Antica spezieria di San Giovanni

Just behind the Cathedral is the historic Speziera di San Giovanni, the pharmacy that belonged to the Benedictine Monastery; it is first mentioned in 1201 documents but probably dates even further back than that. It was run by the monks until 1766 when, by decree of the Prime Minister of the Bourbon Court, Guillaume Du Tillot (1711-1774), it was secularized and opened to the public. It remained active until 1896 when, upon the death of Luigi Gardoni, the last pharmacist, it closed down. Saved from demolition and now turned into a museum, it preserves, in an extraordinarily fascinating and evocative environment, the decorations of the vaults, the original 17th and 18th century wooden furniture by the wood-carver Alessandro Vandoni, and a rich array of vases, instruments and pharmacological texts. Herbs, spices and extracts were prepared in the laboratory, which was equipped with a well. The door to the cellar is decorated with a Latin epigraph intimating not to loiter among the wine barrels so as to avoid becoming unsteady on one’s feet. In spite of the numerous herb preparations, diet remained one of the main treatments available to doctors until the 19th century.