Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella
I know the name is a bit of a mouthful, but if you ever find yourself in Florence, it's an absolutely breathtaking, must see, tea hot spot!
Tucked away down an average looking street, not far from the Santa Maria Novella church, you will, if you look hard enough (I actually walked past it at first), find the modern day shop and tea room. A quaint looking place with large hard wood and glass doors, that open into a very Florentine looking atrium, boasting typical marble floors and Romanesque looking statues hidden in deep alcoves. It's charming and ornate from the moment you enter, and every room there after seems more extraordinary than the next.
Originally this "farmaceutica" was was run by the monks of Santa Maria Novella, the earliest reference to which is in the 1542 "Book of Entries and Exits". Despite not being provided with official herbalists and pharmacists, the monks seem to have become proficient in the art of using herbs medicinally, with a friar herbalist being listed by 1609. In 1612, the monks opened their doors to the public, enabling locals, and even those further a field (thanks to the fame of Angiolo Marchissi, supervisor of the pharmaceutical workshop,
scholar, investigator and highly regarded in alchemical studies), to benefit from the medicines and herbal remedies. Of course, having links with Ferdinand II de 'Medici didn't hurt the pharmacy's popularity either.
Today the building serves as a Florentine boutique. There's, what I presume is, a top end perfumery, a beauty counter, a museum full of old apothecary wares and, yes I can happily say, a tea room. La Tisaneria's tea menu, whilst a little more expensive than the average cafe (as you would probably expect), is populated with a list of modern teas that have Florentine and medieval twists. I opted for "The al Bergamotto", their version of an earl grey, which was bitter and little more citric, with a musty taste, almost like an old book, which was somehow captivating. The tea was served in the most delicate china tea cup I have ever laid my boisterous, oaf hands on... Obviously, drinking out of it was pure elegance! They also served this with some of the Santa Maria Novella chocolate, which keeping with the theme, also had an unusual musty, yet floral, flavour, that had the ability to wis me into century's past.
The tea room also took displays to a whole new beautiful, simple and elegant level, with a delicate easter theme to show off their products.
This place was just too beautiful and too soaked in history for me not to write about it! Let me know if you're heading to Florence or, if you've ever been, what your highlight was!