The longest night of the week at the bakery in Izzalini is on a Friday. When I join them at 10pm the air is already doughy and thick.
Massimiliano, Giacomo, Michele, and Roberto have their first batch in the oven already and another batch rising in an anteroom. By morning these men will have dispatched 5 vans, with a combined load of over 800kg of bread. Their night’s work won’t be over until noon tomorrow.
I fumble briefly, trying to manage multiple lenses, a flash and a tripod. It isn’t long before I ditch everything, aside from the body and a fast 50mm. I even dump the battery grip as I stretch, lean and duck to stay out of their way.
The bakery has two ovens, one gas fired, one wood. Both will run through three cycles before the night is over and nobody wastes time. The apparent chaos is belied by the efficient and practised way that each stage is completed on time, with dough rising as the previous batch cooks, the mixer spinning as the previous batch rises.
The space is frenetic, busy with people and flour. The gas oven burns at a consistent 210° and cooks much of the bread, pizzas and confectionary. The wood fired oven cycles between 350° and 180°, being lit, fuelled, spread, and cleaned between each batch. The bread from this oven will cost your more per kilo but it will last a few more days. There is much fun and laughter, punctuated with breaks in the cooler air outside.
People stop by to chat and catch-up even as the dough is cut, rolled, and placed in racks. At around 2 the bread is piling up, and Mirella arrives to make and roll the pizza dough. Cornettos are filled with cream, the last batch of dough means the clean-down can begin, even as the fire is lit once more in the hot air of the back room.
When morning comes they bag bread for local shops and restaurants and load the vans. I eat blisteringly hot pizza as it spills from the oven and thank the guys for letting me join them. Then I make my excuses, and head out into the cool night air photograph the sunrise.