Florence is an extraordinary city with any number of surprises – not least the ‘buchette del vino’ (or often ‘porte del paradiso’) neither of which needs translation.  These have undergone something of a revival of late, thanks in part to Stanley Tucci and his excellent series “Searching for Italy”.  (Who doesn’t love Stanley Tucci?)  These miniature doors, located within the walls of many of the noble palazzi of Florence date back to the 15th Century when Cosimo de Medici granted a concession to the Florentine nobles (as a means of gaining their support) to sell wine directly from their palazzi.  This was popular with the nobility in that they could sell without the added cost of a middleman, and with the drinking public because the wines were relatively inexpensive and easy to buy.  The windows took on renewed, different, importance in the 17th C during the plague where Florence lost an estimated 12% of its population.  The windows were a ready way to transact without contact – something we can all now understand.

And during the height of our own pandemic, a number of wine doors were reopened to serve wine (and sometimes gelato), avoiding direct contact with the customers. At last count, there were 145 wine windows in the historic centre of Florence, but there could be others that are yet to be discovered.

With their glorious glossy violet skins, the elegant aubergine has served us well this summer and is just nearing the end of its season. This dish is perfect as the cooler evenings set in. Each Italian home has its own variation of this classic dish but this is ours at Montecalvi.