With Giulia Elena Trentini, BSc student at that time, we began a research by consulting hundreds of ancient manuscripts “buried” in a lot of historical archives of our lands.

What is that about?
They are ancient papers that report “healing” remedies, handed down in the family from generation to generation. The texts examined cover a time-span of about three hundred years (1300-1600 ca.), are written in vernacular or in Latin, and must be interpreted: for what are the commonly used abbreviations (which vary according to the time of writing), for the units of measurement (which vary for liquids and solids, as well as for age and area), and above all for the spelling. They talk about remedies based on herbs and local stories, they talk about people, men, women, old people, children, who lived here many years ago before us, who walked on this same earth, on these streets, they breathed this air , they cried, laughed, and from those papers they whisper pains, joys, feelings, stories of life, of death …

And from those papers, in addition to the thrill of touching and reading them, unexpected knowledge emerged at the therapeutic, veterinary and domestic level: from the plaster for children’s scratches to the compress for breast fissures, from whitening toothpaste, to rejuvenating creams for the skin of the hands. And the brilliant intuitions of extreme topicality are striking: the virtues of snail slime as an anti-wrinkle were already known, or of the “tears of the vine” as a beauty elixir.

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Among the many recipes, we collected those concerning face and body care. We translated them, compared them when they were reported several times over the centuries, we evaluated the variations of the ingredients over time based on use and experience, and brought them back to the present day in full respect of the original idea and spirit. And to a dozen of these we have given them back their lives … ..

Below we report an example.

Per far unto da tette
Oglio rosato completo
once 3
Oglio d’ipericon completo
once 3
Cera bianca _ _ _ _ once 3
Butiro, chè nò habbia toc-
cato aqua _ _ _ _ once 3
Si mescola ogni cosa insieme, et si lava à nove aque, che

fà un’untione bianca bonissima a la tetta

Several parts of the recipe were controversial when an attempt was made to reproduce the drug. The main listed ingredients are whole rose oil, hypericum oil, white wax, and butter “that has not touched water”. It is written to mix the solid/liquid ingredients (how? all together? is there an order? in liquid form? solid?) together and wash “with nine (nove, which means nine, but in italian can also mean new) waters”. Thus? Nine times? Or once, but with new (that could mean clean) water? But above all: what are you supposed to wash?!

Rosa spp.
Oil resulting from the maceration of rose petals and leaves. Currently, the flowers are used in the treatment of stomatitis; in ancient times leaves and flowers were used for various indications including fever, cold and biliary disorders

Hypericum perforatum L.
The flowered tops or the entire aerial part of St. John’s wort are used, the oil obtained from the maceration of the flowers has been used since ancient times for the treatment of burns and wounds.

After the addition of the non-vegetable components, everything is mixed under heat (water bath) until the solid material is completely melted

The resulting cream is solid and stringy, and it has little ointment. It was considered appropriate, as tradition teaches, to add water to help create an emulsion. After adding water, it was immediately clear how the ointment needed hydration to be such; once the emulsion was created, the excess water was slowly released. And then, even that accent on à in the text of the original recipe (et si lava à nove aque) reveals its meaning, while the author seems to smile at you as he says: “Well done, you finally got it!”. The significance of the sentence becomes clear: the accent acquires the sense of elision, that is: “wash away from the new water “.