THE SANTA MARIA NOVELLA PHARMACY
The Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy is probably the oldest still-operating pharmacy in the world, and certainly the oldest in Italy. It was established in 1221, when the Dominican monks from the adjacent Basilica of Santa Maria Novella began growing herbs to make balms, salves and medicines for their infirmary. The superior quality of their products became widely known, and in the 17th century, the pharmacy opened its doors to the public.
The pharmacy itself is housed in the extraordinary original building, the rooms of which are complete with vaulted ceilings, ornate gilding, frescoes, walnut cabinetry, glass-stoppered decanters full of colourful potions, marble floors, glass-stained windows, bronze statues, and antique apothecary scales and mortars. It’s worth a visit to see the interior alone–it was a former papal residence and is ornate and lovely.
Today the pharmacy still uses the traditional preparation methods, and still carries products using the original recipes of the monks. There are product lists in a wide variety of languages, and a large computerised display allows customers to explore the offerings and read the history of each product. The violet soap is a particular treat. The prices are very high but so is the quality.
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