There is something intoxicating about the smell of fresh bread. I’m not sure exactly what makes it so attractive but it affects my senses every time. Just walk down one of the many cobbled streets in Florence early morning and you are destined to be drawn in by the smells of freshly baked treats. 

S.Forno has a uniquely Florentine story. Down a small side street off busy via dei Serragli, it would be very easy to walk by and miss what’s on offer. Even more, miss the story behind the ‘Panificio’ awning. The space has been a forno (bakery) for over 100 years and for the past 40 years, baker Angelo has arrived every morning to prepare fresh bread for the locals. But something happened lately. After years of 7-day weeks and 18-hour days, Angelo needed time beyond the business so local restaurant powerhouse, the team behind Il Santo Bevitore, came to the rescue. 

Partnering with Angelo, they have brought the business, but kept the baker, to ensure its place in the neighbourhood is secure for the future. It’s one of the few remaining fornos in Florence with an original oven on site, as opposed to baking outside the city centre and bringing in produce. Behind an innocuous back door in the open planned dining room is a massive steel structure fired up daily at 4am. From 7.30am, S.Forno is open to all serving current seasonal favourite schiacciata de uva, sourdough bread, baguettes and pizza. Fresh panini is made to order, ideal for a quick lunch on the go, from the salami counter lined with meats to fill your sandwich.

Local interior specialist Luca Rafanelli was recruited to bring in his vintage finds of reclaimed furniture to match the distressed ceiling paintwork from where lamps hang from long thin wires. Simple wood shelves offer fine products for sale: jams, sauces, pasta, juices and artisan beer. Fresh bread sits in wooden baskets behind the rustic wood countertop, the smell of filtered coffee fills the air. It’s signature Il Santo team style that has recharged this space. Owners Martina and Marco Baldesi with Stefano Sebastiani tell me keeping these traditional spaces in place is paramount and recount how in the past locals from the neighbourhood would come to the bakery on Sunday morning to roast their meat in the oven. This Sunday meat tradition doesn’t take place today however the locals still flock here for the bread.

Behind the ‘Panificio’ awing is a small chalkboard with a handwritten ‘S.Forno’, the only sign of the renaming of this bakery, and that’s the point. A new team taking a unique space and making it relevant yet able to continue doing what it does best. Angelo still bakes bread and sweet treats for all to enjoy keeping his bakery alive. 

Picture credit: Nardia Plumridge