Adjacent to Piazza Santa Maria Novella is one of the
oldest pharmacies in the world: Officina Profumo -
Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella was established
by Dominican monks shortly after their arrival in Florence in
1221. The friars began cultivating medicinal herbs in their
gardens to prepare medications, balms and ointments for
their convent’s small infirmary.
Once fame of their extraordinary products spread
Thanks to the ingenuity of the formulas developed by
Following the Italian government’s confiscation of the
Today, under the management of Eugenio Alphandery, tradition is perpetuated and renewed. It is perpetuated in the
use of the highest quality natural raw materials and by following the artisanal procedures established by the
The Officina is particularly attentive to the herbalist’s art which has triumphed since the enterprise began, basing
all its preparations on herbs and natural lipids. None are tested on animals.
With an eye to innovation, worthy of note is the Liberty style production facility on Via Reginaldo Giuliani, three kilometers from
the head office in north Florence, where the products are manufactured with equipment specially designed and built for the company’s
unique production methods.
Each of Officina’s products has its own peculiar history. For example, “Acqua di S.M.Novella” is the perfume that Caterina de’
Medici commissioned the Dominican monks to create in 1533, and she took it with her to France when she married Enrico di
Valois. For this reason our fragrance is identified as a perfume rather than a cologne.
Other ancient recipes that deserve mention are Liquore Mediceo, Alkermes, Elisir di China, Aceto dei Sette Ladri and Acqua
di Santa Maria Novella, known as Acqua Antisterica and made from the famous Santa Maria herb (Costmary) known for its
digestive proprieties. This medicinal plant, cultivated by the Dominican monks around their convent in the thirteenth century,
grows today in the Giardino di Santa Maria Novella to then be distilled in the production facility.
Eau de colognes are another distinctive feature of the company: the fragrances range from sweet, like Iris, Rosa and Gardenia,
to fresh, like Verbena, Vetiver or the delightful Acqua di Sicilia. The same essences are used in the soaps, all of which undergo
a unique process: they are matured in a special ventilated cabinet. We should not fail to mention the selection of face and body
creams such as Pasta di mandorle, a wonderful moisturizer for the hands, Polvere per bianchire le carni for facials, Latte
detergente, Tonico, and the line of restructuring shampoos and conditioners.
A wide selection of products designed specifically for babies is also available, fruity floral note for girls, spicy floral note for boys.
Finally, the company’s ancient, signature pot-pourri, a mixture of herbs and flowers from the Tuscan hills that the Dominican
monks left to macerate in large terracotta jars from Impruneta.
The original Via della Scala premises are genuine museum rooms. Restoration of the premises which still today are all part of the
shop’s sales rooms, were completed by the company for its 400th anniversary. The herbal shop was once the Old Pharmacy (Antica
Spezieria) where the products were displayed and sold between 1612 and 1848; the Sales Room (Sala di Vendita) was renovated
in 1848 to provide an appropriate space to accommodate the patrons of the increasingly popular establishment; the Green Room
(Sala Verde) was the reception room until 1700, where pharmacy liqueurs like Alkermes, China and hot chocolate in particular,
once a fashionable beverage, were served. Today visitors can sample these and other specialty foods from Santa Maria Novella in
the tea room.
The museum circuit consists of the areas once devoted to production workshops and storage. The museum was established to
reappraise the machinery and equipment used for production, as well as the antique ceramics and the precious glass, copper and
bronze objects that the company has guarded jealously through the troubled events over the centuries.
The museum’s purpose is not only to educate about Santa Maria Novella products but to benefit visitors who simply wish to
see a “museum of tradition”.
Today Officina Profumo - Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella’s products are sold not only in Florence but also in major cities in
Italy and Europe, as well as in the United States, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.