Florence – The Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica of Santa Maria Novella
In the splendid city of Florence there is the most ancient pharmacy of Europe: it is the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Some evidences dating back to 1221 attest, in fact, how Dominican monks in a part of their convent, at that time at the gates of Florence, distributed distillates of healing herbs.
The current perfumery officially opened to the public in 1612. This caused other European cities such as Dubrovnik (Croatia) and Tallinn (Estonia) to claim primacy. But the activities of the Florentine “pharmacy” would be well before and never interrupted. In fact, it has been active without interruption for over 4 centuries.
The ancient “spezieria”, today no longer a pharmacy, but a perfumery and herbalist shop, is located in a real monumental environment. The environment is enriched by decorations and antique furniture, dating back to various eras. It also preserves a valuable collection of scientific material. Thermometers, mortars, scales, measuring cups, as well as valuable pharmacy jars from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.
There are many rooms. There is the Sala di Vendita, which was originally one of the chapels of the convent, dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Bari. Then there is the so-called Green Room, overlooking the garden. This was built between 1335 and 1337, between the infirmary of the convent and the chapel. The original idea was to make it a private apartment, but it was never used for that purpose.
Then there is the Hall of the Ancient Apothecary, embellished by the rich stucco decoration of the vaulted ceiling of the eighteenth century. Here there are fantastic animals, sphinxes, dragons, royal eagles, masks, festoons of fruit and roses, all motifs dear to the repertoire of the time. Also worth seeing is the Sacristy, used since the seventeenth century as an aromathery. This was the room where the distilled waters were kept and for this reason it was called “Room of the waters”.
The museum itinerary of the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, finally develops in what were once the production laboratories. The laboratories are today a real museum. It is a place that was created with the idea of giving light and life to the machines once used for manufacturing, and to the copper and bronze objects.