Wine Windows in Faenza by Diletta Corsini
Marco Santandrea, art historian and founder of the “Torre dell’Orologio” Association has summarized and even noted the date of their birth, as being July 12, 1824, as ordered by Cardinal Agostino Rivarola. This prelate was nominated in 1824 as legate of the Province of Ravenna. He devised what he considered to be an infallible method of preventing possible insurrections or revolutionary activity on the part of masons and the “carboneria” and of restoring order to the territory.
With the excuse of stopping drunkenness and the wasting of precious money on alcoholic drink, he decided to close all the taverns and bars which sold wine, places which were used by the poorest members of the population who were at risk of becoming revolutionaries. By closing them, he also was damaging the interests of the nobility, who produced wine on their estates.
Therefore, he created the ingenious method of allowing the noble families to continue to sell their wine honestly through the back doors of taverns which faced side or back streets rather than the main ones. These back doors contained a small opening or window for passing a bottle or glass of wine to the client who, once he had drunk his beverage, had to leave the premises.
The wine which was produced by the landed families and was previously sold directly from their cellars, now had to be sold through this wine window which, for ease, was carved out of the wooden doors on the side or back of their homes.
The use of these wine-vending windows continued even after the taverns and bars re-opened, which occurred only a few months following the Cardinal’s edict. The noble families sold their wine at a slightly lower price than the taverns, and next to the wine windows it was sometimes possible to find a bench upon which to enjoy one’s purchase. Wine selling was most frequent in the evening, with the concomitant closure of other shops. Clients usually furnished their own flask or bottle for the beverage.
The wine windows in Faenza are on Via Borsieri, Via Tonducci, Via Torricelli (ex-Ragnoli palace) and Via Viarani (on the right in the photo). They are the last to survive this practice, being used up until the beginning of the 1900s when the social wine cellars were born which were more efficient, modern and produced higher quality wine.
Following the disuse of the wine windows, building restoration and remodeling cancelled much of the signs of the wine windows, which should be preserved. It is also possible that there were wine windows in Ravenna and other nearby cities since the Cardinal’s edict concerned the entire Province.
July 31, 2019
Faenza, like Florence, also has ghost wine windows - those which have disappeared but are documented architectonically, through old photographs and publications. One has been documented by Pietro Nenni, one of the historic leaders of the Italian Socialist Party, who provided proof of a seventh wine window in Faenza which is no longer there.
He wrote that his father, Giuseppe, called Jusafì, who worked on a farm at Solarolo, moved to Faenza to work for Count Ginnasi, for whom he served as man servant, cellarer and wine vendor using the wine window of the Ginnasi Palace. This palace still exists in Corso Matteotti, but the wine window is no longer there. There is one in Vicolo Naldi, however, which is in front of the palace.
This map was sent to us by the Torre dell’Orologio Association, highlighting in green the wine windows which still exist in Faenza. Those highlighted in red indicate ones which have disappeared over time: one in Via Manfredi on the Manfredi home and then the Caldesi Palace, another in Vicolo Diavoletto serving Ghirlandi Palace.
At the Museum
A lively presentation and discussion occurred on September 15th at the Casa Martelli Museum in Florence. Matteo Faglia and Diletta Corsini revealed the latest discoveries about Wine Windows in Florence. This was an opportunity for those Florentines who own buildings with Wine Windows to make contact with the Buchette del Vino Association and become acquainted with its goals and activities. We thank all those who participated in the Conference with their enthusiasm, questions, stories, and new discoveries.
Massimo Casprini talked about the new edition of his book “I Finestrini del Vino” which has just been published under the auspices of the Buchette del Vino Association and describes the history of the Windows and many other interesting details.
It is possible to order a copy of Casprini’s book from this website by clicking on the cover photo above and sending your request as instructed. Your purchase will assist the Association in broadening its activities, which seem to grow day by day, as interest in the Wine Windows increases.
Without a doubt, Wine Windows have often been the victims of defacement as well as intentional and unintentional vandalism. There’s no other way to define the alterations which often take place—either destruction, graffiti or other types of scribbling.
The Wine Window in Via delle Casine has been ruined by someone with the desire to destroy an innocent architectonic feature which wasn’t bothering anyone. It was one of the last examples of a Window with a doorknocker attached to it for the use of clients who wished to knock on the door for service. One morning we have noticed that the doorknocker is no longer there. The first two photographs on the right show “before” and “after”.
Another common form of defacement is carried out by individuals who scribble or paint images on the Window in various colors, as documented in other photographs. These are only a small sample of the Windows which have been the object of graffiti.
The only possible excuse that can be made for the vandals who destroy Wine Windows is “ignorance”. In a literal sense of the word, they are ignoring the purpose of the Windows, their history and their beauty, which is certainly not enhanced by their defacement on the part of someone who passes by, spoils something and then walks on.
18. Cantina del Gelato
23. Osteria delle Belle Donne
24. La Buchetta Food&Wine
37. Le Botteghe di Donatello
47. Trattoria Osteria da Que’ Ganzi
60. Vivoli Gelateria
62. Johnny Bruschetta
78-79. Il Latini
84. Osteria delle Brache
132. Odeon Bistro
141. Ristorante Buca Lapi
The Wine Windows in Florence and some surroundings towns have been used for centuries to purvey millions of glasses and bottles of wine directly to customers. But is it still possible today to drink a glass of wine which has been sold through a Wine Window?
Clearly not, because this type of commercial transaction is conducted in a totally different manner today.
However, there are several pubs and restaurants and taverns in the historical center of Florence today which “house” Wine Windows and where you can eat and drink excellent Tuscan food and local wine and observe the Windows from both inside and out.
There are 14such places which are listed and numbered according to our own complete list of Wine Windows as shown in our Photo Gallery in another section of our website. The addresses you can locate yourselves!
"Babae", a new bistro in via Santo Spirito, serves glasses of wine through the wine window every day from 7pm to 8pm!
A Flying Wine Window
Thanks to Attilio Tori, Director of the Casa Siviero Museum, situated on the Lungarno Serristori n.1/3, in Florence, we can add another Wine Window to our collection, although this particular Window is not accessible to the public and not visible from the street – it has flown toward the sky.
To photograph this window, we have had to go on the roof of the Museum. The Window has a stone frame which has been reinserted on an upper floor of this 19th century palace. The Window was no doubt recycled from another palace and installed by Rodolfo Siviero, famous “Art Detective”, and secret agent of the Italian Secret Services during World War II. Siviero played a vital role in the preservation and recuperation of Italian works of art and monuments which were at risk of damage, stolen, or taken during the War.
Siviero was a refined collector of art and loved all aspects of it. He left his home to the Region of Tuscany, and it now houses a Museum which is filled with his vast collection, comprising ceramics, paintings, miniatures, furniture, religious objects, arms, tapestries and other antique fabrics, which reflect his myriad interests. Following in the footsteps of Stefano Bardini, who also constructed a palace-museum of eclectic art objects and used “found” objects from demolished churches and buildings, such as church altars, windows, Renaissance bits of doors and structures, Siviero also “recycled” painted panels for use as doors and antique sculpted pieces for fireplaces and chimneys in his home. Therefore, the Wine Window he installed on an upper story of his palace is no longer utilized for selling wine but is an actual window which allows light and air to pass inside.
Newly discovered in Barberino di Mugello,
Borgo San Lorenzo and Bibbiena!
A kind reader of the article about our Association which appeared in La Repubblica has informed us of the existence of Wine Windows in the towns of Barberino di Mugello and Borgo San Lorenzo, outside of Florence, but still in Tuscany.
The two windows to the left (the first one is in Barberino) have a very unusual shape—which seems like the form of a traditional Tuscan wine bottle—the “fiasco”.
In Galliano, a village outside of Barberino, there is another Window of which we only have the Google Street View for now (upper right).
We have discovered in Via Cappucci, n. 32 of Bibbiena, another Wine Window (lower right), and look forward to more discoveries.
Via dei Pachetti, n. 2 and 4, Florence: two Wine Windows, one of which is linked to the interior of the historical restaurant, wine shop “Il Latini”.
Below is a Venetian “hump” and a Roman “nose”.
To visit an Italian city of art is always a fascinating experience because it allows one to travel from the present to the past in a way which is always unique. Next to a prestigious museum or cathedral which houses the most important artworks in the world, one can also find small, individual treasures, unusual architectural marvels and points of interest.
For example, in Venice, there are hundreds of humps (“gobbe” or “pissabraghe”) in the angles of the streets which were placed to make it impossible for rogues or thugs to lurk to attack an unaware pedestrian. These interesting protuberances also discouraged men from urinating in corners as they were designed to “splash back” the urine onto the perpetrator.
In Rome, on the other hand, there is an army of more than 2,000 curved water spouts (“nasoni”) sticking out in the streets which provide potable water to passers-by.
Florence, instead, is endowed with its Wine Windows (“buchette”), small, arched openings in the facades of the antique palaces and large houses, often located near the large front door of the building. Unlike the humps in Venice or the water spouts in Rome, these small stone windows—which are often at eye-level or lower, but which did not allow the outsider to look inside and often were covered with a small door--often go unobserved by both local Florentines as well as tourists. Sometimes they are wrongly identified as religious tabernacles (which also exist in Florence, but which are usually larger and placed higher up on the façade). It seems incredible that they are not more observed since there are more than 100 of them in the oldest part of the city of Florence, which is traversed and observed by hordes of tourists every day. But, as Edgar Allen Poe said, the best way to hide an object is to leave it in plain sight.
For centuries, the Wine Windows in Florence were used by the well to do families which had vineyards outside of the city, to sell their own wine directly to the consumer. The servants who looked after the wine in the cellar of the palaces, also sold the wine to customers, who often brought their own jug, bottle or glass, placed through the small window, where it was filled up, and an exchange of money for wine completed the transaction. The Wine Windows often sported a cover, a small door, and when the customer knocked, they were opened for business. The customer was asked what type of wine and how much they wanted. The Windows were large enough to accommodate a bottle (“fiasco”) with a large straw bottom, as Tuscan wine was traditionally bottled.
These two “false” Wine Windows shown in the small photographs are in Via Martelli, n. 9 and Via Pandolfini, n. 8.
To the right you see that the first is positioned above a sculptured tabernacle housing the Virgin Mary with Child by an artist from Rossellino’s workshop.
Often, above this “false” Wine Window is a religious tabernacle with a sacred image in it, or an antique lantern. The small window was used to lift or lower objects using the chain or cord—including oil for a votive lamp. Thus, the votive lamp could remain lit for the entire night, making the city safer for pedestrians.
There are quite a few “false” Wine Windows in Florence. At first glance, they seem to be a Wine Window—they are of the right shape, they have a small door, they are at the right height, and near the front door of the palace.
However, there are some anomalies, such as a door which opens on the outside. Wine Window doors instead, always opened toward the inside. Another feature of a “false” Wine Window is that the space, without a wooden inside doorway, is closed up by a wall. Normal Wine Windows which are out of use are blocked up evenly with the building façade. Sometimes the “false” Wine Windows contain a small chain or metal mechanism. When this is the case, on occasion, you can glance upwards and see a small channel in the façade which goes inside the house, and a cord is attached.
The Wine Windows are located primarily in Florentine palaces, either in their facades or lateral walls. So far, we have identified 130 of them, with 50 in important palaces belonging to noble Florentine families such as the Antinori, Ricasoli, Niccolini, Ginori, Pucci, Barberini, Manetti, Pazzi, Martelli, Albizi, and Donati.
The complete list is published on our website under the WHO AND WHAT section where we report the address, the name of the palace (when available), the tower or oratorio or convent.
We hope to update the information regarding each palace which hosts a Wine Window, so as to provide more precise indications regarding age, architectural features, history of the Window.
For the time being, we want to emphasize the importance of this architectural detail which is testimony to the strong links which the big Florentine families had with their farms and vineyards and their city palaces and homes.
Buchette del Vino
via della Pergola, 48
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.