Ancient Pharmacy of Santa Maria della Scala

The oldest pharmacy in Rome still in operation is the Spezieria (apothecary) of the Carmelite friars of Santa Maria della Scala in Trastevere.


It opened in the 1500s hosting the miraculous preparations of the Carmelite friars who cultivated spices in the garden of the Convent of Santa Maria della Scala.

The spezieria of Santa Maria della Scala was the place where the Romans went to find remedies for their illnesses even if only in the seventeenth century it opened to the public dispensing its remedies throughout Rome: originally the use was reserved, according to the order, only to the Carmelite friars who managed it.


Carmelite friars continued to produce them until 1954 with the spices that they cultivated in the garden of the Convent of Santa Maria della Scala.

The fame of the pharmacy and its remedies was so great that it was also called the pharmacy of the Popes and had a school open to lay people and not. The ancient spezieria of Santa Maria della Scala has remained the same since the 18th century.

After 1954 the pharmacy moved to the ground floor of the convent and precisely inside the cloister, which was modified to accommodate it. In the 80s the pharmacy is sold to a private individual and is still open to the public.



The study of the friars on spices reached such fame that, as can be seen from a painting in the atrium of the pharmacy in which “Friar Basilio della Concezione (1727-1804) who gives lessons to a group of disciples” was opened, a school was opened for all, friars and lay people; likewise the spezieria acquired considerable prestige so as to become the “pharmacy of the Popes” who, benefiting from his preparations since the time of Pius VIII, granted them privileges provided that, as Gregory XVI had established, the “chiefs spezia” freshman, young people and subordinates of the low “.

One of the potions prepared by the pharmacy was the theriaca prepared until the middle of the last century. Among the other remedies of the spezieria there is the Acqua della Scala, an antinevralgic lavender used for diseases of the upper respiratory tract, rheumatic pains and allergies, the water of lemon balm, used as a soothing, and the water of the Samaritan woman, an archaic disinfectant.



What to see

The rooms of the spezieria are unchanged since 1700 and so articulated:

Sales Hall

In this room there are wooden shelves where the original tools are kept, among other things: vases, spools, distillation towers and some bottles containing the theriaca (or, according to other sources, theriaca). The ceiling is covered with painted and gilded curtains. On one of the shelves there is a portrait of Saint Teresa of Avila.

A hall behind the sales counter

In this room were kept elementary substances in some sandalwood boxes that were not attacked by worms. On the wardrobe doors are painted some famous doctors of antiquity including Hippocrates, Galen and Avicenna.

The lab

Distillates for dressings were prepared in the laboratory.

A small room at the laboratory

In this room is a sterilizer and a tool for transforming medicines into pills.

How to get there

The Antica Pharmacy of Santa Maria della Scala is located in Piazza della Scala 23 at the church of Santa Maria della Scala.


Today it opens only on special occasions, with guided tours of associations.