Santa Maria cabinet

Review: Oficina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, Firenza

Ah, Santa Maria Novella. I cannot remember for how long I have been using them ! I think it started when my parents bought « Sapone al Melograno » for the entire family. My father still uses the cardboard boxes to store all sorts in. Since then it has slowly creeped more and more into my life : using their shaving cream (which is really a shaving soap) when I started to grow whisks of facial hair ; using their perfume to impress girls when out on the town. And most recently, using their potpourri to smell up my flat.

When it comes to anything you might find in the bathroom, Santa Maria Novella is the sine qua non of luxury goods. And for a good reason – theirs is the oldest pharmacy in the world, so they will have had plenty of time to hone their trade!

I may dive into their long history in a later post, but for now I will focus on reviewing their items.

Look & Feel

My Santa Maria items

While it may be superficial, it cannot be left unsaid: when you see Santa Maria Novella products, you instantly know they are what this blog is all about. It all starts, of course, with the crest and the script. They convey something very simple: we are very old, and we’re still around because we produce something great. Something that never goes out of style.

The general lack of plastic in most of their packaging further reaffirms this. You get the feeling nothing from Santa Maria Novella is mass-produced, but created with care and pride. I find it is always a good sign if packaging is too good to throw away, either because it looks too pretty or because you think you could make good use of it! The boxes for multiple bars of soap, for example, are very nice to stuff all those small things lying around the house in.
Santa Maria shopfront in London's Piccadilly arcade

I have not been to their Florence store unfortunately, but their London shop will only reaffirm this message of Old World charm. The picture above says it all: this is a beautiful shop where elegant people buy magnificent little luxuries. Incidentally – the man in the green jacket happened to be standing there by chance, but completes the picture perfectly.

Santa Maria cabinet with soapThe Products – Soap

I have only ever used the Melograno soap and have always found it to be excellent. Of course, there are many more varieties which I have not had the pleasure of trying.

I like the Melograno soap because it has a simple, straightforward sell and is kind to sensitive skin. Others may find it a bit bland, and might prefer some of the other varieties or go for more distinctive fragrances by for example Ortigia.

The Products – Shaving Soap

Santa Maria Novella has only one type of shaving soap (or “Crema da Barba”) which has its “Tabacco toscano” scent. It is available in a tube, or you can do it the proper way and get hard soap and use a brush. I have used up a whole tub of the shaving soap, but I am not sure I would go back to Santa Maria. I have begun using DR Harris recently, which both has a wider range of fragrances and is easier to lather up.

The Products – Perfumes / Eau de Cologne

The range of perfumes at Santa Maria is magnificent, and this is one of the best things to get there. I have thoroughly enjoyed mine. The fragrances are distinctive and pleasant, without overpowering the nose. While the price can be a downside, I have found each bottle to last long enough to be worth the cost.

Oficina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella
Via della Scala 16 50123 (opposite the Santa Maria basilica)

Piccadilly Arcade

G Walton Street