The Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella

A treasure chest with a unique history is hidden in Florence, right in the historic center. A place known to many in the world, born in 1221 by the Dominican friars, who settled in Florence at that time. We are talking about the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica of Santa Maria Novella: the oldest pharmacy in the world.

The perfumery sales room is accessed via a finely sculpted pietra serena portal. However, this access tunnel to the Sales Hall is not the original entrance to the Pharmacy: the official opening of the pharmacy to the public (in 1612) saw access from the large Cloister, today owned by the Carabinieri Non-Commissioned Officers School. The ancient apothecary, today's Herbalist's shop, was the place reserved for the sale and display of products from 1612 to 1848.

In the year 1381 the production of rose water as a natural disinfectant began. The perfumery section dates back to 1612 when it still also carried out the apothecary business. In the 18th century, its products were exported as far as the Indies and China.

Many essences and perfumes are still made with formulas studied in the Renaissance for Caterina de' Medici. The history of the Cologne Water brought by Catherine to Paris with the name "Queen's Water" is curious: at the end of the 17th century, in Cologne (Germany), G.P. Feminis began its production with the name of Acqua di Cologne, in homage to this city.

Other famous preparations include the Aromatic or Seven Thieves Vinegar (17th century), useful to smell in case of fainting and the Acqua di Santa Maria Novella (known as Antisteric Water for its sedative action). Among the very famous liqueurs, however, we find alkermes, the Medici liqueur and the Elixir of Edinburgh (a fine bitter).

Herbal medicine is also very renowned: thanks to the study of ancient formulas of the Dominican friars, exclusive products based on medicinal plants and herbs grown with natural methods and without the use of pesticides have been created. In this workshop, new and exclusive products are still invented that are highly appreciated all over the world. The perfume created exclusively for the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, for her fiftieth birthday is very famous.

In the building in Via della Scala, today, only the sale of products takes place. Production, however, has moved to a factory in via Reginaldo Giuliani, which can be visited and where courses are held for university students from the Faculty of Pharmacy.

The rooms that house the Via della Scala headquarters are also very evocative: the ceilings are decorated with frescoes from the first half of the 19th century, the marble floors date back to 1840 and the rooms are decorated with 40 original vases from the 1600s.

Also noteworthy is the Sacristy of the chapel of S.Niccolò, which used to store the "stilled" waters, and for this reason, it is also known as the "Water Room". Here the walls are decorated with frescoes depicting the "Passion of Christ".We recommend visiting "Blooming in Paradise" also for a temporary immersive experience (until 6 May 2024) created by the artist Felice Limosani for the museum spaces of the Officina. This experience has a strong sensorial impact: sight, hearing and smell come together in the perception of beauty.

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The Scuola Leonardo da Vinci is situated in the Heart of the Old City of Florence near Piazza del Duomo. From here you can reach the most famous squares and sights in a few minutes' walk.

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