When tourists come to Florence, many only ever see the main attractions like the Duomo, the Uffizi and Palazzo Vecchio. Many forget that there is a 790-year-old pharmacy right near the Santa Maria Novella church that holds a host of treasures. Though you wouldn’t expect it, the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is one of Florence’s best kept-secrets.
Come visit this museum and gift shop, which was established in 1221 by Dominican monks who cultivated medicinal herbs in their gardens and used them to prepare balms, ointments and pomades for their convent’s infirmary. In 1612 the pharmacy opened to the public and shortly thereafter the Gran Duke of Tuscany bestowed upon it the title of His Royal Highness’ Foundry. In the 18th century the products and formulas created in the apothecary became so famous that the Officina attracted clients as far away as Russia, the Indies and China. Today, almost 800 years later, the highest quality raw materials are still used and the founding fathers’ artisanal methods are still followed.
The ancient pharmacy is one of the many rooms to visit in the Officina. Be sure to check out the small pharmacy jars with dolphin shaped handles and the original cabinets and counter where products were stored.
A trip to the museum allows visitors to visit the old production workshops where machines and equipment used to make cosmetics and perfumes are on display. Don’t miss the antique ceramics, or the glass, copper and bronze artifacts also showcased.
The Officina Museum is open Monday through Sunday from 10:30am to 7:00pm. Entrance is free, so it is a great stop for those on a shoe-string budget.
When you finish your visit, pick up a souvenir or buy yourself a gift at the shop. Each product in the Officina has its own story. For example, the Aqua della Regina perfume was originally created for Caterina de’ Medici, the queen of France, who made it popular among French perfume lovers.
Don’t miss this hidden gem in the heart of Florence. The officina is a treasure trove of surprises.
Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella:
Via della Scala 16, Florence
Shop open Monday to Sunday, 9:30am-7:30pm
Museum open Monday to Sunday, 10:30am-7pm