Italy's Santa Maria Novella: The ancient perfume store you've never heard of

Apr 01, 2015 1060

In an unassuming building on a quiet street, not far from the bustle of Florence's Santa Maria Novella train station, stands what is probably the world's oldest pharmacy and cosmetic shop. It's easy to walk right past the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, and I nearly do. The rather plain entrance gives no inkling of the aromatic treasures within this 600-year-old establishment, which still uses ancient recipes to make its modern-day perfumes and skin care products.

Stepping inside, I'm engulfed by a potent fragrance of flowers and spices. The ambiance reminds me of a Florentine palace, with elaborate chandeliers, rich drapes, 18th century furniture and mellow lighting.

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