A city bathed in the warm colors of rust and amber, A city where the artists Michelangelo, DaVinci, Donatello, Botticelli and Brunelleschi (just to mention a few) brought forth a collective body of the greatest works of art the world has ever known. A city where artists attempted to capture the beauty, order and harmony of the human body as a way to glorify God and they excelled at this glorification. Florence is known as the heart of the Renaissance and in many ways the foundation of our modern world lifting us out of the dark ages. It is a city I go back to time and time again as it continually amazes me.
On a recent trip, I walked the far back streets where I had never been before. There I discovered Farmaceutica Di Santa Maria Novellaone. The Dominican Friars founded this center in 1221 as a location to make herbal remedies and potions to use in the monastery. “Their reputation became world renowned and the pharmacy, sponsored by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, opened to the public in 1612.”
Many of the Farmaceutica Di Santa Maria Novella’s products have become a part of history: the world famous pot-pourri is still hand crafted in large terra cotta vats using local essences and plants as has been the tradition since the 1200’s. The first “Eau de Cologne” has been attributed to the pharmacy’s creation in the 1500’s of Catherine de Medeci’s “Water of the Queen.” She used the citrus and bergamot scented water and shared it with all her closest friends during her reign as the Queen of France and one can still purchase this fragrance today. There is a quiet reverence which envelopes the visitor. Vaulted ceilings, ornately carved dark wood and low lighting that somehow makes each vintage bottle glow as if holding a rich treasure. Creams, soaps and perfumes all provide a glimpse into the past practices of the monks who were so attuned to the healing benefits found in nature. Their original recipe ledgers can still be seen. While knowing that Santa Maria Novella has opened in Chevy Chase, Dallas, Los Angels and New York, I was very happy to leave this special surprise discovery at Via della Scala, 16, 50123 with a small, beautifully wrapped “Angels of Florence”. Now the scent of white flowers from a far off place lifts my spirits and I am transported to a place I love and reminded to wander through the small, back streets.