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As the Cagliese walk along the cobblestone streets of Cagli, Italy, the smell of freshly baked bread permeates the fresh early morning air.

A small bakery hidden in a narrow alley opens its doors every morning at 6:30 sharp, welcoming local customers with an enormous variety of breads, cookies and pastries.

Of all the breads made by Domenico Ricci and Giuseppina Pierantonio at Ricci Bakery, the unsalted baked goods are the first to go.


“We could not imagine our lives any other way.”


“Within the first hour of business the demand for bread baked without salt is so overwhelming the trays are typically refilled six times,” remarked Ricci as he restocked the wooden crates with loaves of salt-less bread hot out of the oven. “Meanwhile the ordinary salted loaves of bread sell at a much slower rate.”

One of the oldest Cagliese traditions is baking bread without salt.

Despite the partiality for saltless bread in Cagli, locals seemed unable to provide a definite explanation of what perpetuates this tradition.


Fresh Bread

Domenico Ricci, Owner of Ricci Bakery

“There is no particular reason the tradition of saltless bread is still practiced today,” said Stefania Calandrini. “Many people have researched and written books about this topic, but they have not reached any simple answer. It is a unique tradition in the Marche region of Italy.”

Calandrini did, however, describe the history behind the tradition.

Back in the 1500s, salt was a heavily taxed item, which forced people to use it sparingly. Italians could no longer afford this everyday necessity; therefore, bread makers knew the only way they could continue to sell their products at an affordable price was if they did not use salt.

When they began to bake bread without salt, they were able to lower their prices and maintain their loyal clientele.

“Because there is a large amount of salt found in meat such as pork, ham, salami and prosciutto,” Calandrini pointed out, “Italians in the Marche region believe unsalted bread simply goes better.”


Salty meats require a bland and saltless accompaniment so that one can truly savor the taste of the meal, Cagliese believe.

Ricci Domenico and Giuseppina Pierantonio have been dedicated to their line of work for nearly 40 years. They opened the bakery in Cagli together 18 years ago and continue their dedication to serve the city and their valuable customers.

Restaurant and café owners and supermarket managers flood the shop everyday buying loaves of bread to sell at their establishments. Local Cagliese purchase their daily supply of saltless bread for their families every morning as well.


“Within the first hour of business the demand for bread baked without salt is so overwhelming the trays are typically refilled six times.”


“My favorite kind of bread is the one baked with cheese,” Laura Mattioli, an English and Italian translator from Pesaro, said. “I bring home a loaf of it every week. It’s not boring like the other breads; you can even eat it plain!”

Despite their grueling work schedule, which requires them to slave away, baking bread and serving customers from 1:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., Domenico and his wife truly love their job. "We could not imagine our lives any other way," they claim.

Most of the products made in the Ricci Bakery are prepared without salt, such as the loaves of bread served in restaurants before the meal. Any sort of bread that is served with cheese or meat is always saltless. In addition, the salt-free variety complements sweet foods.

“It is rare someone comes into the bakery asking for bread with salt, which is why I do not have to make as many loaves of bread with salt,” said Caterina Serallegri, the owner of Cagli’s popular Panetteria. “As a matter of fact, there is only one type of bread made with salt that we sell on a daily basis.”


Ten Pound Bags of Flour

Mixture of Unsalted Bread Dough



The local specialty, Cheese Bread

Panini breads are small loaves of bread that are always made with salt — approximately 300 grams, roughly the equivalent to American-style bread — because they are used for sandwiches.

Despite its bland flavor, there are advantages to baking bread without salt: bread rises faster and air pockets enlarge which allows holes to form.

“When I discovered bread with salt, I liked it very much, but I only eat it with salami, prosciutto, and cheese,” Ketty Pompili, owner of Alimentari, a market that sells authentic and traditional Italian delicacies, said. She said she did not discover bread with salt until she was in her late teens.

“The bread I sell at my store is rarely made with salt because it tastes better with the dishes I serve,” Pompili said.

Most inhabitants of the Marche region declare they are rarely bothered by the lack of flavor in their bread.

“I do not even taste the difference between breads with or without salt,” claimed Fabrizio del Re, a bartender at Caffé del Corso. “Either one tastes good to me, but if I had to choose one, I guess it would be salt-free bread.”



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