MILAN- Italy's top pastry chef, Iginio Massari, is banking on his latest patisserie to set a new trend, opening a shop full of sweet delights inside a branch of the country's biggest lender.
Massari, whose treats have been served to movie stars and politicians, has teamed up with Intesa Sanpaolo ISP.MI to add flavour and life to the grey experience of visiting a bank.
Steps from Milan's Duomo Cathedral, delicate pastries, rich fruit tarts and multi-coloured pates de fruits sweets sit side by side with counters and cash machines.
"A bank with cakes!" Massari told Reuters. "It's quite a challenge, but it's also a record as I am the first pastry chef to open in a bank." Italian lenders are cutting thousands of jobs and closing branches, but those that survive are being redesigned to appeal to clientele from a new generation.
"Having a patisserie in a bank is a great idea, it gives you a good reason to go the bank," said Milan resident Alfredo Gentili.
Intesa Sanpaolo's partnership with Massari is part of a 500-million-euro push to turn its branches into modern-day piazzas.
Andrea Lecce, Intesa Sanpaolo's head of marketing, said the aim was to welcome customers to a "homely and simple" space.
"Sweets and pastries are part of the world of dreams," Lecce said. "They evoke moments of joy and celebration, and we believe that we contribute to creating them too -- with home mortgages and student loans."
The pastry shop is Massari's second, after his outlet in the northern city of Brescia that has served delicacies since 1971.
Massari said he had been considering opening in Milan for a long time, and was finally convinced by this idea which he described as "unique".
(Reporting by Giulia Segreti and Ilaria Polleschi in Milan Editing by Edmund Blair) ((Giulia.Segreti@tr.com; +39.02.66129416; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))