Vinum Nostrum exhibit in Florence: art science and myth of wine

Do you:
  1. own a wine fridge?
  2. use the word "bouquet" to mean more than just a bunch of flowers?
  3. know the names of at least three varieties of red grapes?
  4. save and savour special wines?
If you answered YES to any of the above questions, you have more than a passing interest in wine, so the exhibit Vinum Nostrum is for you. Don't be put off by the Latin title, although this is a rather specialized exhibit that refers to antiquity through the many archaeological objects on display. The full title can be translated as Our Wine: Art, science, and myths of wine in ancient mediterranean civilization. Through objects, video displays, maps, and text, this small exhibit at Florence's Palazzo Pitti (Museo degli Argenti) shows how closely wine is linked to technology, culture, and every aspect of ancient civilization. And if you can't make it to the show, don't worry - there's a really good interactive website about wine made on this occasion. From it you can learn a lot, and see many of the objects on display! An exhibit like this combines knowledge from every sector, from genetics, biology, archaeology, history, linguistics, agriculture, sociology, art history and more.  There are wine-related objects and stories from Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece and Rome (with the particular case of vines from Pompeii which were frozen in time along with everything else), and Etruscan Tuscany. Around these, we can reconstruct history that touches on things like convivial symposium, the role of food and banqueting, or the divided gender roles and expectations around wine. Probably the most accessible type of objects in this exhibit are the many vessels used to hold wine. They come in every shape and form, from phallic to practical, in the shape of human heads and animals and anything else you can imagine. Here are just a few examples. wine-holders IMG_2541IMG_2543
One important group of objects in the show come from the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi. An earthenware vase on display is from the sixth or fifth millenium BCE. Some dark coloured vases placed nearby come from around 3400 to 2000 BCE. These are the earliest known objects used for containing wine, the first evidence of a stable viticulture and the analogous process of animal domestication. I also learned that there was wine, or something like it, even before they had containers to hold it. And that containers themselves, as well as other technologies, were developed thanks to the desire to hold, and consume, wine. The dual nature of this nectar is in fact one of the themes of this show in Florence that hopes to educate the public about the cultural benefits of wine and its proper consumption. For the duration of the exhibit (until April 30, 2011), Florence is dedicated to Bacchus - in a good way! Alongside the exhibit there's a series of initiatives, mainly for an Italian-speaking public, that combine wine-tasting with intelligent conversation in beautiful gardens. The first three evenings will be this week (July 20, 21, 22), called "Vino in Giardino" in Giardino Bardini, while come September there will be wine-related events in the Boboli Gardens. Info: tickets cost 10 euros (5 euros reduced) and include entrance to the Boboli Gardens, Bardini Garden, and the Costume Gallery of Palazzo Pitti. Opens at 8:15am but closing hours vary by season. Closed first and last Monday of the month. July 20 2010 to April 30 2011 Vinum Nostrum Website