I ask what happens to the bread that is not sold: Wait and see! At just before closing time, a man - Antonio - arrives in a Piaggio 3-wheeler, bustles in and picks up the sacks of old bread put ready for him. "Where are you going with them?" "I'll show you, vieni!" So I trot willingly after him and we fold ourselves into the tiny cockpit. It's probably pretty comical to see, as a Piaggio is not so much a car as a trike with two seats, and I'm 6ft tall. Thankfully, the destination is only a few blocks away. We go by a roundabout route because, with my knees in the way of the handlebars, we can't turn tight corners.
We arrive at a tall, modern building and, summoned by the doorbell, a nun opens the door. The two sisters and the Mother Superior of the order 'the Daughters of Charity' use the basement of this building as a canteen for the homeless and poor. My arrival causes a fluster and they crowd me with questions, hold my hands and pinch my cheeks. I try to explain my project, though each question is asked three times and I get a bit dizzy. Antonio leaves, shrugging at the scene. At first, there's a bit of confusion. "But we don't make bread here!" says Mother Superior. "And we certainly don't sell it!" cries Sorella Carmella. Then they grasp my meaning and suddenly they lose interest. Mother Superior and Sorella Carmella leave the third nun to take me downstairs to a functional canteen in the basement. It is embarrassingly at-odds with the locked-away Baroque luxury upstairs, but a meal has just ended and the smell of food that lingers is comforting. The Sister describes mealtimes here, how the bread is central to as wholesome a meal as they can offer. She proudly reads out loud, and explains for me, a poem posted on the end wall, a sort of 'ode to bread'.
ONORATE IL PANE, GLORIA DEI CAMPI, FRAGRANZA DELLA TERRA, FESTA DELLA VITA; NON SCIUPATE IL PANE, RICCHEZZA DELLA PATRIA, IL PIU SANTO PREMIO DELLA FATICA UMANA; AMATE IL PANE, CUORE DELLA CASA, PROFUMO DELLA MENSA, GIOIA DEI FOCOLARI; RISPETTATE IL PANE, SUDORE DELLA FRONTE, ORGOGLIO DEL LAVORO, POEMA DI SACRIFICIO
This translates as something like:
Honour bread: fields of glory, fragrance of the earth, celebration of life;
Do not waste bread: wealth of the country, the blessed reward of human fatigue;
Love bread: heart of the home, flavour of the table, joy of the hearth;
Respect bread: sweat of the brow, the pride of work, poem of sacrifice.