Craft traditions are a typical knowledge of Florence, which over the centuries have gone hand in hand with artistic activities, sometimes touching points of conjunction. Prominent among the city's ancient craft traditions is the art of creating perfumes. A knowledge that comes from afar and does not seem to wane, in search of new olfactory experiences or customized essences.
The oldest and world-renowned example is that of the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella (Perfume Pharmaceutical Workshop) founded in 1612 in the tradition of the Dominican monks of the church of the same name. The Dominicans had been cultivating medicinal herbs and plants since the 13th century, and the sale of the friars' rose water is attested as early as 1381.
Today the Officina, with entrance from Via della Scala, has two natures: on the one hand, that of a charming boutique, for its frescoed rooms, historic furniture, and products with a long history meticulously respected and whose production is "narrated" by name, ingredients, and labels; on the other, that of a museum, where one can take a trip back in time, among frescoes, ancient apothecary jars, secret recipes and perfumes.
A tradition of which Florence is proud.
A historic workshop, opened in 1561 as an "apothecary's shop" in a property a few steps from the Cathedral and transformed after the mid-1800s into a pharmacy with the name "Farmacia all'insegna della SS. Annunziata" (Pharmacy under the banner of SS. Annunziata), from the scene of the Annunciation depicted in the ceramic effigy above the sign. The final name - "Farmacia della SS. Annunziata" (SS. Annunziata Pharmacy) - was in 1935.
Among the curiosities: the cucumber cream used by cyclist Gino Bartali to massage his athletes was invented here.
Today, the business is carried out on different locations: the pharmacy business has been moved out of the historic center, while the outlet on Via dei Servi has become the "Historical Headquarters SS. Annunziata Pharmacy since 1561 - Florence Italy". Inside, the splendid 17th-century furnishings can still be admired. A layout that has also been recreated in the new store on Via Porta Rossa.
You have to follow the course of the Arno, look out onto Via dei Bardi and enter the building where Florentine Lorenzo Villoresi has been cultivating a passion for perfume for years, an art that became a profession in 1990. Villoresi is a custom perfume creator with a charming laboratory overlooking Ponte Vecchio, where the fragrances all owe a debt to the Orient and its scents, spices and essences.
Villoresi combines the creation of collections sold worldwide with "tailor made" perfumes. His atelier has also developed a museum part, with a multisensory tour to discover the universe of perfume. Completing the exhibition space are the lush plants, more than eighty in number, from which the essences are obtained and which can be found in the elegant outdoor garden.
Walking around Florence, other boutiques, workshops, small and large spaces dedicated to perfume cannot be missed.
One of these, with elegant furnishings, is Aquaflor in Borgo Santa Croce, a stone's throw from the ancient Franciscan church.
A door opening on the side of a Renaissance palace leads into ancient spaces full of charm: dark woods for the shelves loaded with small bottles for hundreds of essences and even soaps. The perfumes, for the person, for the home, are custom-made or sold in collections with elegant packaging. The master perfumer is Sileno Cheloni, who uses the finest raw materials.