There is soap, and then there is the best soap in the world. Santa Maria Novella soaps are capable of transporting you to another world, another place in time — and are really in their own category of perfume meets soap. Santa Maria Novella soaps come from an ancient Florentine pharmacy founded in 1612 by Franciscan friars associated with an infirmary for the monks, and was later supported by the Medicis. While I have never been to the pharmacy, by all accounts it is a magical, historic complex. My absolute favorite soap scent is “Sapone Per Uomo,” which is expensive and hard to find in the United States. The beautiful paper from inside the soap packaging looks as if were printed in 1900 and works nicely in lieu of scented lingerie drawer sachet to make you want to bury your head in your sock drawer. If you’re in San Francisco, the place to buy Santa Maria Novella soap is Bell’occhio. Located on a little alley off Market Street, this jewel-box of a European-style general store not only sells Santa Maria Novella, but uses the Sapone Per Uomo as a room scent; there is nothing more heavenly than swimming in a room saturated with notes of this sandalwood blend. It’s entirely unisex and pleasurable in a non-floral way. Whenever I order things from Bell’occhio, the tissue paper in the package releases subtle hints of this heavenly scent. If you have a summer guest coming to stay at your house, order some Santa Maria Novella soap for their bathroom, and make them feel special and welcome.
Photo of Bell’occhio courtesy of Paperpastries