I adore the Santa Maria Novella (SMN) brand. It has a history to rival any competitor that likes to talk about its heritage credentials. SMN was established in Florence in 1221 by Dominican monks who grew herbs and flowers to make balms, pomades and medications for their infirmary. In 1612 the pharmacy doors were open to the public as the reputation for the healing and therapeutic properties of its goods became widely known. Many of the products in the collection have a story behind their creation and as an example their Eau de Cologne Acqua della Regina was made for Catherine de Medici and is still produced today and available for us all to try.
The SMN store is my favourite in Cannes, and whenever I go there (which unfortunately isn’t that often) I make sure to pop in, take a good look around and occasionally make a purchase. Entering the store is like walking back in time and it’s quite an experience to see all of the beautiful packaging lined up covering intriguing products that you’re not quite sure what their purpose is. It’s that rare place where you really feel like you are making discoveries that are relatively unknown.
My favourite products to date from SMN are the floral waters. Currently I have three – rose, orange blossom and May (iris, rose and broom). I use these to splash on my face to wake me up and as a toner., although they can also be used as very light perfumes. The scents are absolutely divine and are the best floral waters I’ve come across in my trials. The rose smells vivid and bright while the orange is fragrantly heady. Their May water is my latest purchase and while its scent is softer, it too is absolutely exquisite. I highly recommend these products, especially if you are already scent fans of orange blossom, rose and iris. If I was pressed to name a favourite, I’d say the orange blossom is the pick of the trio. I’m also a huge sucker for the packaging. The bottles are made of glass, the design of the label is retro but not fusty, and the fact that they’re from Florence (my favourite city in Italy) just makes the whole experience top notch. I have other floral waters in plastic bottles, and they just lack that je ne sais quoi.
I’ve always wanted to buy a perfume from the store, but they have a rather non customer friendly way to experience the scents in my opinion. The perfumes are housed out of reach so an assistant is required to help. You are not permitted to self select, spray and sniff at your leisure, which is far and away my preferred sampling method. Each time you would like to try a new perfume, you must ask the assistant. There is a distinct lack of perfume samples as well, although the lightly sprayed papers that are the SMN mouilette can be stashed away for further reference, although these are not as helpful as samples to put on skin that help to understand how the perfumes wear over time. I think this time consuming procedure puts me off somewhat, as I always feel I need to devote more time to properly investigate the perfumes, so alas I still haven’t bought one. Never say never though. I’m sure I will but I just need a good amount of time to go through all of the perfumes there and then.
Here are some photos from the store in Florence that I visited when I was at Pitti Fragranze last year. There are only a few as my phone ran out of battery unfortunately. The SMN store is located near the main train station so is relatively easy to locate. Definitely put this on your list of places to visit if you venture to the city. A word of warning – it is rather popular with huge groups of tourists so may be rather busy. We’re not talking Sistine Chapel crowded though, that’s on a whole other claustrophobic level.
Do you like Santa Maria Novella products? Please let me know if you have any recommendations as I really want to explore their product lines but they have so many items it’s hard to know where to start.
Notes : All photos Megan In Sainte Maxime