The Santa Maria Novella is a famous church in Florence (Firenze) Italy. It is located just steps away from the train station, which coincidentally shares the same name. It was designed by Leone Battista Alberti, who also designed the facade for the Rucellai Palace in Florence. It is very unique compared to many of the other Basilicas that I have seen in Italy. You can’t really tell from far away, but up close you see that the facade is made up of small inlaid pieces of black and white marble. How long that must have taken? The time and patience these craftsman had back then. You know the old saying…”They just don’t make ’em like that anymore”…it certainly applies here.
The Basilica was home to the preaching Dominican monks who since the 1400’s developed herbal and medicinal tinctures in an ancient pharmacy to cure the sick. In 1612 the pharmacy was opened to the public and is still going strong today. Many of the recipes have remained the same. All of their products are homemade, right on the premises.
The pharmacy is called Officina Promfumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella (yes, a mouthful!) and is located in an old frescoed chapel, right around the corner from the church. The building is stunning with stained glass and polished dark wood and glass cabinets, tons of scroll work and gold gilt. You can see a photo here. It is amazingly calm and serene. And the smell is, well, indescribable. The only modern touch is the cash register.
They make perfume, cologne, soaps, lotions and potions, even products for the home. They offer special products for sensitive skin, oily skin, dry skin, whatever your special need..they have a cure. Scents like almond, milk, lemon, vertiver, orange, olive and rose perfume their soap and lotions. They are heavenly…(no pun intended) especially the rose-water – like fresh rose petals. I loaded up on soaps like milk, rose and olive oil and I can confess that these are more expensive than your average Ivory bar soap, but these are natural, handmade, ancient formulas that keep my dry skin at bay when I use them, so it’s worth it to spend an extra few dollars. And the packaging is so delicious. Very antique looking and everything either comes wrapped in paper or boxed. A very nice touch.
Next time you visit Florence, pop in for a visit. Don’t be disappointed if you are not planning a visit, you can also buy their products on-line here and here. They also have shops in New York and Los Angeles.
And as a cute little aside, because the words Santa Maria Novella roll so effortlessly off my tongue, I often use it as a substitute for swear words.
Officina Promfumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella
16 Via della Scala
tel: +39 055 216276 or +39 055 4368315