Angelo Arrigoni outside his bakery in Rome. EFE/Antonello Nusca

‘Bakery of Popes’ shutters as tourism erodes local culture in Rome

By Cristina Cabrejas

Angelo Arrigoni at his bakery in Rome. EFE/Antonello Nusca

Rome, Jul 5 (EFE).- Angelo Arrigoni, 79, on Tuesday, turned off the oven that has been baking bread for popes for 90 years, the latest business to close as the tourism industry continues to erode local culture in downtown Rome.

Arrigoni recalls the excitement he felt as a child when he was sent on an errand to hand deliver bread to Pope John XXIII at the papal palace.

Nestled in the Borgo Pio neighborhood next to the Vatican he told EFE how on Saturday “the bakery of the Popes” will lower its shutters forever, taking a piece of Rome’s history with them.

Arrigoni has tried to keep his artisan business afloat by asking for help from the Rome municipality but has failed to get a response.

The baker blames tourism “because hardly anyone lives in the neighborhood anymore and there are only hotels and bed and breakfasts,” Arrigoni said.

“After Covid and with the increase in energy (prices), an artisan oven that consumes a lot is making a loss,” the baker added.

In 1930, when Arrigoni’s father opened the bakery, the goods proved to be popular with the residents of the Vatican.

At the time, Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) was terrified of being poisoned and bread deliveries were rigorously and carefully conducted.

Arrigoni’s grandfather would place the bread in a large chest that arrived from the Vatican and for which only he had the key. The other key to the chest was kept in the papal apartments and was always opened in front of the pontiff.

Pius XI ate Viennese bread, a classic Roman bread roll with a compact crumb called ‘rosetta’.

While Pius XII preferred olive oil bread rolls, John XXIII (1958-1963) and Paul VI (1963-1978) favored “rosettine”.

When John Paul II (1978-2005), the first non-Italian pope in over 400 years, arrived at the Vatican he was asked what type of bread he preferred.

“He let us know that he wanted the bread that his workers ate but the workers ate both ‘ciriola’ and ‘rosetta’, so we decided to send him five of each every day for the 27 years of his pontificate,” Arrigoni said.

With Pope Benedict XVI it was different because “he was from the neighborhood,” having lived in the Vatican for years as a cardinal.

“I didn’t even know he was a cardinal, I thought he was a simple monsignor who came every day for his dark, unleavened bread,” Arrigoni said.

“When he became pope, I called the apartment anyway to find out what he wanted. The nun told me that, unfortunately, the Holy Father already had his own baker. But sister, I said, “It is I!” Arrigoni said.

As for Pope Francis, the baker explains that he was willing to make him Argentine bread “but he didn’t want bread specially made for him.”
When asked who will provide the Pope’s bread from now on, Arrigoni said: “Someone will find bread to bring him. Bread is always found.”EFE