When the coronavirus hit, the north of Italy saw an economic crash and also hardship among many; in a time where many would ponder on where to get their next meal from, Gianni Bernardinello, an Italian baker, saw this as an opportunity to provide.
Outside his shop in Milan’s Chinatown, Bernardinello would leave baskets full of bread, pizza and sweets for anybody who needs it.
A sign above the basket would read “to give a hand to those in need, help yourself and think of others too”.
After leaving out the baked goods and goodies, he would then immediately disappear as he didn’t want to embarrass anyone he might kno who would be waiting in line for the hand out.
“He said he was putting out leftovers at night but I also saw him putting out fresh bread in the middle of the day,” Alessandra De Luca, 56, a client and a friend said, “He was really worried.”
Unfortunately, Bernardinello died on Nov. 9 due to Covid-19 at a hospital in Milan, his daughter, Samuela Bernardinello, said. He was 76.
Before falling in, he would be at his bakery everyday even though his daughters begged him to stay at home.
“Between these walls there wasn’t a day in 130 years that they stopped making bread,” he used to say, “even under the bombings in 1943.”
Bernardinello was born in 1943 December 22nd in Montù Becaria near Milan. He started working at 12 as a goldsmith apprentice and then later on in life as a fashion photographer and starting a yarn business. A crisis in the 1980s led him to wanting to sell a “product that the people always need,” he told his daughters.
He bought Macchi Bakery in 1989 and never looked back, learning the art of bread making as the years went.
The bakery today is renamed “Berni”, Bernadinello’s nickname, and is a meeting place in the neighborhood where locals would stop by for coffee or listen to Berni talk about drones that he built or jazz festivals.