Wine Doors of Florence: Photographer Andrew Barrow traces city’s medieval life

An award-winning photographer and wine enthusiast has combined his two passions to capture the overlooked signatures of medieval life hidden across one of Italy’s most beautiful cities.

Andrew Barrow has released his debut photographic portfolio, Wine Doors of Florence, which collates the images of 167 “wine doors”. 

Wine doors of Florence: What are they?

These doors, known as buchette del vino, played a part in the bustling life of the city hundreds of years ago.

They are a remnant of a time when wine producers were allowed to sell vino to the public from the basements of their palazzi.

This practice was legalised as early as 1559. Then the buchette del vino acted as a kind of “serving hatch” for the people of Florence.

A Journey from wine to photogRaphy

Wine and photography are very much a part of Andrew’s life.  It’s easy to understand why he has been drawn to these architectural footprints of a time gone by.

Andrew, from Wallingford, Oxfordshire, spent many years working for various wine merchants, and eventually passed the trade-recognised qualification the Wine and Spirit Education Trust Diploma.

When blogging began to “be a thing” Andrew set up a website detailing the wines he’d tried. He included food and wine matching, and details on wine trips and hotels.

Andrew Barrow and Wine Doors of Florence prject
Andrew Barrow with one of his Wine Door images

As the internet developed, Andrew became more and more interested in the visual aspect. This interest developed into a greater passion.

His interest in photography increased and he joined the  Royal Photographic Society (RPS) . A couple of years ago he stopped the wine blogging and started the Falmouth Flexible Photography MA course.  In 2015 he won a Pink Lady, Errazuriz Wine Photographer of The Year.

what triggered Andrew’s interest in the wine doors

Andrew explains he had been on a press trip to Florence and an American friend mentioned the buchette del vino. The friend suggested they could make a good tourist guide or an interesting book.

“In the face of the city’s other attractions they are totally overlooked and hardly seen,” explains Andrew. “In fact one of my Falmouth lecturers who also studied in Florence had no idea they existed!”

Andrew discovered a local association had documented the remnants of 167 buchette del vino within the city.

He explains: “The passing of time has meant that many are lost. Some have been repurposed as restaurant menu shelves,  an intercom or letter boxes. Others are evolving as a canvas illuminated with street art.  Several are seemingly vandalised, as they fight for space with air-conditioning ducts and gas meters.”

The photographic challenge explained

Andrew recalls: “It was quite straight forward, if time-consuming, to plot them all on a Google map. In fact I didn’t. My American friend did all the background work!

“It was then a case of visiting every single one and taking a photo. Over the course of two heavy weeks in May 2018 we visited all of them several times, at different times of the day.

“We tried all sorts of shots, from straight-on documentary style, long exposure shots, more ‘street’ style. Just to experiment.

“As this shoot was intended for my uni course, a selection of the better shots was put forward for several critiques. This narrowed down the style and approach to be made on a second visit in October last year.

“Knowing the location of the more interesting doors and understanding the light, with a  focus on the images required, made the second shoot very precise. It was less of a random wandering exercise.”

What next for Andrew?

He told me: “There is still plenty of potential in the Wine Doors. Exhibitions in London and Florence have been mooted and are in the early stages of planning. I have a series of non-wine door images from Florence that I am looking at doing something creative with too.”

An exhibition of the photographs was held at St Peter’s Church in Andrew’s home town of Wallingford.

They’ll  also be on show at the Falmouth University Graduate Show at The Print Space Gallery at 74 Kingsland Road, Hackney,  from June 20 to July 2, 2019.

Here’s a foot-tapping preview.

A total of 14 of the Wine Doors of Florence works can be bought in a limited edition folio presentation box. Each  box contains 14 glossy colour images, illustrating a different buchette del vino. 

For details,  go to andrewbarrow.co.uk/winedoors-of-florence.

Individual images can be bought  at andrew-barrow.picfair.com


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