It is impossible to set a foot in Florence without making a (mandatory) stop at the Officina Santa Maria Novella!
We often talk about the products that we are crazy about, but we rarely discuss their origins and the dispensary.
This is an incredible story for an amazing space so enriched and full of history. It was opened in 1609 by Dominican monks on the ruins of a small church, Santa Maria Alle Vigne. The community shared their knowledge and even manufactured elixirs during the major epidemics. In the 16th century, a fragrant blend with many healing properties was invented and made famous by Catherine de Medici who propelled its popularity throughout Europe, hence the name: Eau de la Reine (Water of the Queen).
Today it is known quite simply as Eau de Cologne! It was in 1612 that the pharmacy open to the public and it was in 1659 that the Grand Duke Ferdinando II de ‘Medici made it his official supplier. Thus adding to the beauty and fame of the Officina. In the 18th century, it’s fame reached out beyond the borders of Europe and was exported to India and China. It was at this time, in 1753 to be precise, that Fra Cosimo Bucelli, the apothecary, renovated the monks old herbal workroom and turned it into a luxurious room with precious woodwork destined to accommodate the illustrious customers of the Officina. Today it is the herbal workroom of the establishment! In the 19th century, the current sales room was renovated to make it the amazing place as we know it today. The story could have stopped in 1867 since the Italian Unit dissolved religious congregations and confiscated the property.In 1867, the nephew of former apothecary was instructed by his uncle and bought the license, furniture, hardware but also the stocks and reserves of Santa Maria Novella to keep the legacy of the dispensary alive. The Stefani family still holds ownership and now distributes its products worldwide.
Santa Maria Novella claims to be one of the oldest pharmacies in the western world still in operation and for this we are ever appreciative.
There are tours organised to visit the museum and the gardens. Even if perfumes and other elixirs are not your cup of tea, do not miss out on this pure historic gem.
We could personally spend hours there and leave with a mindblowing stock of goodies! At Far & Wide, we particularly loved the Floral Waters and the “Creme de la Neige” (Snow Cream)!
Santa Maria Novella
Via della Scala, 16 – 50123