Envy Italy visits one of the oldest pharmacies in the world: Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella which is now an amazing haven of luxury lifestyle gift ideas from Italy.
Adjacent to Piazza Santa Maria Novella in Florence, the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, was established by Dominican friars shortly after their arrival in Florence in 1221. It was here that the friars originally, began cultivating medicinal herbs in their gardens to prepare medications, balms and ointments for their monastery’s small infirmary.
Today, tradition is perpetuated and renewed as the farmaceautica continues to use the highest quality natural raw materials and follows the artisanal procedures established by the original Dominican fathers. The Officina is particularly attentive to the herbalist’s art which has triumphed since the enterprise began, basing all its preparations on natural herbs and oils.
Each of the products has its own peculiar history. For example, Acqua della Regina is an essence that was created especially for Caterina de’ Medici. The noblewoman, crowned Queen of France after marrying Henry II, introduced her precious perfume to the court of France, where it became popular.
Other ancient recipes that deserve mention are the Liquore Mediceo, Alkermes, Elisir di China, l’Aceto dei Sette Ladri and Acqua di Santa Maria Novella, known as Acqua Antisterica and made from the famous Santa Maria herb (Costmary) known for its digestive proprieties.
The perfumes include colognes, essences and triple extracts and the fragrances range from sweet, like Iris, Rosa and Gardenia, to fresh, like Verbena, Vetiver or the delightful Acqua di Sicilia. The same essences are used in the soaps, all of which undergo the unique process of being matured in a special ventilated cabinet.
One of the most evocative products is the company’s ancient signature potpourri, a mixture of herbs and flowers from the Tuscan hills macerated in terracotta jars from Impruneta.
The original Via della Scala premises is now a boutique store and museum, where production still took place until a few years ago. The herbal shop was once the Old Pharmacy (Antica Spezieria) where pharmacy specialties like Alkermes, China and hot chocolate were displayed and sold between 1612 and 1848; the Sales Room (Sala di Vendita) was renovated in 1848 to provide an appropriate space to accommodate the patrons of the increasingly popular establishment; the Green Room acted as the reception room until 1700.
The museum consists of the areas once devoted to production, workshops and storage. It was established to reappraise the machinery and equipment used, as well as the antique ceramics and the precious glass, copper and bronze objects that the company has guarded carefully through the troubled events over the centuries. The Sacristy has become the library housing the Officina’s antique texts and new specialist volumes. Last, but not least, the aromatic herb garden is a perfect oasis, seemingly untouched for centuries, and lends itself harmoniously to meditation, prayer and reflection in the heart of Florence, Italy.
You Can visit the perfume museum at:
Pharmaceutical Workshop of Santa Maria Novella
Via Reginaldo Giuliani, 143 / A – 50141, Florence, (FI)
Open from Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm