During one of my first trips to Florence Italy, years ago, I came across the most beautiful store a stones throw from the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. Offering products for all manner of well-being [skincare, oils, pomades, colognes and herbals] the aptly named “Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella” is purportedly the oldest pharmacy in Europe. Founded by Dominican Friars in 1221, using medicinal herbs grown in the monastic gardens, the current headquarters in central Florence have been in operation since 1612 with the richly appointed sales room being open to the public since 1848.
It’s so difficult to not come away from a visit here without so many of their products which have a fascinating history behind them. My favorite story is the one behind the Eau de Cologne named after it’s producer, Giovanni Paolo Feminis, moved to Cologne in Germany in 1725. Many of their ancient recipes are still in use today, such as their strangely compelling ‘Aceto aromatico de Sette Ladri’ [smelling salts] and the herbal water ‘Acqua di Santa Maria Novella’ [for the control of hysterics]. For years I have used their ‘Carta d’Armenia’ the little burning papers for scenting a room [which really require an entry here all of their own!] and the richly scented body oil of Jojoba.
But it is here I discuss my most favorite of body soaps – the ‘Tabacco Toscano’. Presented in a seriously handsome bitter-chocolate-brown covered cardboard box, and hand-wrapped in crisp white patterned paper, each bar of this triple milled soap seems to possess the intensity of what is considered the most traditional of masculine scents. Upon opening each box you become aware of old world cigar smoke, leather and tobacco. It is at once refreshing, sensual and warm. The method of production of these soaps ensures that they last as long as possible by the side of the bath or in the shower. I always try and have one box stored in the corner of a suitcase, ready to open in the bathroom of a hotel whilst traveling!
Whilst still not so easy to get hold of, beyond the shores of Italy itself, one often finds a little outpost of their products in cities such as New York. One of my favorite discoveries was also finding the very pretty store in a quiet street in Antwerp, Belgium with almost all of the products available.
Albano is a very talented and accomplished architect, interior and furniture designer. His work speaks for itself: detail oriented, holistic and elegant design. His taste level is probably the most refined i’ve ever seen. Based in Singapore, Albano has a love affair with Paris, London and Antwerp, visiting every museum, designer store, bookstore (and bakery) he can. So i’m more than happy to have him part of Monsieur Jerome. He’ll be presenting his favorite products every now and then. You can see his work here: www.studiodaminato.com.
Credit photo: Albano
If you’re in the USA, you can buy SMN products here: www.lafcony.com/smn