Fav-A-Gram 1: Santa Maria Novella
This is the window of the Santa Maria Novella perfumery. One of the oldest still functioning apothecaries in Europe, it boasts an amazing relationship with history. The house was started in Florence in 1222, established by Domician monks with a beginning in traditional home-grown herb compounds. I'm going to take a moment to nerd out here: the apothecary of SMN was established around the same time that Dante Alighieri (pre-exile/divine comedy etc) was a member of the apothecary guild himself! Ok. in 1612 Santa Maria Novella became an authorized pharmacy business. When Caterina de Lorenzo de' Medici married into the French royal family, she was gifted a signature perfume called Acqua della Regina, which translates to "water of a queen." You can still buy the exact same water. Well, obviously not literally but the same formula is bottled and sold present day. I for one, wouldn't mind a spritz of queen every now and then before running out the door.
My personal favs are the Acqua di Rosa (rose water), toning facial water and melograno (pomegranite) scented soap. The SMN packaging is also killer in that traditional, old-world-but-chic european way that is ever-present in the hand wrapped feel of a lot of the artisan product design over there. Not to mention Italians still wrap their party cakes parcel style, which is a whole 'nother topic- Italian cake. The best. Mmmmm Italian food. Focus. Yes.
The present day shop is housed in an old convent and still boasts frescoed ceilings and original portraiture. They are well known for their candles, soaps and perfume but also procure an amazing amount of products such as skin care, dental elixir, and extracts. I can spend hours on end gazing at their beautiful shelves of liquer, eau de cologne and poparie. They even have a pet line.
The church itself, compared to the duomo, is modest but beautiful in a simplistic way. To find the entrance to the perfumery, you need to walk past the chapel itself, through the piazza and around the first corner. More specifically, at 16 Via della Scala behind the basilica. If in doubt look around for tourists carrying bag-loads of the stuff. Be warned, the smell of so many scents can sometimes feel like being slapped in the nose with your grand-mother's pot-purrie bag but after the initial sneeze or two you should be fine. Their bottles are also sturdy, heavy glass so they'll add some weight to your bags. Their soap, however, makes the perfect gift. If you are not jet-setting into the Tuscan sun, Hills of Kerrisdale in Vancouver carries them.