I always love telling people about my favorite places in Florence, and this is one that is a definite To-do, even if in town for only a short time, take the time to find it and enjoy the experience!
Founded in 1221 by the Dominican Friars, Officina-Farmaceutica Santa Maria Novella is one of the worlds oldest pharmacies. The Grand Duke of Tuscany opened it to the public over 400 years ago, and since then the friars potions and herbal remedies have been produced in the Florentine workshop following the traditional methods. All herbs and aromatic plants used in the various preparations are from the Tuscan countryside.The Officina is found right behind Piazza Santa Maria Novella, in Via della Scala. It is part of the Church structure and is a spectacular setting, centuries ago it was the convent which housed the friars infirmary. Today it has been restored to its' original state, each room with frescoes on the ceilings, wood carvings, and antique furnishings.
Upon entering one is immediately enveloped in the aroma of the potpourri, a timeless blend of berries, leaves, and flowers from the Florentine hills. These carefully chosen ingredients are placed in large terracotta jars and left to infuse for 30 days. I recommend always buying a few of the exquisite hand embroidered silk pouches, or the small terracotta jars filled with the potpourri.Another small but unique item that I found on my last visit is the Carta d'Armenia, this small red box contains thin sheets of paper infused in resins and oriental spices, they can be placed in drawers or burnt to fill your room with a very exotic and pleasing fragrance.
Among the many other products, I found a new fragrance that I find intoxicating, I believe it is a new addition to the colognes. Named "NOSTALGIA" it is a very particular scent, made to bring back memories of the Mille Miglie, and it really has all the smells associated with this antique car race. I was fortunate to receive it as a gift for Christmas and absolutely love it-even though it might be a men's cologne it smells fantastic to me.