Boccaccio wrote about it in Decameron, and you can see it many a Medieval painting. Nowadays, you can still find it on Tuscan tables. What is it?
It’s the traditional wine flask, the bulbous bottle wrapped in raffia. Used since at least the 14th century, their purpose is not merely to save tablecloths from those pesky drops that run down the outside of the bottle!
So what did it serve exactly?
The raffia actually served to protect the wine flasks during transit. Layered over the back of a donkey or horse, or stacked high in horse-drawn carts, the raffia would stop the bottles from breaking as they were transported over the rough countryside roads, through the winding hills.
The horse-drawn carts (‘barche’) were actually used right up until 1935 to transport wine.
Nowadays, it is not unusual to find a raffia-wrapped bottle of wine on a restaurant table. With a small cork that you can remove without need of a corkscrew, you help yourself to the wine and at the end of the meal, are charged according to how much you have consumed.
The bottles are then re-filled from large barrels in the restaurant cellar, with locally-produced Tuscan wines, kept in the ancient cellar in large ‘botte’ (barrels), in a larger ‘tonneau’ or the smaller barrique.
Boccaccio (1313-1375) is considered to be one of Italy’s greatest writing talents to ever have lived. He was likely to have been born in the small Tuscan town of Certaldo, where you can find restaurant Il Castello. Here, the wine is still served in this traditional way in the raffia bottle.
Similarly, at Florence’s famed Il Latini restaurant in the historical city centre of Florence (and quite close to the Artviva office actually!).
If you would like to learn more about wine production in Tuscany, or just practice some drinking of it in a traditional Tuscan setting, see our Tuscany tours.
We also have a wine tasting as part of our Original Evening Walking Tour.