Italy’s oldest pharmacy

The Antica farmacia Sant’Anna, run by monks from the nearby convent, is a must see for those who want to browse through spices and unguents.

Let’s start by saying that the Sant’Anna Pharmacy, founded in the mid-17th century, is not only the oldest pharmacy in Italy among those that have never changed ownership (always the Discalced Carmelite friars), but it is located in the Castelletto district, a few hundred metres from the famous panoramic esplanade, from the Sant’Anna church and the funicular railway that leads to the summit of the Righi (another panoramic point).

In short, a visit is well worth the trip. The pharmacy is located inside the convent of Sant’Anna, founded in 1584 by Nicolò Doria, the first convent built by the Discalced Carmelites outside Spain.

The complex includes the church, a typical example of the Genoese Baroque style, with a beautiful 16th century portal, cloisters, refectories, gardens and the ancient library with precious volumes such as herbals and botanical essays, theological and biblical texts, many of which are in original editions. But the real gem is the Antica Farmacia, whose origin dates back to the mid-17th century when a certain Fra Martino di Sant’Antonio, a doctor of pharmacy, is attested.

The pharmacy, which was opened to the public in the 19th century, maintains its galenic and phytotherapeutic tradition and retains its charming original structure in a bright and welcoming environment: white and grey marble floor, pavilion-vaulted ceilings, late 18th-century walnut display cases along all the walls with a counter cabinet in the centre.

Friar Ezio, the friendly herbalist, repository of the ancient tradition handed down “from Father to Father”, welcomes those in need of healing and offers ancient remedies, beehive products and infusions of roses cultivated with care and passion.

Wisdom of yesteryear, technology of today: in the modern workshop, people work with ancient experience and humble respect for nature, in pure monastic tradition. Genoa, Piazza Sant’Anna No. 8.

During the visit, Friar Ezio recounts the history of the Carmelite order of the Church of St. Anne and the Old Pharmacy, explains the ancient instruments, not forgetting a few little anecdotes. He explains the basics of herbalism, the birth of our remedies, the evolution of plants and their exploitation in herbal medicine.

Depending on the audience, he knows how to answer questions: he knows what may interest the student, the tourist or those who simply want to use natural medicines.