L’Officina Farmaceutica di Santa Maria NovellaVia della Scala, 16Open: Mon-Sat: 9:30am to 7:30pmOne of the oldest pharmacies in the world, l’Officina Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella was founded in 1221, when Dominican friars first started using natural methods to cultivate plants and herbs for medicinal use in their infirmary. In 1612, the friars were given permission to open a shop to sell their products, marking the beginning of the Officina’s success. Housed in an ancient chapel abounding with beautiful frescos, the Officina produces a range of scents that envelop the senses upon entering. The essences are prepared following formulas developed in the 1500s, such as the Catherine de’ Medici eau de cologne, which she took with her to Paris and can still be purchased today. Also, their acqua di rosa, a wonderful refreshing tonic for red eyes, has been available since the mid-1400s. Their hand-wrapped soaps are moulded individually on a machine dating from the 1850s, and then aged for 60 days. My favorite product is the candela al melograno, or pomegranate candle. The pomegranate is a symbol of good luck in Italy, and the scent of this candle is absolutely incredible! Another favorite is carta d’armenia (incense strips dating from the 16th century), which dispels all odours, including cigar smoke. There is also a wonderful cream for tired, swollen feet, which many of our friends swear by after a long day of shopping.