No Penguins in Florence (

By:Jason Rhodes
Date: Saturday, March 01, 2008

Um... Stella asked me to drop by and let you all know that she and Sophia have been out shopping all week, so there won't be a column today.

Unfortunately for me, Stella's marathon shopping trips usually include a visit to the Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella in Florence, one of the oldest apothecaries in the world. Established in the 13th century as an extension of the coded church of Santa Maria Novella, the monks developed the herbal distillations and perfumes that are still on sale today. Conveniently, there is a Santa Maria Novella shop in London, and also one in Los Angeles, but Stella says that the atmosphere just isn't the same. Hence the extended shopping pilgrimage to Florence.

For those who are interested in these things, there is a treatise in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence written by the Dominican monk Agostino del Riccio in 1595, entitled Arte delle Memoria Locale, which explains the coding of Santa Maria Novella based on the zodiacal asterisms underpinning the gnomonic alignments in many of the older churches that Stella lights candles in.

Anyway, it was the monks of Santa Maria Novella who developed a special perfume for Catherine di Medici, originally called Eau de Reine, which the shops still sell. Anyone who has been to Stella's house knows that it is absolutely stuffed with SMN soaps, potpourri, and other potions created from the flowers and herbs grown on hills surrounding Florence and made to the 13th century monks' original formulas. The Pomegranate soap is blissful.

In fact, Stella gave Margaret Starbird a special sachet of Santa Maria Novella potpourri as a token when they had tea in London last autumn.

So hopefully she and Soph will get back soon, otherwise you'll be stuck with these scintillating missives from me. I wouldn't count on it, though, as they sounded awfully hung over when they called.

I guess girls will be girls...

Newton Coordinate:- St David's Day, March 1st, from atop the San Andreas Fault.