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Santa Maria Novella

Born in 1221, the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is considered the oldest pharmacy in the world. Founded by Dominican friars, its history began when they had access to Santa Maria Inter Vineas, a small church outside Florence. There they cultivated herbs and plants in its garden to make medicines, ointments and balms. In 1334, Santa Maria Novella became known for treating a wealthy merchant from one of the most powerful families in Florence. Today the house is known worldwide for its perfumes, candles and "traditional preparations".
The first perfumed waters date back to 1381, when the Black Death was decimating the population. The Dominican friars distilled rose water (acqua di rose) to purify rooms and heal, taken with wine or in pills. Later, in 1533, the young Catherine de Medici made Renato Bianco her personal perfumer and asked him to accompany her to the French Court. Renato Bianco was raised by the Dominican friars. Acqua di Santa Maria Novella or Acqua della Regina, the oldest perfume of the house, is a tribute to this French queen for the love she had for this perfume.