Caterina and perfumes, which arrived in France from Florence

The history of perfume begins very far from Florence, but it is precisely in this city that it finds fertile ground to develop in new and fascinating ways. Although the perfumery tradition has its roots in places such as North Africa, ancient Persia and Arabia, it was only in the 14th century that the use of fragrances spread in Europe.

Venice, with its strategic position and its ancient vocation for trade, becomes a nerve center for the production of high quality perfumes. Venetian perfumers, thanks to the spices, herbs, flowers and oils from the East, created refined fragrances for the local nobility.

But already in the 14th century Florence also embraced the art of perfumes. Perfumer shops are multiplying in the city, producing unique and sophisticated fragrances. The noble families of Florence invested in the production of perfumes, becoming true patrons of the perfumery arts.

The Dominican friars of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella founded the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella in 1221, starting to cultivate herbs and medicinal plants to prepare elixirs, ointments and balms. After years of studying the properties of the herbs grown in the convent, the pharmacy opened its doors to the public.

It is in the ancient Santa Maria Novella pharmacy that the essence created for Caterina de’ Medici was made. It was when the very young noblewoman left Florence to marry Henry II of Valois and become the Queen of France that the Acqua della Regina (Queen scented water) was created: a citrus fragrance that contained the grace and elegance of Florence and that managed to conquer the court of France. Caterina brought with her her personal perfumer, Renato Bianco, renamed René le Florentin. Thanks to him, the art of Italian perfumery conquered the French nobility, spreading the use of fragrances for body care and giving rise to numerous perfume shops in the surroundings of Grasse.

Acqua della Regina, the oldest perfume from Santa Maria Novella still on sale today, after becoming famous at the French court, inspired what we all know as Acqua di Colonia (Cologne) thanks to Giovanni Paolo Feminis, an Italian perfumer, who in 1725 production began in Cologne.

After 800 years, not only does the ancient Pharmacy in Via della Scala continue its tradition, but in the city we can find many shops selling artisanal perfume of the highest quality, we will mention a few: Lorenzo Villoresi, Sileno Cheloni, l’O Profumo, Teatro Fragranze Uniche…

Here you can discover unique perfumes or even create your own personal fragrance “made in Florence”.