Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world.
Founded by Dominican friars shortly after 1221, the year of their arrivaI in Florence, the pharmacy used medicinal herbs grown in the monastic gardens to make medications, balms and pomades for the monks' infirmary.
When news of the quality of the products produced by the pharmacy reached the outside world, it was decided to open to the public. Thus, in 1612, Father Angiolo Marchissi was appointed head of the pharmacy, upon which the Grand Duke bestowed the title of His Royal Highness' Foundry (Fonderia di Sua Altezza Reale).
Thanks to the excellence of the formulae developed by the apothecary fathers, during the 18th century the fame of the pharmacy spread across national borders to reach such distant lands as Russia, the Indies and even China.
Following the confiscation of the church's assets by the Italian government, in 1866 the company became a state owned enterprise. Later however it was ceded to Cesare Augusto Stefani, the nephew of the last monastic director, whose family acquired the name, the goodwill and the assets of the company and has since run the business for over four generations.
The Old Apothecary, now a herbalist's shop, was used for the sale and display of products between 1612 and 1848, while the historic Sales Room, restructured in 1848, was the place in which the company's customers were welcomed when the increasing fame of the pharmacy made the provision of a room for entertaining customers a must.
The Green Room was used until 1700 for serving the pharmacy's speciality: a mixture of Alkermes, China and chocolate syrup, an extremely fashionable drink at the time.
The museum is housed in the Old Laboratories and Storerooms of Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Created with the aim of giving a new lease of life to the machinery once used in the company's production processes, as well as the precious glassware, antique ceramics and historic copper and bronze utensils which the company has jealously guarded throughout the troubled events of the centuries, the museum displays many of its exhibits in the Old Laboratories, the piace in which they were designed to be used and the silent driving force of the whole company.
All traditions have a history and whenever this history is confirmed by the written word, the Museum offers the chance to examine the originai texts. Indeed, the Museum Library, housed in the Sacristy, is a treasure chest of antique texts and new specialist volumes. Finally, the aromatic herb garden is a perfect piace for peaceful reflection, an oasis which seems to have remained untouched for centuries. The aim of the museum is not only to inform those who normally use the Officina's products of the way in which they are prepared, but also to anyone wishing to view the magnificent history and superb craft of this pharmacy.
Projected towards the future, but nevertheless conscious of the past, Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella 's products are available in Florence and all other leading Italian cities.
The company also has shops in France, Spain, Switzerland and Great Britain, the United States, Japan and Taiwan.
With Eugenio Alphandery at the helm, Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella both perpetuates and renews the ancient traditions of herbal care. Using only natural raw materials of the highest quality and continuing to follow the ancient procedures originated by the Founding Fathers, Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella focuses exclusively on the herbalists art, basing all its preparations on traditional herbs and oils of natural origin. The vast majority of the medicinal herbs used in its products are grown locally on the hills around Florence. Furthermore, none of its products are tested on animals. With an eye to innovation, Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella now prepares its products in Liberty style facilities in Via Reginaldo Giuliani, in the north of the city of Florence, just three kilometers from its head offices, using equipment which has been specially designed and built combining modern technology with ancient producing methods. Each Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella product tells a story. For example, the precious Acqua della Regina perfume was originally created for Caterina de 'Medici, the Queen of France, who made it popular throughout France, while the perfume produced by Giovanni Paolo Feminis, who moved to Cologne in Germany in 1725, was named Eau de Cologne in honour of the city in which its producer lived.
The Officina produce many other ancient recipes include Liquore Mediceo, Alkermes, Elisir di China, Aceto dei Sette Ladri (smelling salts) and Acqua di Santa Maria Novella (for controlling hysterics). This latter product was produced using a local herb recognized for its calming properties.
Perfumes include a whole series of Eau de Colognes, essences and triple extracts ranging from the sweetest iris, rose and gardenia scents to the more astringent verbena and vetiver oils or the delightful Acqua di Sicilia. The essences are also used in the production of almond pasta, hand moisturizing cream, Polvere per biancare le carni (exfoliating powder), a cleansing milk and a tonico, the Officina also produces a range of restructuring shampoos and conditioners.
For its younger patrons, The Officina offers a wide range of specially-created products scented with a delicate rose perfume for little giris and a slightly more masculine fragrance for little boys.