The Maps section shows the locations of the Wine Windows in the city of Florence and its surroundings.
The News and Highlights section will contain updated information which will be published over time, with a List of the various Windows, a photograph and brief description.
The Documents and Photos section contains a Photo Gallery of the most important and beautiful Wine Windows, which will be given a number as part of our census. These will be updated regularly.
The Contacts page serves for viewers who wish to contact us with requests, or who wish to participate in the association or provide information.
Two postcards: one from about 1965 with three views of Via Palazzo dei Diavoli where one or more Wine Windows are visible. The second shows the same scene in 2015—no more Wine Windows!
NOT JUST "BUCHETTE"
These unusual architectural features: “buchette”, in the Florentine palaces have been given many names over time, an interesting indication of the richness of the Italian language.
Here are some of the Italian names and if you know of any others, please let us know:
NICCHIE PORTE DEL PARADISO
Il sito, gestito dall'Associazione Buchette del Vino, è online dal 30 marzo 2016.
I testi sono a cura di Diletta Corsini, Matteo Faglia, Mary Forrest, salvo dove diversamente specificato.
This website is managed by the Wine Windows Association (Associazione Buchette del Vino).
The text has been prepared by Diletta, Corsini, Matteo Faglia and Mary Forrest, except when otherwise indicated.
Buchette del Vino
via della Pergola, 48