Discover The World's Oldest Pharmacy: Santa Maria Novella
Like many of the religious sites in Florence, such as the Duomo and the Basilica of Santa Croce, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is a treasure trove of history and artwork and is certainly a must see.
And here, one rather ancient pharmacy awaits you: Santa Maria Novella. You will find this extraordinary store in Florence just around corner from the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella and moments from the city’s train station.
A visit to this one-of-a-kind place offers the chance to step back in time and bring home a scent of Florence that will transport you right back to Italy!
|The Historical Shop of Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Photo: Italy Perfect|
Drinking for a cure
|Photo: Florence What Else|
Drinking for a cure is now a thing, and it’s all thanks to Santa Maria Novella. This is one of the world’s oldest medicinal outposts. It was found in Florence in 1221 and has long used medicinal herbs grown in the accompanying monastic garden to make medicines, balms, and ointments for the infirm.
|Tourists are intrigued of course by the famed liqueurs. Photo: Guaranteed Returns|
Originally created by the resident Dominican monks, the drinks are a seven-strong collection of elixirs and liqueurs of medicinal herbs and spices with the aim to boost energy, digestion and even enhance the appetite.
|Photo: Florence What Else|
Even today, the liqueurs are produced in the laboratory-cellar on Via Reginaldo Giuliani in Florence, following formulas found in ancient manuscripts that have been handed down through the centuries.
|Exquisite details on the ceiling of the Historical Shop. Photo: Italy Perfect|
The origins of the historic pharmacy at Santa Maria Novella is directly tied to the history of the basilica. The story begins in 1221 when Dominican friars arrived in Florence and founded a church that would become the city’s first great basilica.
|The ornate facade of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. Photo: Italy Perfect|
Building on the church we see today began in the 13th century, but the striking façade was a later addition in the 15th century by the great Renaissance architect Leon Battista Alberti.
|The interior is so luxurious and decadent that just setting foot inside is a unique experience and one of the leading historic attractions in Florence, Italy. Photo: Guaranteed Returns|
Inside you will find artwork by some of the greats of Italian art, such as Giotto, Masaccio, Filippino Lippi and Ghirlandaio, as well as two cloisters and a museum.
Alive and Kicking at 800 Years Old
Santa Maria Novella’s current offering ranges from liqueurs, to colognes, hair care, oral hygiene, face and body care, soaps, wax products, room fragrances, ceramics, leather goods and a barber line.
The inexplicable way that scents can remind us of treasured travel memories often has a sense of alchemy about it.
Every space you visit today is full of history just as the sweetly scented products you’ll find on display have many stories to tell.
The pharmcy has been crafting beautiful fragrances, remedies and herbal products since 1221.
The Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella products are still produced with ancient recipes, including perfumes quite literally fit for a queen.
In 1533 Caterina de’ Medici was betrothed to Henry II, the future King of France, and she asked none other than the Dominican friars at Santa Maria Novella to create an essence that captured her beloved Florence.
The masterpiece created was originally called “Acqua della Regina,” meaning “The Queen’s Water,” which was a grand success in the royal courts of France. Not just a sweet scent, Acqua della Regina also made history as one of the first alcohol-based perfumes in the world.
|Today you can still buy the same perfume – now called Acqua di Santa Maria Novella. Photo: White Tall 2001|
Available for about US $72 each of the Santa Maria Novella liqueurs can be enjoyed as an aperitivo (a pre-meal drink) or in a cordial-like form. They can be purchased online from the Libertine Parfumerie shop, so you can enjoy a piece of the world heritage in a bottle, the Italian way.
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