If you can’t make it to Italy, but can manage to get to lower Lafayette Street in Manhattan, stop by Lafco New York. This beautiful fragrance and luxury “smells” store houses Santa Maria Novella products from Florence.
This is one of (if not) the oldest fragrance (pharmacy) “brand” in the world. Founded by Dominican friars in the early part of the 13th century, the pharmacy began by producing medicines, balms and pomades from herbs grown in the monastic gardens. Eventually word got out about the exceptional quality of the products these friars were producing and happily in 1612, the pharmacy opened to the public.
Today Santa Maria Novella products are distributed worldwide, but selectively so the brand has maintained its pedigree and artistry. There is a fascinating and rich history behind the products and I am barely skimming the surface here. The store on Lafayette has a natural earthy palette with some industrial design influences. It is incredible inviting, almost like walking into a prayerful oasis of lotions and potions.
The Novella products are reminiscent of the Renaissance both in packaging and fragrance–they aren’t fussy or convoluted, rather they incorporate simple herbs and flowers used now and throughout the ages–verbena, magnolia, orange blossom. The other Fafco products are also worth the trip through the huge ironwork doors of the shop, a fitting entrance for this big step from city street to “friars pharmacy.”
If you find yourself in Florence do make the effort to visit the original Farmaceutica de Santa Maria Novell. (Describing that will take another blog post and words along can not do it justice!)