It was sometime … well, a long time ago.
That trip to Florence was one of the few long holidays I took with my mom. It was important then because it was a parents’ paid trip to see hot Italian guys and eat Spaghetti Carbonara; it's significant now because I'll probably never be able to take a vacation like that with my mom again.
I recall bits and pieces of it: I remember staring at the Villa San Michele overlooking Florence and thinking that someday I'd make it there on my honeymoon. I haven't … honeymooned or made it there. I remember the bridges with gold jewelry; the first time I saw a Caravaggio in real life; looking up at David and wondering why it was him, of every boy in the entire world, who made art books swoon. There were lazy dinners when the warm breeze blew our napkins across piazzas; there were busy days of running from site to site, reveling in getting lost because it would lead us to someplace hidden and wonderful.
But what I remember most was the hunt for the elusive Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella.
I had heard about Santa Maria Novella products someplace – probably in Vogue or Harpers Bazaar, the same bibles who told me it was okay to wear bikinis with boas and that men only fell in love with women who dress in head-to-toe Yves Saint Laurent and gloves. I had done my additional research and discovered that the Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella was beside a river, near a train station, in an old church or monastery. Surely this was enough to go on.
We had “saved” the pharmacy for our last day in Florence, and we ran down cobblestone streets looking for it. I was obsessed with the Medici family in those days – after all, their good-looking men had somehow ruled religion, politics, and banking – and Santa Maria Novella was known for its lavender scent the Medici women wore.
I thought I smelled lavender everywhere. It took hours to complete our scavenger hunt – remember, this was before Google knew the Earth – and once we finally arrived at the impressive churchlike structure I was in awe.
The pharmacy was everything it promised … the lotions, creams, and scents were musky and smelled old, like the richness of the city we had just discovered. The almond hand cream was so fragrant you wanted to eat it, the body creams so thick they felt like paste. Many years later I still wear many of the products I discovered that trip, in particular Santa Maria Novella’s lavender. After all, if it seduced bankers hundreds of years ago perhaps it will have the same effect on bankers of our generation.
Santa Maria Novella products are now available at stateside boutiques, not just ancient Florentine pharmacies, so go online or pop over to one of LAFCO’s locations in Los Angeles, SoHo, Dallas, or Bal Harbour.
Oh, and sometimes the hunt is equally as fun as the treasure, so for those of you who still have a mom to travel with, grab her and go on a treasure hunt while you still can.
You never know what you may find.