There is something intoxicating about the smell of fresh bread. I’m not sure exactly what makes it so attractive but it works on me 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. 

Florence is renowned for its pastries afterall; many café bars have windows dedicated to delicate sweet and savoury offerings. And a new bakery in Santo Spirito has the locals talking beyond the baking skills on offer.

S.Forno has a unique 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. For the past 40 years, baker Angelo has walked into the store every morning to prepare freshly baked bread for the local Florentines. But something happened lately. After years of 7-day weeks and 18-hour days Angelo needed time beyond the bakery business and local restaurant team behind the successful 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 original ovens on site (as opposed to baking outside the city center 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 plus sour dough breads, 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 counter top; the smell of filtered coffee fills the air.

It’s signature Il Santo team style that has recharged this space. Manager and owner Martina Baldesi works with brother Marco and together with Stefano Sebastiani are the brains behind Il Santo Bevitore and Il Santino just down the road on via di Santo Spirito.

They 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 happen today but the locals still flock here for the bread, something it seems keeps everyone happy.

Behind the ‘Panificio’ awing is a small chalkboard with a handwritten ‘S.Forno’, the only sign of the renaming of this bakery. But that’s the point. This is not about the team evolving for ego, rather taking a unique space and making it relevant and able to continue doing what it does best. Angelo still bakes bread and sweet treats for all to enjoy and now with a vibrant team behind the venture keeping this bakery alive, S.Forno is destined for a future filled with flour. Literally. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Words: Nardia Plumridge

Pictures: Beatrice Mancini