A story that has continued uninterrupted for many centuries, precisely since 1621, when the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica of Santa Maria Novella, at the time called Spezieria, opened to the public, after having created since the end of the ‘300 odorous waters and perfumes for illustrious clients like Caterina de ‘Medici and having invented, before the Renaissance began, rose water.
Historically the Officina was entrusted to the direction of the Dominican friars of the adjoining convent. In addition to the invention of rose water and “Acqua della Regina”, the perfume for Caterina de ‘Medici, is responsible for the creation of water antisteric starting from the Orvieto di San Pietro or Balsamite, cultivated today as then in the Garden of Santa Maria Novella, near the Medici villa of Pietraia, just outside Florence.
About forty years after its opening to the public, the Officina received the direct protection of the Medici family and, a little less than a century later, under the guidance of Fra ‘Cosimo Bucelli, the official collection of the “secrets of factory “of the Officina, which survived the Napoleonic era and was restructured in the mid-1800s, becoming, at the end of the century, the property of the Stefani family.
In more recent times, the production moved to another workshop in Florence and the stupendous historical headquarters of the Officina was restored to its original splendor. Today, the Officina is a unique place in the world, one of the most beautiful that the city hides the city, which exports all over the world its refined products.
The main hall, used for the sell of perfumes, soaps and cosmetic, was originally an ancient chapel, which underwent many changes over time, eventually becoming the beating heart of the Officina, with its vaults frescoed by Paolino Sarti, with representations of the four continents. The so-called Sala Verde, which was a workshop until the 18th century, is decorated with the portraits of all the workshop directors. Displayed on the tables are wax products, the fragrances for rooms and accessories in ceramic and leather and a line of products for male grooming.
Then there is the Antica Spezieria, now used as herbalist’s shop, with walls completely covered with ancient wooden shelves loaded with relics of the past. Here you will find all the Officina’s preparations (tablets, elixirs and remedies) and then chocolate, tea, honey, biscuits and liqueurs, among which the famous Alkermes and the Liquore Mediceo, as well as all the digestive and corroborating elixirs. All these specialties can be tasted in the Officina’s tea room, perhaps after having visited the Museum which holds traces of a four hundred year history.
The Officina is an oasis where the most ancient and aristocratic soul of Florence lives resisting the passage of time, mixing together art, culture and pleasure in a real timeless temple where to be amazed.