Discover the Historic Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy
Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy Perfumery, photo by Mr. Kimberly on Flickr.com
Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is a centuries-old pharmaceutical workshop in the historic center of Florence, Italy. Visitors can experience part of Florence’s unique heritage of producing high-quality, often called “bespoke,” items, by visiting this shop and museum. The incredible beauty of the pharmacy’s interior combined with its historical significance make for a unique and luxurious travel experience.
The “officina” was established by Dominican monks of the adjacent Santa Maria Novella church in around 1221, and opened to the public 400 years ago in 1612. From the beginning, the officina specialized in the cultivation of medicinal herbs and the production of medications; later it also produced “acqua della regina,” a perfume essence made specifically for Catherine de’ Medici, Queen of France, as well as many other ancient perfume recipes. Since then it has served the public by offering medicinal herbs, remedies, perfumes, and creams. Though the Dominican friars no longer run the pharmacy, it sells unique products that connect with the past, using the same traditions and natural ingredients (and without animal testing).
These days, the shop doubles as a museum. The extraordinary interior is alone worth the stop. Upon entering, visitors walk through a beautiful hallway before turning to enter the pharmacy shop and museum.
The first room is the main room, called the Sales Room, established in 1848. Here you can pick up pamphlets to learn more about the officina and ask the staff about the products.
The Green Room was built in 1335 and was used as a reception room where visitors were served warm beverages. Like in all the rooms, it is full of historical artifacts and decorations that line the ornate walls and adorn the gorgeous ceilings. The Old Pharmacy room was the place where the pharmacy was originally opened to the public in 1612. It has since housed the medicinal herbs. Now herbs are still sold here in furnishings that date from the 18th century. Areas of the officina that were once used for production and storage now comprise the museum. Visitors can see the old equipment as well as antique ceramics and other fine objects that the officina has kept for centuries.
Visitors are welcome to just look around the interior, which is called a “museum of tradition,” and the staff are happy to explain the pharmacy’s history and products. The products are unique and make great souvenirs of Florence’s history. (Visitors are not obligated to buy anything.)
Entry to the officina is free and is open every day 10:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. It is located behind Santa Maria Novella church on Via della Scala, 16, within easy walking distance of the train station and the Palazzo Vecchio area.
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