Looking for a luxurious holiday gift? Sometimes it is worth spending a bit more to use fresh and real ingredients. I am always intrigued by anything made or created in Italy since my ancestors who were cobblers, seamstresses, and wine growers came from this old world paradise. When was the last time you heard about high quality products made in Florence by monks in the 13th century that later spread to the rest of the world due to their healing properties and various uses? Santa Maria Novella is a world renowned Italian brand that is about to embark on its 400 year anniversary. Explore their products on their website.
Founded by Dominican friers around 1221, they used medicinal herbs grown in the monastic gardens to make medications, balms, and pomades for the monks’ infirmary. News of their quality products spread to the outside world, and it was opened to the public in 1612 where it continued to spread worldwide. In the 19th century, the company became a state owned enterprise following the confiscation of the church’s assets by the Italian government and the nephew of the last monastic director acquired the name and the company which has run for over four generations.
The Santa Maria Novella store in Los Angeles located at 8411 Melrose Place is a treasure cove full of soaps, body care, face care, sun care, hand and foot care, oral hygiene, body essences, pure essences, eau de colognes, liqueurs, antique preparations, room fragrances, accessories, and products designed for men, children, and pets!
What fascinates me is the history, and the fact that the ingredients have changed a little, if at all since that time. They use only natural raw materials of the highest quality and follow the ancient procedures originated by the Founding Fathers. Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella focuses exclusively on the herbalist’s art, basing all of its preparations on traditional herbs and oils of natural origin. Most of the medicinal herbs used in the products are grown locally on the hills around Florence.
Each product tells a story. For instance, their Signature scent Acqua della Regina perfume was originally created for Caterina de’Medici, the Queen of France, who made it popular throughout France. Santa Maria Novella’s perfumes include a whole series of Eau de Colognes, essences, and triple extracts ranging from the sweetest iris, rose and gardenia scents, to the verbena and vetiver oils or the delicious Acqua di Sicilia. I enjoyed the freesia and orange blossom scents. Unlike perfume today with so many notes, their fragrances offer 5-8 single notes.
Some of the notable new products that I thought my friends and readers would enjoy are anti-stretchmark oil ($64) that uses their signature pomegranate fragrance, toning body creme ($115) and firming bust creme ($130). The Acqua di Melissa Eliser/Water ($28) which promotes calm and well-being caught my eye. I wonder why. The website says it is a great digestive and anti-spasmodic herbal remedy that was first made by Friar A. Paladini in 1690 from melissa, Chinese cinnamon, coriander, clary sage, issopo, carnation and angelica. Three or four teaspoons should be taken in a small cup of warm, sugared water. I am liking this Friar even more since my relatives are the Paladinos.
Currently, I am using the “Crema Per La Mani” or SMN healing hand creme. It smells like lemon zest and it rich and creamy. This hand cream is considered to be the best in the world because it softens, heals, moisturizes and provides a thin layer of protection that lasts for several hours all without that greasy feeling. Their formula contains cocoa butter, essential oil of Sicilian lemon peel, virgin beeswax containing high amounts of propolis and sweet almond oil, which is quickly absorbed into the skin for immediate relief. The website also shares this cream is Ideal for all skin types, and the limited, controlled production is at the original Florence site and skillfully prepared by hand.
One can shop the historical premises today in Florence: Via della Scala, 16 – 50123 – Firenze – Tel. +39.055.216276 and the production premises are just outside: Via R. Giuliani, 71 b/r – 50141 – Firenze – Tel. +39.055.4368315
Santa Maria Novella’s products are available in Italian cities, as well as shops in France, Spain, Switzerland, Great Britain, Japan, and Taiwan. In the U.S. stores are located in NYC, LA, Washington, DC (Chevy Chase), Dallas, TX, and Bal Harbour, Florida.
Santa Maria Novella
8411 Melrose Place
Los Angeles, CA 90069