Thursday, March 12, 2009

Una farmacia antica

(Just a reminder that a left click on any of the pictures will "inbiggin" them in a new window.)

In any Medieval monastery one of the most important buildings, after the church, was the Infirmary and its garden. Santa Maria Novella in Firenze was no exception. At its foundation in 1221 the aches and pains of the monks were well seen to. By 1612 the farmacia had opened its doors to the public and Florintines flocked to buy the monks' salves, syrups, remedies and beauty potions.

The Cloister has seen many changes since its foundation - now a small part serves as a museum and the greater part is a training school for the Carabinari. However tucked in off a side street is the entrance to the old Faramcia which has been active, in one form or another, since those early monks ground mallow root and steeped lovage. My friend Simonetta remembers when her mother and grandmother bought all their toilet waters and beauty needs from the Officina Profumo-Parmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. So nothing would do but that we stroll down Via della Scala with her for a look.
Like many historical buildings, the Farmacia was damaged in the disastrous flood of 1966. It has been loving restored to its former Belle Epoque glory. The long entrance hallway leads past some beautifully carved benches from an earlier period and into the main room of the shop.
The Farmacia is part (free) museum and part store - and the friendly but business like sales ladies seem to be able to tell the browsers from the buyers. They are stocked with extracts, bee hive products, herbal teas, herbs and infusions, syrups, dietary supplements and beauty products for men and women. Walking into this first showroom is a visual and aromatic experience.
These apothecary jars from the 16th-17th centuries celebrate not only the herbs and extracts they held but also local saints. Particular attention was paid to those who's intervention would prove beneficial to the sick.
I couldn't believe the incredible woodwork and carpentry that went into the decorating of this small and, in my mind at least, loveliest of the rooms in the shop. The combinations of colours, displays and fragrance almost guarantee that something will be bought.

And buy we did. We left the shop with wallets slightly lighter - they are not inexpensive - and several bags bearing the distinctive crest in hand. And since I've started using their Latte di corpo per umomo my colleague Patty has mentioned that I've been smelling real nice.

13 marzo - San Salomone


Doralong said...

I'll never be able to go back into Walgreens now.

That is absolutely beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Who's the saint with the scimitar through his head? Or was that potion for headaches?