The Pharmacy at Santa Maria Novella – Florence

By: Susan Liechty, President, Delaware Ohio Unit

The Pharmacia of Santa Maria Novella

The Pharmacia of Santa Maria Novella

The Pharmacia of Santa Maria Novella is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, still in operation. The origin of the ancient pharmacy dates from the Dominican friars who settled in Florence in 1221. The monks’ reputation for making cures and potions spread quickly, catching the attention of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and in 1612 the pharmacy opened.


The entrance to the church

Most of the perfume formulas and their famous potpourri blend are all thanks to the chemist friars and the formulas created in the 1500’s for Catherina de’ Medici. Headquarters and product production have always remained in Florence. They have opened outlets in Lucca, Paris, London, Milan and Rome over the last several years.

Hand creams, body lotions, bubble baths and soaps are a small portion of their complete line of products. Soaps hand molded one by one, aged for 60 days in ventilated cabinets, and hand wrapped, produced in the same manner as they were in the 1700’s. Their ever popular perfumed powder has a base of the ground rhizome of the iris—a flower that grows freely in the area.

A portion of the church presented to the friars in 1335 for their recognition of services, today houses the showroom. Part of the showroom is the old Herbalists’ Shop where you will find a mortar and pestle collection, bottles from the 1300-1500’s, and an array of laboratory products. All the rooms are adorned with frescoes from the original church, walnut cabinetry, marble floors, bronze statues, and beautiful vaulted ceilings.

You can buy syrups, honeys, teas, fruit compotes and sweets, and the personal care line of products. While most of the products are ancient formulas, they recently introduced a new fragrance called “Angels of Florence”, to honor the 40th anniversary of the 1966 flood that destroyed many cultural works throughout Florence. Can you imagine, the same scent worn by refined women over 300 years is still enjoyed today?

HerbalistShop_adj_0049  When we first visited in 2006 I bought their famous potpourri, its ingredients created from herbs and flowers collected in the hills that surround Florence. A secret formula since its inception in the 1400’s and remains the signature product of the company. We visited again in 2014, while nothing has changed; it is still a special place to visit for some quiet reflection in the busy city of Florence. Visit their website at:

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