The Ercole d’Oro Pharmacy
The Ercole d’Oro Pharmacy is a spectacular example of the few remaining Venetian “spezieria” of the 17-18th century; well worth a visit.
The “All’Ercole d’Oro” (At the Golden Hercules), is located close to the church of Santa Fosca, in Cannaregio. Here, you can fully appreciate and marvel at what this important apothecary, looked like at the time.
The Venetian Republic was famous for its advanced healthcare system, which included the establishment of Public Health Officers and the creation of the first lazzaretti (plague hospitals). Apothecaries, were also an important element of this system and traces of their ancient activity can still be found around the city.
The Ercole d’Oro Pharmacy, now forms part of the premises of the “Merchant of Venice” perfumery company; that provides hand-crafted perfumes and sensory experiences.
You can admire the painted ceiling, the exquisite furniture with reliefs and sculptures, the drawers with apothecary inscriptions, the pottery jars, as well as an interesting depiction of drug-making, on a wooden plaque commemorating the renovation of the 18th century.
A recent restoration has preserved the baroque charm, but has stripped away the old dark patina and revealed the beautiful warm glow of the walnut fittings. All the pottery jars were made in Bassano and the wooden scultures have been attributed to Francesco Pianto, a pupil of Brustolon.
The Speziera was at the time, frequented by learned patricians, clergy and scholars; being used as a meeting-place for conversation and intellectual discussion.
Specialising in the preparation of unusual medicines and potions, it had its own “sala dei veleni” or poisons room. Here, rare herbs, potions, spices and compounds; often from the East, were stored.
The Ercole d’Oro Pharmacy – RENOWNED PREPARATIONS
The “spezier da medicine”, had everything they needed for production. Some of the products were so important to Venetian trade and export, that not all pharmacies were licensed by the state for their production; in order to maintain quality and reputation.
- Santa Fosca purgative pills (“pillule dei piovan”), a laxative preparation was renowned for its effectiveness and said to have been concocted by a local priest (piovan). They were said to be still sold, up to 1975.
- Scorpion Oil (“Olio di Scorpione”), used to trat wounds; was produced by soaking around a hundred live scorpions in two litres of olive oil.
- Mitridato, a concoction of herbs and “castoreum“; an oily extract from the sexual glands of a beaver.
- Teriaca, was a divine potion to “cure all evils”, was produced by apothecaries under license from the Venetian State. At the time, out of the ninety apothecaries in Venice, only about forty were licensed to produce it under strict rules. The license holders who were known as “teriacanti”, made the potion on the street in bronze cauldrons; carefully watched by the public and state officials. The production of “Teriaca”, was considered to be a noble art; meaning Apothecaries could marry into Patrician families.
Opening times of the Ercole d’Oro Pharmacy:
Monday – Saturday: 9:00 – 13:00 and 15:00 – 19:30
Sunday: 10:30 – 13:00 and 15:00 – 18:30
Please see my related post on “Potions and Medicines”: