Firenze is home to a few secret bakeries. There is no advertising, no signs of any kind -- it's all by word of mouth. I heard that one is run by nuns. After talking to several people about them, my roomie got the downlow on a bakery near our school. This was a commercial bakery that made pastries for local businesses in the wee hours of the morning. If you knocked on the door, they would sell you a pastry for one euro. The directions were vague: we were supposed to walk down an alley late at night, between about one and three in the morning. Look for a a light, a group of people on the street, we were told. You will know you are close when you can smell the pastries baking.
At 1 a.m. my roommates and I left the apartment in our PJ's and walked down the empty Ponte Vecchio, the empty Via Por Santa Maria, the empty Piazza Signoria (these are normally far from empty!!), and through the small streets around school. The little bottegas near Via de Benci -- the cafes, shoe stores, and the many leather shops -- all had their aluminum doors rolled down to protect the storefront. On top of the closed stores, apartments were stacked about six to eight stories high. Around a corner, we found the secret bakery. Its tin garage door, usually shut in the daytime, now opened to reveal opaque glass double doors. On one of the doors, a handwritten sign said, "Be quiet please" in English. Sure enough, we could smell things baking inside.
Other students from my program stood in the street. We made a nice contrast: us in our pajamas and them in their clubbing clothes. They told us that when they opened the doors, we'd have to send one person up to order and pay for everyone. We waited for them to come out with the pastries for our other group.
An man opened the door a crack and held out several white bags to our friends. Then, because we had been told that the Nutella pastry was the best, roommate M handed the man five euro coins and asked for cinque Nutella pastries.
He nodded and shut the door. We were so excited, but we tried to be quiet. While we were waiting, another group of clubbers rounded the corner and waited to order by the door. They kept talking loudly so we shushed them a few times. About five minutes later, the man opened the door again and handed out our pastries -- warm.
They were light and flakey like croissants, but shaped differently, and there was a dab of Nutella in the middle. They really were very good pastries, but they tasted even better because it was so much fun sneaking around trying to find this mysterious place!