You may have heard whisperings about them as soon as you arrived here, leading to the realization that the so-called secret bakeries are not so secret after all. But the truth is, it is hard to keep quiet about them. Partygoers and night owls who have enjoyed an oven-fresh cornetto at what most Italians refer to as the ?late-night' bakeries know it is an experience not to be missed. Indeed, no matter how many times you have heard about these not-so-secret secret bakeries, your first (or 20th) visit will always feel like a special discovery. Although most of the information about them passes by word of mouth, and hours and prices can only be approximated, here is some insider's information on Florence's best places to get an after-midnight snack.
First, know where to look. Almost all of these secret spots are wholesale bakeries, closed during the day but hard at work while Florence sleeps, making the baked goods we see by day in the cafes and bars throughout the city. Usually big kitchens with simple or unmarked storefronts, they open their doors by night to sell their fresh-from-the-oven goods to passersby. The smell of warm brioche is a sure sign you are in the right place. What is on offer? Most items are between .80 and 1.50 euro, and baked goods are often still warm when placed in your hand. But do not expect a menu or a price-list. Craving sfoglia or cenci? Just ask.
Shhh. Keep in mind that a quiet customer is a good customer. Most of these bakeries are cheek by jowl to homes and apartments where people are sleeping, and the owners appreciate that patrons take this into consideration. If the bakery's overnight customers are too loud, the shop will close its doors to the public for the rest of the night. Or you may have to trudge home soaked: neighbors have been know to toss buckets of water on unruly pastry purchasers.
Now get out your Florence map. The most whispered-about secret bakery in Florence is Pasticceria Vinci & Bongini, often known as the secret bakery. It is located on via Canto Rivolto 2, an alleyway behind busy via De' Benci. Via De' Benci is home to many popular bars and clubs, and the pasticceria is often revelers' last stop before heading home. The entrance to Pasticceria Vinci & Bongini is an unmarked glass door and a much-quoted cardboard sign in English that reads ?Please be quiet.' If you find others standing outside, the proper etiquette is to wait until the baker comes back to the door. If no one else is around, go ahead and knock. This secret bakery has excellent cornetti filled with Nutella. If you're not sure what you want, you can simply ask for ?something with chocolate,' or ?something fresh,' and the baker will choose for you. The pasticceria opens between 1:30am and 2am and stays open until about 5am.
Laboratorio di Pasticceria Fratelli Arrighi, near piazza San Marco, is on the corner of via delle Ruote and via San Gallo. Look for the big vending machines, where you can buy a bottle of water or coffee to go with your late-night treat. The door is easy to miss, so look for the light yellow part of the building, which is where the entrance is located. It opens at around 2am, and the earlier you go, the broader the selection will be. Being quiet and respectful is likewise important here, an area dense with hotels and residences.
Futura Pasticceria, located on via Campo D'Arrigio 14 in Campo di Marte, although open only Monday through Friday, has the advantage of opening early: its hours are (rumored to be) between midnight and 3am. The door, right across from the train station, should be easy to find: look for a crowd of Italians outside of it. If it is a warm night, take a stroll to the stadium or eat your pizzetta on a bench nearby.
If you happen to be out dancing or enjoying a concert at Tenax in north Florence, you are right down the street from a great bakery, Pasticceria Saida Di Curradi Paolo & C. Sas, on via Pratese 51. Unlike the others mentioned here, it is also open to the public during the day and has a wide choice of excellent pastries and some drinks. Visiting Pasticceria Saida is a good way to regain your energy and cool off before you start your journey home.
Il Re della Foresta, is just outside the city center, in piazza Giovanbattista Giorgini 22. It may be a little out of the way, but it is worth the trip! It is also not so secret: it has two Facebook fan groups, a sign and a walk-up window that is open all night. Go there for the sfoglia tra le mele (a sort of small apple tart) and bombolone alla Nutella (similar to a Nutella-filled doughnut) and to say hello to Gianna, the beloved owner that boasts a major following.
Whether you find yourself craving a late-night snack or an adventure, a trip to the secret bakeries of Florence will satisfy both impulses. You are unlikely to find a fresher pizzetta or pasticcino, and on the way home after a night out is the best time to appreciate such a treat.