Adjacent Florence’s Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, the Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella is one of the oldest known pharmacies in the world. Established in 1221 by Dominican friars, the pharmacy still produces natural and herbal remedies, soaps, and fragrances displayed and sold in the historic shop.
The Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella, officially known as the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, initially produced natural medicines and balms crafted by Dominican friars from herbs and plants grown in the monastic gardens. By the 17th century, their reputation for quality had spread such that they began to sell their products to the public. The pharmacy is now privately owned, but continues to produce herbal elixirs, soaps, perfumes, potpourri, and other natural products using traditional techniques and original recipes to sell in the vaulted and frescoed landmark shop. Visitors can see the shop, historic apothecary workshops and sales rooms, and small museum collection of ceramic apothecary jars, scales, decanters, and other tools.
The Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella is often combined with a tour of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella as part of a walking tour of Florence’s historic center that can also include other Florentine highlights like the Duomo and Uffizi Galleries.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella is an herbalist shop, and all of its products use natural, traditional herbs and oils.
- Most of the medicinal herbs used in the pharmacy’s products are grown on the hills around Florence and none of its products are tested on animals.
- There are product lists in a multiple languages, and a large computerized display allows customers to explore the variety of products and their histories.
- The shop is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers (children should be kept under strict supervision while in the shop).
How to Get There
The pharmacy is located on Via della Scala n.16 just off Piazza di Santa Maria Novella in the historic center of Florence. The entrance to the shop is very nondescript and it’s easy to walk right past if you’re not paying attention.
When to Get There
The pharmacy is open from 9am to 8pm daily, so the perfect stop during the midday hours when many of the city’s sights and shops are closed for lunch.
Water of the Queen
The pharmacy is attributed with producing the first eau de cologne for Catherine de Medici, created in the 16th century and known as the “Water of the Queen.” Visitors can still purchase the scent in its original formulation, today called simply “Acqua di Santa Maria Novella.”