In Florence, at number 16 of Via della Scala, stands one of world’s oldest pharmacies: Officina profumo farmaceutica Santa Maria Novella. The Officina has a great historical worth and it is compared to a jewel casket which contains valuables. In its room one can admire wonderful frescoes, furnishings and ancient implements and buy a vaste range of particular preparations.
As soon as one cross the portal it is difficult to forget the indescrivable range of scents that linger in the air: this is the pot-pourri, a mixture of herbs and flowers of florentines hills, seasoning in old terracotta jars. The foundation of the Officina goes back to the Dominican friars in 1221, but it was officially founded in 1612. Since then, chemist-friars created many formulars and the renown of the Officina reached the Indies and distant China. The range of its goods has widened in the whole world: other sales points have been opened in Roma, Milano, Forte dei Marmi, Lucca, Rimini, London and Paris, but the Head Office stands in Florence.
Nowadays, essences and requested perfumes are still prepared with the formulas studied in 1500 for Caterina de’ Medici. There’s a legend about Eau du Cologne: it is told, that this essence was the essence that Caterina de’ Medici, Queen of France, took with her to Paris, where it acquired the name of Eau de la Reine, untill the Italian Giovanni Paolo Feminis, who moved to Cologne began to make it there, changed its name to Acqua di Colonia. Among the other preparation we remember the Aromatic Vinegar or Aceto dei Sette Ladri, very useful in the case of fainting, Acqua di Santa Maria Novella used as sedative and Acqua di Rose an essence for red eyes. There are very good liqueurs as Elisir di Cina and Liquore Mediceo, an excellent bitter, Elisir di Edimburgo and Alkermes.
Not to be forgotten are the hair products and a wide range of products for treating hair, skin, hands, face. Soaps and bubble-baths are very good, moreover soaps hand-moulded one by one, aged for sixty days in ventilated cabinets and hand-wrapped are still produced with the machinery of the nineteenth century. Lastly, we mention the perfumed powders with iris, which is as the lily siymbol of the city, and the herbalist’s shop.