Under the cover of darkness after the city has gone to sleep, the secret bakeries of Florence begin their nocturnal operations. From around one thirty to five o’clock in the morning, bakers go to work making the fresh pastries that fill the display cases of various cafés around the city. If you visit a secret bakery during these hours you can buy fresh pastries straight from the source, still hot from the oven. It is no secret that these bakeries exist; rather, the secret of the bakeries lies in their location. By day, the secret bakeries are nearly indistinguishable from other workshops in alleys set back from the main roads. At night, the decadent aromas coming from their ovens reveal their hiding spots. After hearing rumors of these secret bakeries for some time, I decided to seek one out myself, leaving my apartment a little after one in the morning. My roommate who had already been had pointed me in the general direction of the shop and told me to follow my nose the rest of the way. Walking along the dark cobblestone streets, I couldn’t help but feel like I was on a covert mission. The streets were quiet; the only other people out at this time were congregated outside of bars after a night of fun.
The sweet scent hit my nostrils from out of nowhere. I followed it down a dark alley and around the corner, until finally I found a group of people waiting outside of an unmarked building surrounded by graffiti. I wasn’t the only one looking for a late-night treat. It was a mixture of locals, people on their way back from a night of partying, and people like me, whose curiosity led them to this mysterious place. After waiting for some time to get to the front of the line, I used a coin to tap on the door. A man dressed in a white apron opened the door just enough to make eye contact, but not so much that I could see inside. After taking my order he shut the door, and moments later reappeared with a bag of warm chocolate and cream croissants, which I took in exchange for a few euros. I watched as one by one, hungry customers repeated this ritual in between hushes from the bakers who feared waking their neighbors, as if it was the Prohibition era and I was standing outside of New York’s most infamous speakeasy.
The croissants themselves were delicious, and well worth the wait, and the mix of locals, partiers, and the curious, along with the palpable tension of the bakers, lent a unique energy to the secret bakery. While stopping into one of the many cafés in the city may be a faster, more convenient way to get your pastry fix while in Florence, a nighttime visit to a secret bakery is a truly unique experience that allows you to see a different side of Florence nightlife and connect to the people whose hard work helps keep Florence running while the rest of the city sleeps. So if you ever find yourself in Florence in the early hours of the morning after a night out, you might be so lucky as to stumble upon one of these locations. Just let your nose lead the way!