I noticed them almost immediately when I moved here, but no one could tell me what they were. These little tiny doors in the walls of the palaces of Florence. Most cemented shut, but some still showing a wooden door fit for a fairy. What is that for? They seemed randomly placed around the city. Some had odd pulleys inside them. Others had street art graffitied in the makeshift-frame. No one could tell me. I couldn’t find anything online. I left them up to be a mystery. Occasionally taking pictures of the prettier ones.
After living here for a while, learning more Italian and history of Florence, I did find out the reason behind the “wine doors.” I can’t remember who or when precisely, but suddenly my insider Florentine knowledge gained a chapter, and they became even more interesting to me. Their name in Italian is Le Buchette del Vino. They’re little doors for wine.
The wine doors, I found out, were a way for Florentine families sell their wine directly out of their palaces (a Medici idea, of course). Many of the rich had vineyards outside of the walls of the city. Their cantinas would be the storage, and the wine doors, a way to dole out their wines bottle by bottle to local passerby on the street. I researched Italian articles on the topic and educated myself on this little Florentine quirk, but I never saw anyone else take interest in them, until now.
As I passed by Vivoli, a gelateria opened in 1929 and made their ice cream with ice chipped and sent down from the Apennine mountains. Between the two doors of the shop, there’s a wine door that hasn’t been bricked in and still has a wooden door. If you stop in for a gelato, make sure to check out the inside of the front doors – you can see the wine door from the back as well. It’s one of my favorites.
There was a new plaque nailed above the door the other day and I immediately looked up the website and found there’s finally an organization giving the wine doors the attention they deserve. If you want more information (and want to visit a few doors while you’re visiting) check out the website in English and fall in love. They’ve counted 170 wine doors in Florence to date, and they’re certain there’s more. Now I’m on the hunt for the ones that are hiding better than the rest.