Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Potpourri - don't groan.


With a little time on my hands, I am able to continue my "meandering" through Florence. I realize I say "through," not "around." It is a bit of a maze and with the curving streets and tall (well, 4+ story) Renaissance buildings, I feel as if I am moving "through" the city. It is so in place, of the ground on which it sits. It isn't going anywhere so I move through it.

I wiggled my way to one of my favorite spots in Florence - Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. It was founded in 1221. Let’s see….that would be almost 800 years ago…by the Domenican monks shortly after their arrival in Florence. By growing medicinal herbs in the monastic gardens, they were able to make medications, balms and remedies for the monks’ infirmary. In the 1612, the pharmacy was opened to the public and during the 18th century, travelers from as far away as Russia, the Indies and China were purchasing its products. By now, I sound like an advertisement, but it really is something.

The products are still produced using the procedures originated by the monks and grown locally in the hills surrounding Florence. They carry skin care, soaps, perfumes, hair care, and a range of perfumes with the most charming stories attached – like the Acqua di Santa Maria Novella first developed for controlling hysterics and the Acqua della Regina perfume created for Caterina de’Medici, the Queen of France.

My personal favorite is (now don’t groan)…the potpourri called Santa Maria Novella. It is the most exotic, oily mixture of herbs I have ever smelled. The packages I carried back from my trip last year are still pungent. Holly bought an earthy bottle of Vetiver, a scent that has been used since the 17th Century by both men and women – and very sexy.

The shop itself is a little bit like Horst gone Italian Baroque – if you ever saw the Aveda Spa in Wisconsin or even his new place on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. It is divine. I suppose that is no accident, considering its origins. The website: www.smnovella.com. You can buy some of the products locally at Michael Sydney Odegard Rugs in Minneapolis.

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