The centuries-old apothecary brand still uses some of its original formulas but is firmly grounded in the modern world.
Every Santa Maria Novella product is bathed in hundreds of years of history, steeped in stories of the Black Death, the powerful Medici family, religion and art.
When friars from the Dominican Order arrived in Florence, Italy, in the 13th century, they started an apothecary using herbs and spices from their monastery’s gardens. The remedies and balms were meant for their community infirmary.
Then the Black Death hit Europe in 1347, and it wiped out most of Florence’s population. The monks began distilling rose water to use as a disinfectant in homes. Today, that rose water – its formula unchanged – is Santa Maria Novella’s famed Acqua Di Rose Rose Water, and is used as a facial mist or toner.
The friars opened the pharmacy to the public in 1612, and 400 years later, it still stands. Lovingly restored in 2012, its ceilings are adorned with frescoes, and its walls opulently draped. The original gardens still exist, although ingredients are now sourced from Florentine farms.
Another original formula: a scent created in the 16th century for the then 14-year-old daughter of the powerful Medici family of Florence, – Catherine de Medici, betrothed to the French prince who would one day become Henry II of France. The original bergamot-based formula is still sold in the brand’s 75 stores around the world.
Its products use age-old recipes, but its core philosophy is modern: It uses locally sourced, plant-based ingredients; it’s against animal testing; and some products can be considered artisanal – the 21st century buzzword. Its wax tablets, for example, are hand-poured into moulds (pictured left). Each piece takes four hours to make, and only 100,000 are produced each year.
In Singapore, you can find Santa Maria Novella at Colony (#01-37 UE Square). Its curated menu includes the rose water and Catherine’s cologne, now called Acqua di Santa Maria Novella, as well as skincare, pet, baby and lifestyle products. – CT
Past meets present in these Santa Maria Novella products:
1 Tabacco Toscano EDC blends woody tobacco and sweet vanilla. The subtly spicy fragrance becomes smokier over time – a chemical reaction occurs with the essential oils as the perfume ages. $210
2 Latte Doposole is a milk-based lotion meantto hydrate sun-exposedand sunburnt skin. $90
3 The Candela Relax candle has the brand’s signature blend of cinnamon, orange, rosemary and lavender to calm nerves. $65
4 Acqua di Rose is an allnatural rose-water mist and toner. $48
5 Aloe Gel Viso Corpo is a lightweight face and body moisturiser that can help to soothe sensitive, irritated skin. $87