The Officina Profumo–Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, in Florence, was established in 1221, year of the death of Saint Dominic. It was indeed instituted by the Dominicans, the friars of the order founded by the Spanish saint whom Dante, in the XII canto of his “Paradise”, called “laborer”, “whom Christ in His own garden chose to be His help-mate” – to aid him in tending the “garden” that is the Church.
Thus we can say that this garden of fragrances started with the scent of sainthood.
Dominic’s first disciples turned Dante’s metaphor into reality, as they started to keep a garden to grow the medicinal herbs they needed to prepare medications, balms and creams for the convent’s small infirmary.
But their endeavors gained fame – reaching Russia, India and China by the XVIII century – after they started offering the fruits of their labor to the public, in 1612.
In the end of the 1800s, the “ephemeral” – perfumes, salts, face powders, essences, soaps – had sharply surmounted the “curative”: and today, in the beautiful Officina, visitors can see original interiors from the XIV century, complete with marvelous armoires, friezes, frescoes from the end of the 1300s, a library, a museum of antique ceramics, alembics and machinery…
And, of course, just like four hundred years ago, they can purchase perfumes, made with the same skills and methods that were used centuries ago.
Let the inebriant fragrances take you back in time, on a journey amongst scents that have traveled to the present, across hundreds of years, unspoiled and perfect.