Welcome to Olivo Santa Barbara

L’Olivo Santa Barbara is a blog about cultural similarities and differences between Italy and the United States, with some emphasis on Santa Barbara, California.  The blog addresses history, travel, film, music, art, food, and people and animals.  Following an introduction in English, you can choose to read each post in Italian or English.  Comments are welcome, as are ideas for future posts.

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Posted in English, Italiano | 2 Comments

Le Buchette del Vino

Nel periodo compreso tra le pestilenze bubboniche europee del 1300 e del 1600, i commercianti di vino in Toscana costruirono a creare le “finestre del vino” per impedire che acquirenti e venditori entrassero in stretto contatto. Queste finestre ad arco erano piccole aperture sulle facciate di palazzi ed edifici attraverso le quali, nel corso dei secoli, venivano acquistati e venduti bicchieri, fiaschi e bottiglie di vino. Queste strutture architettoniche uniche e le iniziative commerciali ad esse legate erano una specialità unicamente fiorentina. I commercianti di vino passavano il vino attraverso la finestra al cliente, ma non ricevevano il pagamento direttamente nelle loro mani. Infatti, passavano una pala di metallo al cliente, su cui questo metteva le monete.  Infine il venditore disinfettava le monete con l’aceto prima di raccoglierle.

Chi sapeva che le persone già a quel tempo capivano la teoria dei germi o come si diffondeva la malattia?

Molteplici sono i nomi attribuiti alle finestre durante quegli anni, a testimonianza della ricchezza della lingua e della cultura italiana: buchette, finestrini, tabernacoli, porticine, mostre, sportellini, nicchie, porte del paradiso, finestruole, porticcciole, buche, finestrine, porticelle. I nomi sono tanto vari quanto le caratteristiche architettoniche di ogni finestra.

Le buchette del vino sono passate di moda nel corso dei secoli, ma ora sono tornate alla ribalta durante la pandemia. Alcune attività di ristorazione e caffetteria di Firenze le stanno utilizzando di nuovo per offrire vino, caffè, cocktail, gelato e cibo da asporto per ridure il contatto al minimo. Fondata nel 1929, Vivoli è uno dei più antichi produttori di gelato di Firenze. Oggi usa una vetrina per vendere gelato, semifreddo, zuccotto e affogato.

Secondo l’associazione “Buchette del Vino” ci sono circa 150 di queste storiche finestre a Firenze. L’associazione è stata fondata quasi cinque anni fa per proteggere queste aperture uniche da demolizioni e danni, e per aiutare cittadini e turisti ad apprezzare questi tabernacoli della cultura fiorentina. C’è in previsione l’intenzione di effettuare un censimento delle finestre e di assistere i proprietari per la protezione, il restauro e in alcuni casi anche per la riscoperta di quelle smarrite. L’associazione sta anche documentando il loro utilizzo storico. Secondo Matteo Faglia, presidente dell’associazione, “la gente poteva bussare alle piccole persiane di legno e farsi riempire le bottiglie direttamente dalle famiglie Antinori, Frescobaldi e Ricasoli, che ancora oggi producono alcuni dei vini italiani più conosciuti”.

Grazie mille alla mia amica, Anne LaRiviere, che mi ha mostrato un articolo su questo argomento.

Posted in Abitudini, Architecture, Arte, Firenze, Foto, Italia, Italiano, Storia, Toscana, Vino | 1 Comment

Wine Windows

Sometime between the bubonic plagues of the 1300s and 1600s in Europe, wine merchants in Tuscany built “wine windows” to prevent buyers and sellers from coming into close contact.  These arched windows were small openings on the facades of palazzos and buildings through which, over the course of centuries, glasses, flasks, and bottles of wine were bought and sold.  These unique architectural structures and unique commercial ventures were a Florentine specialty.  Wine merchants passed the wine through the window to the client but did not receive payment directly into their hands.  Instead, they passed a metal pallet to the client, who placed the coins on it.  Then the seller disinfected the coins with vinegar before collecting them.

Who knew that people back then understood germ theory or how disease was spread?

The wine windows were given many names over time, showcasing the richness of the Italian language: buchette, finestrini, tabernacoli, porticine, mostre, sportellini, nicchie, porte del paradiso, finestruole, porticciole, buche, finestrine, porticelle.  The names are as varied as the architectural features of each window.

Wine windows fell out of fashion over the centuries, but they are now making a comeback during the pandemic.  Businesses in Florence are using them to offer minimal-contact wine, coffee, cocktails, gelato, and take-out food.  Founded in 1929, Vivoli is one of the oldest gelato purveyors in Florence.  It is using a wine window to sell gelato, semifreddo, zuccotto (a combination of cake and ice cream), and affogato (ice cream “drowned” in coffee).

According to the Wine Windows Association, there are about 150 of these historic windows in Florence.  The association was founded nearly five years ago to protect these unique apertures from demolition and damage and to help citizens and tourists appreciate this icon of Florentine culture.  It is planning to undertake a census of the windows and to assist owners in protecting, restoring, and, in some cases, uncovering lost ones.  The association is also documenting their historical usage.  According to The Wine Window Associations’ president Matteo Faglia, “People could knock on the little wooden shutters and have their bottles filled direct fromm the Antinori, Frescobaldi and Ricasoli families, who still produce some of Italy’s best-known wine today.”

Many thanks to my friend Anne LaRiviere who introduced me to this topic!

Posted in Architecture, Arte, English, Firenze, Foto, Italia, Storia, Toscana, Uncategorized, Vino | Leave a comment

Albright’s Questions

This is the second in a two-part series on Fascism.  Last week:  Mussolini and Trump

Madeleine Albright concludes her book, “Fascism: A Warning” with 10 questions that we should ask ourselves about our prospective leaders:

  1. Do they cater to our prejudices by suggesting that we treat people outside our ethnicity, race, creed, or party as unworthy of dignity and respect?
  2. Do they want us to nurture our anger toward those who we believe have done us wrong, rub raw our grievances, and set our sights on revenge?
  3. Do they encourage us to have contempt for our governing institutions and the electoral process?
  4. Do they seek to destroy our faith in essential contributors to democracy such as an independent press and a professional judiciary?
  5. Do they exploit the symbols of patriotism—the flag, the pledge—in a conscious effort to turn us against one another?
  6. If defeated at the polls, will they accept the verdict or insist without evidence that they have won?
  7. Do they go beyond asking for our votes to brag about their ability to solve all problems, put to rest all anxieties, and satisfy every desire?
  8. Do they solicit our cheers by speaking casually and with pumped-up machismo about using violence to blow away enemies?
  9. Do they echo the attitude of Mussolini: “The crowd doesn’t have to know,” all it has to do is believe and “submit to being shaped?
  10. Or do they invite us to join with them in building and maintaining a healthy center for our societies, a place where rights and duties are apportioned fairly, the social contract is honored, and all have room to dream and grow?

The answers will not tell us whether the prospective leader is right or left, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat.  The answers will tell us a lot about who wants to lead and whether we have confidence in the future or are face dire warnings. 

Posted in English, La Gente, Politica | 1 Comment