A visit to the oldest pharmacy in the world: Santa Maria Novella

santa maria novella florence

Exploring Florence’s Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella

Florence is filled with incredible places to explore. Among these is a 13th century pharmacy known as the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, or the Perfume and Pharmaceutical Laboratory of Santa Maria Novella, which just so happens to be the oldest pharmacy in the world. Founded by Dominican friars, this historic institution is known for its fragrances and handmade healing products. Eight-hundred years later, it still stands. Housed in a cloister next to the church of the same name, Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella has an interesting history. Not only can you purchase some top-quality products, enjoy the shop adorned with frescoes and chandeliers, you can also have a tour of the museum by reserving in advance. Let us give you some interesting insights before you embark on a journey through the ages. 

Founded by Dominican friars in 1612

While the pharmacy opened to the public in 1612, the history of this Pharmaceutical Laboratory dates back to 1221 when the Dominican friars of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella began growing herbs to transform into medicine for the adjacent convent. Almost 400 years later, in 1612, Friar Angiolo Marchissi – who was an apothecary, scholar and master of alchemy – decided to open the Officina to the public and to start selling medicine, fragrances, beauty products and more to locals and tourists. The products were so exceptional that they weren’t just famous in Florence but worldwide, reaching countries like India and China. 

The perfume made for Caterina de’ Medici is still available

Acqua di S.M.Novella Perfume

When Caterina de’ Medici was to marry Henry II of Valois and become the Queen of France she wanted to bring to France a fragrance that would represent Florence. Her perfumer recommended the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella for the job and the result was fantastic. The Dominican friars created the first alcohol-based fragrance in history – named “Acqua della Regina” or “The Queen’s Water”. The French court fell in love with the fragrance, which is still sold (in a slightly different version) at the shop in Florence today.

Best Perfumeries and Perfume Shops in Florence

Santa Maria Novella today

santa maria novella florence products

In 1866 the Dominican friars lost control of the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. While Santa Maria Novella is no longer a pharmacy it is still an herbalist and a perfumery where you can purchase fragrances and beauty products made with ancient methods. The place itself is worth a visit, with its stunning chandeliers and vaulted ceilings serving as a backdrop for the original cosmetics.

Via della Scala, 16 – Firenze

Open everyday 10am – 7pm

+39 055 216276


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