Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere in Rome: The Ultimate Guide

Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere

Ciao and welcome to a new article dedicated to the hidden gems of Rome. Today, we’ll uncover the fascinating world of the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere, also called Antica Spezieria di Trastevere. It is a place steeped in history and pharmaceutical tradition. Founded centuries ago, this pharmacy now stands as an icon of Rome’s cultural heritage.

Its rich and captivating history tells of ancient pharmaceutical practices passed down through generations, offering a fascinating snapshot of past medicinal traditions. And yes, in this article, we will explore the origins and evolution of this fascinating place, examining its crucial role in the social fabric of Trastevere. Prepare for a journey back in time through the cobbled streets of one of Rome’s most picturesque neighborhood: Trastevere. Here you will discover the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere and its pharmaceutical culture. Ready? Let’s begin!

Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere

The History of the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere

In the heart of Rome, among the winding alleys and squares of the “rione” Trastevere, lies a jewel steeped in history and tradition: the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere. This enchanting place, shrouded in the mystery and magic of antiquity, is a true gem that will leave you breathless. Also known as the Pharmacy of Santa Maria della Scala, this establishment was originally located on the second floor of the convent of the Church of Santa Maria della Scala.

Initially, the pharmacy was reserved for the exclusive use of the Carmelitani Scalzi Priests, who cultivated, produced, and sold spices and medicinal remedies. In the late 1600s, Pharmacy of Santa Maria della Scala opened to the public. It quickly becomed famous and attracted the attention of princes, doctors, and even popes. This earned it the nickname “Pharmacy of the Popes.”

The Origins of the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere

The roots of the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere go deep into Rome’s millennial past. Dating back to the early centuries after Christ, this institution has weathered tumultuous epochs and periods of rebirth. However, it steadfastly maintained its mission to serve the local community with care and dedication. Initially founded as a spice shop and herbalist, the pharmacy evolved over the centuries, adapting to the social, cultural, and scientific changes that marked Rome’s history.

The Evolution of the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere Over Time

During the Middle Ages, the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere became a reference point for the care and well-being of the local population. The apothecaries, skilled artisans of antiquity, dedicated themselves to preparing natural remedies and healing potions. They used aromatic herbs, exotic spices, and precious ingredients from around the world. Over time, the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere became a place of meeting and exchange of knowledge, where scholars, herbalists, and curious individuals could share their experiences.

The Renaissance of the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere

In the Renaissance, the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere experienced an unprecedented period of splendor. Thanks to scientific progress and the growing interest in natural sciences, it became a center of excellence for researching and developing new remedies and cures. The apothecaries studied medicinal herbs and their therapeutic properties. We can say that the Pharmacy of Santa Maria della Scala contributed to the birth of modern pharmacology.

But the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere was also much more. It was a hospital during the Roman Republic, a place of care and resistance during the darkest moments of Italian history. It is here that Luciano Manara lost his life defending republican ideals, forever linking this pharmacy to the history and memory of a people fighting for freedom.

Preserving Tradition

Today, the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere continues its millennial mission of care and well-being, keeping the flame of Roman pharmaceutical tradition alive. Through educational programs, guided tours, and cultural initiatives, the pharmacy is committed to preserving and spreading the knowledge of ancient pharmaceutical practices, so they can be passed on to future generations. But what can you see during a visit to the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere?

Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere
Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere

Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere: What to See

The Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere, also known as the Ancient Pharmacy of Santa Maria della Scala, is a relatively small space, but rich in details. As soon as you cross the entrance door, you will be enchanted by the beauty of its particulars. The antique furnishings and wall decorations exude timeless charm.

The Main Hall

Once through the entrance door, you’ll find yourself in the main hall. Here, you’ll be fascinated by the wonderful showcases and wooden furniture dating back to the 18th century. Inside the showcases, you can observe the vials used in the past to collect liquid medicines. Take a moment to look at the frescoed ceiling, one of the most evocative elements of the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere. At the center of the ceiling, you can see the coat of arms of the Carmelitani Scalzi Priests, represented by Mount Carmel and a prominent cross.

Showcases and Vials

Today, walking among the shelves and showcases, you will feel like you’ve stepped back in time. You’ll enter a world of essences and aromas, medicinal plants, and healing herbs. Thanks to the immense care of the Carmelitani Scalzi Priests, it has remained intact since 1954, the last year of the pharmacy’s activity.

In this room, among ancient scales and measuring instruments, you will find testimonies of an era when care and well-being relied on traditional remedies. Among the most sold products were anti-plague water, used to combat bubonic plague, and lemon balm water, known for its calming properties against hysteria.

Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere

The Pharmacist’s Room

Continuing your visit to the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere, you will enter a small room next to the main hall. Here you will find wonderful hand-painted cabinets that house medicinal plant leaves. It is a true treasure chest, a place where history mingles with legend. Admire the portraits of illustrious figures who have crossed these thresholds, ready to tell you stories of glory and passion.

But the true star of this pharmacy is theriac, a highly sought-after and mysterious remedy. Its composition, based on dried viper meat, made it a universal cure for certain diseases. Its high price made it an object of desire and smuggling, becoming a symbol of power and care.

The Laboratory for Drug and Liquor Production

The visit continues with the discovery of the laboratory for the production of drugs and liquors. After several years of work as a simple pharmacy, the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere also started producing liquors. Inside the laboratory, you can observe an ancient sterilizer and a pill-making machine. Don’t worry, the friendly friar will tell you all about these strange machines. Trust me, it will feel like taking a leap back in time and touching a piece of ancient history.

Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere

Visit the Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere on One of My Guided Tours

I first visited the Ancient Pharmacy years ago during one of my weekends exploring Rome’s hidden gems. To be honest, I fell in love with it immediately. That’s why I decided to organize one of my guided tours here. Of course, after visiting the Pharmacy, we always visit the Church of Santa Maria della Scala, located next to the Pharmacy. Inside the Church, you can admire the painting of Santa Maria della Scala, which is discussed during the guided tour. Don’t worry, no spoilers here! 😊

So far, I have accompanied over 120 people to discover this wonderful place. And, as with all my guided tours, we ended with an aperitif in a non-touristy bar in the heart of Trastevere. This way, we spent a Sunday morning filled with culture, laughter, and many new friends. If you want to join one of my guided tours of “Exploring Rome with a Friend,” send me an email to marianna@theitalianvibes.com. Come on, let yourself be swept away by my energy!

Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere
Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere

Ancient Pharmacy of Trastevere: Now It’s Your Turn!

We’ve reached the end of our article on what to see at the Ancient Pharmacy of Santa Maria della Scala. I hope this guide helps you organize your visit in a few simple steps. If you want to discover more hidden gems in the heart of Rome, check out my Free Guides:

Additionally, if you prefer a personalized itinerary to explore hidden Rome, send an email to marianna@theitalianvibes.com. I’ll be happy to help you create the best itinerary to visit my beloved hidden Rome. As always, I am looking forward to hearing from you,

Xo xo,

Marianna, Your Italian Friend

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