The Officina Farmacia Santa Maria Novella isn’t a secret but the Florentine landmark and the world’s oldest apothecary has plenty of secrets to share. Founded in 1221 by Dominican monks who grew and harvested flowers, herbs and spices in the garden of the cloister of Basilica of Santa Maria Novella to make balms, salves and medicines for their infirmary. They created treatments to ward of the Black Plague, smelling salts made of seven ingredients kept by seven different thieves, and bottled elixirs to solve all kinds of ailments from stomach aches to broken hearts. Catherine de Medici loved them and commissioned the monks to make her signature scent when she became Queen of France in 1533. Queen’s Water made Florence the world capital of perfumes and opened the closed cloister to the public.
The life of this company, the life of this church is connected with the life of the city.
Today’s Santa Maria Novella follows the same formulas and packages its balms, salves, soaps, perfumes, creams, sprays, elixirs and more in vintage packaging, but the 21st century mixes tradition with technology. With over 60 outposts around the world, the local Florentine heritage brand is invested in locally sourcing ingredients and producing on site. In this podcast, I visit the historic cloister and then head to the new gardens where all their ingredients are sourced.
More In This Episode
[00:46] Monks and Thieves, the History of Santa Maria Novella
[03:00] Secrets and Scents
[06:13] Catherine de’ Medici
[09:03] From Monks to the Public
[11:17] The Original Garden in a historic Cloister
[13:19] Connection with Florence
[14:39] Santa Maria Novella today
[17:12] The 21st Century
[19:59] Ethics and Community
[21:46] Human Touch
[25:29] Tradition and Technology
[28:41] What’s in store for the Future
[31:07] Top-selling Products