home FOOD AND WINE The history of wine tabernacles

The history of wine tabernacles

Chiara Fonzi


Located in the upper part of Via de’ Benci near Ponte alle Grazie, wine bar and restaurant La Buchetta derives its name from a longstanding local tradition of wine tabernacles, which in Florentine dialect were called “buchette.”


Too small for people, too low to be used as windows, and with a consistent architectural style: a 40-centimeter door-like hole closed by a wooden shutter, crowned by an arch and framed by bricks. These are the so-called “wine tabernacles” of Florence, tiny doors once property of the richest families in town, which can still can be seen on the facades of some Florentine palaces. Although they are called tabernacles, they are not of religious significance.


At the end of the sixteenth century, northern Europe, especially England, presented tough competition to Florentine merchants, in particular in the textile markets. Because of this, Florentine families abandoned the business that had made them rich and began a more profitable investment: land. Once established as landowners and wine producers, they began selling their products from cellars in town directly to the consumer, rather than to taverns, leading to the birth of tabernacles as the means of wine vending.


The holes were open in the wine producers’ buildings up until the eighteenth century, when the culture of wine selling changed. Today Florence has maintained the wine tradition, with its wine shops and enotecas that join restaurants and bars in the market of wine selling.


But where are yesterday’s wine tabernacles? Some of them have been sealed, but others can still be visited.

Piazza Strozzi: The “Strozzino” building, dating to 1420, was designed by Michelozzo for the rich and traditionally mercantile Strozzi family.

Piazza Santa Croce: Here visitors can start a real wine tabernacle hunt, with many facing the square from each corner.

Via dei Benci, 20: Still the property of the Mellini-Fossi family, this building was designed by Simone del Pollaiuolo and erected in the seventeenth century. The facade still boasts refined and well-preserved frescoes.

Via Dante: A door can be found on the walls of the building once owned by the Giuochi family on the side facing Badia Fiorentina.

Via del Proconsolo, 10: On the corner of Borgo Albizi. Palazzo Pazzi Quaratesi has a tabernacle at the side of the main entrance.


La Buchetta

Via De’ Benci 3/3a
055 21 78 33


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