Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

The tiny doors in Florence’s walls

If you’ve ever paid a visit to Florence, you’ll surely have noticed the strangely placed miniature wooden doors in the walls of many palaces and grand homes. Well, they’re not teeny tiny doors for elves, messenger pigeons or ravens, they are in fact ‘wine portals’, or rather they once were, back in the day.
Tuscan Palaces were often designed to resemble the bank vaults of their owners, with limited access and windows well away from street level. Keeping the ‘riff-raff’ away from the homes of the wealthy may have seemed like a good idea while Tuscany prospered, but after the Renaissance, when fortunes began to decline, families looked to new sources of income and many turned to agriculture.
Wine especially became popular – after all, why not cultivate something valuable you also happen to love. But when it came to selling the wine, the realization that the estate owner would have to interact with the general public outside caused concern. So rather than invite them into their palaces, several small doors were created in the walls, allowing just enough room for a flask of wine – which became known as ‘buchette vino’ to be passed through. Other agricultural products, like olive oil and ham, were also sold through the doors, but few capture the imagination as much as wine. Today, the doors are protected for their architectural significance, but sadly, a knock on them now will most likely go unanswered.