A Florentine Secret

This article comes from the Global Desk, a collaboration between The Gazelle, WSN and On Century Avenue. Read more by searching ‘global.’ FLORENCE, ...

Oct 18, 2014

This article comes from the Global Desk, a collaboration between The Gazelle, WSN and On Century Avenue. Read more by searching ‘global.’
FLORENCE, Italy — I’m convinced that Florence has been set up purely to impress. Every time I pass by the Duomo, or cathedral, I feel its grandeur, presence and domination over the city. Creamy gelato gives me a sweet, melting sensation of sugar on the tongue. Then there is a collection of gloriously naked statues, proudly assembled in the city centre. Such a sight would be incongruous in a city like New York but in Florence, marbled nudity seems only natural, integrating easily with the surrounding atmosphere. What makes Florence even more alluring, however, is often not found in its dazzling glamour but rather in the shadows, a discovery of the unseen.
I heard a rumour about students going out at night, not to a club or to a bar, but to a secret bakery. All I heard was that it is close to Piazza della Signoria, one of the major squares in the city, and that I should follow the smell. That was it. The bakery is only open from midnight until very early in the morning and the secrecy arose from the fact that their earnings during these limited hours are not counted as part of the bakery's regular profits, and are thus off the books. I heard that they sell freshly baked Nutella croissants for only a euro. I had to find it.
After some research on Google and with a map opened on my iPhone, my friends and I were sniffing through Piazza della Signoria like a bunch of hyenas looking for leftovers. After some struggles, we finally found it.
It was as though we were witnessing a crime scene: a man with a white apron stealthily popping his head out from a door to hear a customer’s whisper about illegal Nutella croissants. After several minutes, a white paper bag was exchanged for some cash and the deal was done. There was even some shushing to silence any noise that might rouse nearby police. As I bit into the still-warm croissant, the sound of pastry crackling against our teeth was in harmony with the flood of smooth, thick, melted chocolate sliding past my tongue. At this point, I was not concerned about how many calories I had just consumed at 2 a.m.. I felt like I was able to appreciate the taste of “guilty pleasure” for the first time.
The secret bakery may not not have the same allure as Michelangelo’s David, but I still remember the electrocuting thrill of finding the hidden bakery. It was at that moment that I became an addict to dark Italy — the kind of Italy that not everyone knows. I’m now even more determined to make more unexpected discoveries in the labyrinth-like streets of Florence.
Natsuko Saegusa is a contributing writer. Email her at
gazelle logo