Officina in S.Maria Novella

One of the most absolutely suggestive places of Florence is the perfume-pharmaceutical shop of Santa Maria Novella. Found at Via della Scala 16, very close to the beautiful Santa Maria Novella piazza, the shop is among the oldest pharmacies in the world.

Its origin is truly old, tied to the Dominican friars that in 1221 established their order in Florence, while its official founding is only in 1613 through the intercession of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Such is his intervention that the shop will be called the Foundry of His Royal Highness. In the eighteenth century, thanks to the ingeniousness of the many formulas elaborated by the chemist friars, the Pharmacy begins to export its products and expands its circle of trade to India and China. The Shop has always been housed in a beautiful Renaissance palace and its rooms with their frescos, period furniture, and antique pharmaceutical instruments alone are worth the visit. Its kiosk at the back of the shop is marvelous as well.

perfume-pharmaceutical shop of Santa Maria Novella
Maybe the sense that is hit the hardest when one enters this treasure chest is not the sight but the sense of smell – the air is filled with the incredible aroma of dried flowers, herbs, roots, and cosmetic concoctions, from essences to perfumes (even today they are still prepared from formulas studied in the 1500′s for Catherine of Medici) and from “Acqua di Colonia” to the noble Aromatic Vinegar or the “Seven Thieves,” useful for someone prone to faints or swoons and whose formula goes back to 1600.

Also famous is its production of liquors, Alkermes, the elixirs of China and the Medicean Liquor, so-called in honor of the Medici family, as well as its line of soaps, each one stamped by hand, aged for sixty days in aired closets, and paper-wrapped by hand – all made with machinery from the 1800′s.
Today the Shop of Santa Maria Novella is also a place where cultural initiatives take place: in the impressive frescoed main hall concerts, art exhibits, conferences, and book presentations take place periodically… this place definitely is one that should be visited!

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