Hidden gems of Italy: The Ancient Pharmacy of Santa Maria della Scala in Rome
Church of Santa Maria della Scala in Rome.
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In the heart of Rome’s lively Trastevere neighborhood is the oldest pharmacy in the city, dating back to the 16th century.
The Pharmacy of Santa Maria della Scala, originally called ‘spezieria,’ takes its name from the nearby church and convent of Santa Maria della Scala; on the second floor of the convent was a pharmacy / apothecary, initially opened for internal and exclusive use of the convent itself. There, the religious order of the convent, the Discalced Carmelites, grew, prepared and sold spices and medicines. They did so until 1954, when that ancient pharmacy was closed.
Thanks to its strategic location and proximity to St. Peter's, the pharmacy of Santa Maria della Scala over time began to be patronized by cardinals, princes and even popes, so much so that it was nicknamed the ‘pharmacy of the popes.’
In the 18th century, the apothecary also began to train future pharmacists; the properties of plants were taught, herbariums were compiled and medicines were scientifically catalogued.
While the ground floor of the building is occupied today by a modern pharmacy, the upper floor has preserved the spaces of the ancient apothecary, which can be visited individually by appointment or as part of a guided tour.
It will be like stepping back in time as you observe the frescoed ceiling with the coat of arms of the Carmelites in the center, the original wooden furniture from the 18th century, the herbarium, as well as original instruments for weighing medicines, the original machines for making pills, oil mills, mortars, alembic stills, vases and majolica.
Among the many medications preserved here is also the legendary ‘teriaca,’ used since ancient Roman times as an antidote against poisons and other illnesses, composed of 57 different substances including viper meat.
At the end of the visit, you can buy some products still made using ancient recipes.
Nel cuore del vivace quartiere Trastevere di Roma si trova la farmacia più antica della città, risalente al XVI secolo.
La Farmacia di Santa Maria della Scala, originariamente chiamata ‘spezieria', prende il nome dalla vicina chiesa e convento di Santa Maria della Scala; al secondo piano del convento si trovava una farmacia/spezieria, inizialmente aperta ad uso interno ed esclusivo del convento stesso. Lì, l'ordine religioso del convento, i Carmelitani Scalzi, coltivava, preparava e