The oldest pharmacy in Europe: A treasure hunt

When photos are strictly off limits for a location in Rome, you know it’s a gem. When you can only get in with a private booking, you feel this bougie privilege of being a polished traveler: your in-the-know cultural awareness has opened secret doors to an off the path location.

When I moved to Rome, I wanted to regain my Italian fluency. After years of teaching present tense verbs and maybe simple past tense (if I was lucky), I felt like my bilingualism would start to ebb if I did not do something about it. Hence the need to get out of a job that was spiritually burning me to the ground. When I left I was told non-native speakers were not allowed to teach senior Italian at high school. It crushed my dreams of studying hard to learn a foreign language to only be told that it was not my birthright to teach what I was trained, with a Masters degree, to do.

Joining full immersion Italian guided walking tours is my way of avoiding tourists. The tours are run by art historians and the people you meet are all Italian speakers (native and non). It also means really diving into more complex topics to refine my language skills.

The Antica Farmacia di Santa Maria della Scala had been on my list for a while. To find interesting places to visit, I plunge deep into a Google quagmire and unearth obscure lists of ‘cose insolite da fare a Roma’. Luckily for me, my housemate P had also been keen to see this hidden pearl and as soon as my usual historical club offered a tour, I booked us in.

Why is a pharmacy so bloody interesting?


1. The preserved chamelion inside a jar

2. The anti-plague medicine

3 . A person peering sneakily from a fresco

4. The medicine prescription “printer”

5. The portrait of San Basilio

6. A jar of leeches

7. Pieces of Ancient Roman Marble

8. Portraits of wealthy benefactors

9. Giant ampoules

10. A historical telephone


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