Saturday, October 23, 2010

World's Oldest Pharmacy

While spending 3 weeks in Italy, I was delighted to be able to visit the Farmacia de Santa Maria Novella, in Florence. The Dominican fathers arrived in Florence in 1221, and shortly after, founded the pharmacy. Originally, the herbs and flowers grown in the monastery garden were used to make medications, balms and creme, that were used in the monastery infirmary. The current store is a room adjacent to the original monastery pharmacy and infirmary.

As early as 1381, it is noted historically that the farmacia sold rose water as a disinfectant. In 1612, it was officially founded, and recognized, as a pharmacy. Its medications were famed as far away as China and India.

Today, there is little to mark the entrance to the Farmacia ~ just a small sign in the window. No wares are displayed. It is still part of the original monastery. The five rooms open to the public are incredibly fragrant, as one would expect with 400 years worth of floral perfumes and ointments being made on site!

There are many stories associated with the pharmacy; including the origins of the Eau de Cologne. This was originally crafted here for Caterina de Medici. She later took this formultion with her to France.

Today, there are many aromatic perfumes still sold here, and, are based on the original formulations going back to the 1500's. In addition,there are a wide variety of lotions and cremes. The original formulas were studied and catalogued, and were surprisingly up to date in their ingredients.

Today, the business is still active and sells its wares at select outlets worldwide. Merchandise is based on natural, pesticide free plant material and production is the same as was used 400 years ago. Production is limited, and quality control is strict.

The Farmacia has many of the ancient "tools of the trade" on display in Florence. There are
scales, thermometers, pestles, and bottles designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
For this aromatherapist, it was the highlight of Florence!