December 16, 2013
Years ago, when you could still travel Europe on less than $5 a day, I always made a pilgrimage to the Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella as soon as I landed in Florence. It’s one of the world's oldest drug stores – founded by Dominican Friars in 1221, it opened to the public in 1612. They make all manner of herbal beauty products, but what I like best is their pot pouri. I’d buy bags of the dried herbs and flowers so I could stow them in my dresser when I got home. The potpouri is said to repel insects, but the truth is that I love the way it smells; each time I opened a drawer a wonderful fragrance came drifting out to remind me of Italy.
I don’t know when the Santa Maria Novella people opened branches in America, but these days you don’t have to go to Florence to procure potpourri. It makes me a little sad – the original shop is so old, so quaint, so lovely. But the products here are the same, and they arrive packed in these agreeably old-fashioned boxes.
Lots of people make potpourri; most of it, frankly, makes me shudder. But this stuff is different. The company says this:
“Scrupulously handmade using ancient methods, this incredibly long-lasting, beautifully fragrant potpourri is a full-bodied blend of herbs and flowers (a secret formula), all grown without pesticides in the Florentine hills exclusively for Santa Maria Novella. Each batch is collected by hand, then soaked in essence in enormous, centuries-old earthenware jars, sealed with wax, then aged for several months, and carefully packaged as it has been for centuries.”
That may or may not be true. All I know is that the light fragrance wafting through the house always makes me so happy that I’d be deeply grateful to anyone who plunked down $35 and sent some as a present.
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