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Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy Celebrates 400th Anniversary

Posted: April 16, 2012

Possibly the first perfumer to create a celebrity fragrance, Santa Maria Novellaopened its doors to the public after gaining notoriety by creating a fragrance for Catherine de Medici in the 16th century. Eau de la Reine was a bergamot-based fragrance that the Italian mercantile heiress brought with her when she married French King Henry II. It is still being produced today.

The perfume company can trace its roots back to the medicinal herbs Dominican monks started growing in 1221. In later years, that same order of monks had the good sense to blend fragrances with alcohol, instead of vinegar or oil, as had been the practice. Its soaps, fragrances and candles are handmade with premium ingredients in the same practices the monks established all those centuries ago. That has helped them garner fans including Lord Byron, Penelope Cruz and Princess Caroline of Monaco.

The Florence pharmacy is still open to visitors, looking much as it did in 1612.