By now, you surely know how obsessed I am with Florence. It is one of my favorite cities in the entire world, and one of the reasons for that is because of how well I got to know it when I was studying abroad as a college student in 2009. One of my most favorite memories was finding a secret bakery with all of my friends, and again, when I went back with my then-boyfriend (now-husband) in 2015. If you’re curious about what a “secret bakery” is and how to find one, read on!
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What is a secret bakery?
While Florence isn’t technically known for its pastries, quite like it is its Bistecca Fiorentina or Gelato, there are cafes on just about every corner, serving up wonderful cannoli, sfogliatelle, and biscotti (just to name a few). If you’ve been to Florence, or Italy, for that matter, you might have noticed that these cafes are tiny - like, so small that there isn’t enough room for a kitchen in there, right? Right. There isn’t. Unless you’ve found a rare case, most cafes do not actually bake their own pastries (or anything for that matter) - they purchase them from a wholesaler, for lack of better words. These wholesalers work on their own, baking throughout the night, usually starting around midnight or a little after, and delivering to the cafes right before they open, around 6am.
These wholesalers are the secret bakeries to us common folk. Now, legally, they can only sell to the cafes in Florence, but if you know where they are and how to properly order (a skill I am honestly still working on), you can snag a hot, fresh pastry, after a night of heavy… eating for yourself!
While these secret bakeries may not actually be so secret, they do come with a set of rules for a few reasons, which I’ll explain.
Cash only: Like I said, these guys are technically (legally) not allowed to sell to the public, so they’ll only accept cash here. I know, the points-loving girl that I am is hurting, too, but the good news is that most of the goods you can get are only around €1-2. They also will not accept large bills - just have a few loose euro ready! This is a quick exchange.
Keep quiet please: Most of these secret bakeries are tucked away in neighborhoods, and again, are “open” from around 1 am - 4 am, so out of respect for the people sleeping, they’d prefer if you didn’t make a whole lot of noise. If you are in a large group, you should only go inside in pairs.
Know what you want: In my experience, I was only allowed to ask for sweet or savory (“dolce” or “salato”), although you can try to request an item by name. In other cases, they might just hand you a bag with some pastries in it, and you get what you get. This is one of those situations where you’re just going to have to go with the flow.
Finding the Secret Bakeries of Florence
This is by no means an exhaustive or definitive list of the secret bakeries in Florence. From what I’ve heard, they change fairly frequently, so keep me honest! If you try one out and it’s not there, let me know in the comments, so I can keep this list up-to-date (please!).
Via del Canto Rivolto, 2: You will most likely find a sliding glass door with a keep quiet sign of sorts
Santa Croce area (two bakeries here!)
If you are facing Santa Croce, walk down the left side of the church and turn left onto Via delle Pinzochere. The bakery will be on your right
Again, walk down the left side of the church and turn left onto Via de’ Macci. The bakery will be on your left.
Laboratoria di Pasticceria Arrighi: This is right by the Santa Maria Novella train station, on the corner of Via delle Ruote and Via San Gallo
While these directions may not be the most clear, I promise the smell will lead you the rest of the way there!
Some great phrases to know for ordering pastries
Per favore: Please
Grazie: Thank you
Qualcosa con nocciola: Something with hazlenut - this might get you a pastry with Nutella, or even just creamed hazlenut in it, one of Florence’s specialty
Qualcosa con frutta: Something with fruit
Qualcosa con cioccolato: Something with chocolate
Pizza: This will not be a massive pizza, just a mini pizza that is absolutely delicious.
Cimbella: Round pastries, covered in sugar, like donuts.
Cornetto: A croissant, you can ask for “con cioccolato” or “con crema” for chocolate or cream filling, as well.
Bombolone: Pastries (from Naples, actually) filled with either chocolate (con cioccolato) or cream (con crema).