What do you get when you combine the knowledge of ancient friars, the introduction of scented (rose) water, and one of the most affluential and influential families in Tuscan history – L’Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella (try saying that three times in a row!)
Besides being one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, it is also one of Florence’s best-kept beauty secrets. The Perfume-Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella offers fragrances, skincare, body care, and home care products that use only raw materials of the highest quality and continues to follow the same procedures used by its founders. All these products are made using traditional herbs and natural oils.
Although the pharmacy is located a few meters from the piazza and the basilica of Santa Maria Novella, I would have never known this place existed had it not been for my Airbnb host. Even after finding out about this place, I almost walked right by its simple, inconspicuous entrance. However, there was nothing simple about my experience.
When I walked into the pharmacy, I became immediately immersed in the pleasant floral, citrus, spicy, and sweet scents that have been produced here for so many centuries. I was surrounded by displays of soaps, colognes, Eau de Parfum, Eau de toilette, candles, oils, skin creams, toners, and other skincare as I stood in the center of The Great Sales Hall.
As I walked over to the various counters, I became tempted to buy something at each station, but I refrained from doing so and instead made a modest purchase. The sales clerk provided me with a ticket which, after I finished exploring the rest of the pharmacy, I presented to another clerk in one of their back rooms where guests collect their purchases.
Every room in the building offers an opportunity to see the pharmacy as it existed at one point in time during the 15th – 20th centuries. For those who want to know more about the history of the pharmacy, one of the old laboratories serves as a museum and displays literature, tools, and machines used in the production and dispensing of their cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and various herbal remedies.
On both my visits to the pharmacy, I did not leave empty-handed, and I’m sure that you won’t either. If you’re planning a trip to Florence, this is a best-kept secret you don’t want to miss.