Antica Spezieria in Laterza

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The Antica Spezieria is located in the historical center of Laterza (via Chiesa).

Until 1999, it was unknown to everybody the existence of an old pharmacy of the sixteenth century. Its recent discovery has aroused amazement not only in the inhabitants of Laterza, but also in many pharmacists who, the 18th of May 1999, came from various cities to admire it1. We don't know why a place like this has been forgotten during history, we only know that the citizens of Laterza have accidentally discovered it in 1999, during some local works of restructuration.2.

Since the Renaissance, the “Spezieria” was a meeting place not only for doctors and pharmacists, but also for writers, scientists and politicians; in fact, the apothecary was often an university administrator. In the XVII century, the “Antica Spezieria” was administrated by the doctor Nicolò Maria Cristella3.


Facade of the Antica Spezieria, Laterza

The old pharmacy is one of the few (in the province of Taranto) to have been completely preserved in its architecture and its decorative sculptures and paintings4. A great attention can be given to the ledge above the doorway, supported on either side by two anthropomorphic figures. The blazon, in bas-relief, represents a shield with a roaring rampant lion holding a sword and a skull, both symbols of the battles won by the ancestors of Laterza.

Inside the pharmacy, there is a single room of about 40 square meters: the environment was heated by a fireplace topped by a mezzanine, once used as a spice container. It's important to precise that nowadays there's nothing inside the pharmacy and that the following pictures shows an exhibition which was held in summer 2015, in order to make people understand how the pharmacy was during the XVII century.


Interior room, Antica Spezieria

At the center of the pharmacy there was the work bench, while all around the room there were shelves with the jars and the "Albarelli" on them. On the work bench there were: a balance (to weigh spices), many stone mortars (useful to grind spices, prepare poultices and potions), botanical books, recipe books, herbs, flowers, glass bottles and many jars of various sizes.5.


Work Bench, Antica Spezieria


Various scales and mortars, Antica Spezieria


Albarelli wardrobe, Antica Spezieria

Related items

  • Main text by Vito Russo and Vito Antonio Quartulli (January 2016)
  • Photos by Vito Russo @ (December 2015)


  • Raffaella Bongermino, La memoria ritrovata: Strutture e attività sanitarie a Laterza nei secoli XVI-XVII, Antonio Dellisanti Editore, Massafra (TA) 2007, pp.109.

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