In modern times any business which manages to last even a single generation is generally regarded as praiseworthy. It’s then not unreasonable to acknowledge that the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica (perfume workshop and pharmacy) di Santa Maria Novella in Florence (SMN, for short) deserves recognition in its own special category, having just edged past their 400th year of trading to the public.
The workshop and pharmacy was founded by the monks of Santa Maria Novella and, to this day, the museum and shop (where these images were taken) sit just around the corner from the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, on Via Della Scala.
400 years has allowed time to perfect countless treatments encompassing lotions, balms, herbal remedies, soaps, candles and room and wardrobe fragrances. I’ve used SMN products for several years now and they’ve become such an integral and enjoyable part of my mornings, that I specifically sought them out when I was in Florence earlier in the month.
In years gone by, I’d come to see shaving as a chore and a necessary evil. On a recommendation from a friend, I started using SMN’s shave creme (with a badger brush) and since then, there hasn’t been a single day when I’ve not looked forward to shaving. The creme produces a quality lather and is mixed with SMN’s signature scent of Tabacco Toscano, which is also my cologne. I spent a long time thinking of the best way to articulate the scent, but the best I can come up with is to describe it as having a subtle masculinity, whilst not being at all overpowering.
The other products which have become permanents, for me, in the SMN range (which is extensive) is the “Crema Pre-Dopo Barba” (before and after shave creme) and “Tobacco Toscano eau di Cologne”. The Crema Pre-Dopa Barba is great after shaving and it also works as a moisturiser. Tabacco Toscano cologne remains the closest thing to perfect I’ve come across in a cologne. It’s also half the reason my wife agreed married me. It’s a combination of woody oriental notes with a vanilla base, which, like the Crema di Barba has a soft but masculine feel and lasts right through the day.
To their credit, SMN have not sat still in recent years and whilst the products remain proudly made in Italy, they’ve developed an impressive network of standalone stores and shops within shops throughout the world, which can be found on the “Store Locator” tab, on their website.
If you happen to be in Florence at any point in the years ahead, spend a couple of hours at the Basillica, then walk around the corner to the Officina SMN shop and museum.