The history of the pharmacy

Man has always sought in nature remedies that could heal or alleviate symptoms and ailments found in everyday life and this practice soon became an art that embraced philosophy, the physical sciences, botany and, naturally, alchemy.

Pharmacies draw on the knowledge they have built up over the centuries to help people find solutions for their health and beauty needs.

Pharmacies have always combined tradition with innovation.

From ancient apothecaries to modern-day pharmacies.

With the advent of the industrial revolution, nineteenth-century apothecaries gradually evolved into pharmacies: the very first laboratories were set up at the back of the shop where they prepared medicines and they grew over the years to become the first pharmaceutical industries as we know them today.

How did the pharmacy evolve and what ties does it still have with its age-old tradition? In this video, Ernesto Riva, founder and President of Unifarco, explains it to us.

The Ancient Unifarco Pharmacy

Visitors to Unifarco can see a faithful reproduction of an ancient nineteenth-century pharmacy with its original furnishings and equipment, chosen by our experts and overseen by Ernesto Riva.

The Ancient Pharmacy is home to an extensive collection of medicines, instruments and formularies which were typically used by pharmacists in days gone by. Thanks to this collection, we are able to preserve, illustrate and teach about the art of the pharmacist.

biblioteca virtuale

Unifarco’s Virtual Library

A comprehensive collection of scientific writings, manuscripts and historical documents.

Works chronicling the history and secrets of the pharmacy - from its ancient origins to present day - can be found in Unifarco’s Virtual Library.

Learn more

Journal of the History of Pharmacy

“ATTI E MEMORIE, Journal of the History of Pharmacy”

“ATTI E MEMORIE” is the journal of the Italian Academy of the History of Pharmacy and has been published every four months since 1984. It was a pet project of Cristoforo Masino, a pharmacy historian and founder of the Academy who wanted to provide some kind of continuity for the scientific papers written by its members and make them available for scholars of the discipline. 

It is compiled and edited at Unifarco and sent free of charge to its members and pharmacy-clients, important libraries, faculties of pharmacy and anyone who requests it. 


Ancient Pharmacies of Italy.

A wealth of art, culture and science.

Over the centuries, many pharmacies in Italy have built up an invaluable collection of documents and instruments, as well as ceramics and furnishings, which not only provide an interesting insight into the pharmacy profession but also represent its cultural and artistic heritage.

Today, pharmacists throughout the country are the custodians of this great legacy, thanks to their Ancient Pharmacies of Italy.

Ancient Pharmacies of Italy

f santa fosca

Farmacia Santa Fosca

The Ponci Pharmacy at Santa Fosca, Venice is well-known among visitors, who seek out its refined atmosphere, which has been faithfully preserved as it was in the past.” This is how Pedrazzini described it in 1934, believing it to be the most distinguished of the original eighteenth-century pharmacies still in existence.

Learn more
Croce Bianca_Trieste

Farmacia Picciola alla Croce Bianca

The Picciola Pharmacy, renovated throughout and extended in 1989, has preserved its original atmosphere, even though its archives, collection of artwork and some of the shop fittings have been moved upstairs.

Learn more

Farmacia Antonio Corvi

The Corvi Pharmacy in Piacenza dates back to 1715, when a first master Antonio was elected member of the “College of Apothecaries” of the town.

Learn more
Al Duomo_Padova

Farmacia Al Duomo

The ancient apothecary’s shop is a landmark in Padua and a national monument. The historical apothecary’s shop “Al Pomo d'Oro” is located on the ground floor and is thought to date back to 1496.

Learn more

Farmacia Della Scaletta

The Scaletta pharmacy opened on 8 May 1766, after numerous attempts to give the Scaletta Hospital (founded in the 13th century) its own pharmacy.

Learn more

Farmacia Degli Incurabili

Left miraculously unscathed by the political and military upheaval Naples was subjected to, the Incurables Pharmacy is an outstanding example of the beautiful decorative tradition of the city.

Learn more