Founded in the early 1200's next to the piazza Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, never mind Europe. As I ventured on a tour of Florence last week with my family, the guide pointed it out as we passed as if it were just a landmark. I made it my mission to go back as soon as possible. The Officina Profumo – Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella was much more than I could have ever dreamed of!
Dominican monks are credited to starting the pharmacy by creating medications, ointments, balms and preparing medicinal herbs in gardens for the friars in the piazza. In the 1600's, it became famous and in the 1700's the formulas spread throughout the world.
I entered into what appeared to be more like a museum than your typical European pharmacy. Filled with fragrances, pomades, waters and balms everything inside was special. After speaking with one of the sales women who spoke a decent amount of English, I learned that the most coveted product then and now is their rose water.
It was used for medicinal purposes back in the early 1200's. Plagues and diseases corrupted Florence and people drank the rose water believing it would cure them. Today, it's one of their best sellers still, as a facial toner. Of course, I had to buy it and covet every swipe. The scent reminds me of the rose garden at my villa in Tuscany.