Biagio Santoro: the first pharmacist of Vomero

by Leonardo Quagliuolo

When you pass through via Cimarosa, in particular in front of number 80, among imposing historic buildings and trees with a hundred years each, try to go back in time, with your mind, and imagine, right there, the first pharmacy built in the neighborhood Vomero, at the beginning of the 20th century.

A commercial activity that, in addition to the primacy sanctioned by the opening, was in itself a real one point of reference for the inhabitants of the area and it is an important piece of the puzzle that built the identity of the Vomero district at the time.

Biagio Santoro: il primo farmacista del Vomero
Vintage advertising of the first pharmacy in Vomero, "San Francesco". From: "Il Vomero, history and stories”By Antonio La Gala

The pharmacist: Biagio Santoro

Born in 1873, in Altamura, from a wealthy family. After his high school studies, he moved to study chemistry atUniversity of Naples, after which he embraced the profession of pharmacist. Same in Naples, he met Clorinda Lammoglia, whom he would later marry and from whom he had thirteen children.

farmacia vomero biagio santoro
Doctor Biagio Santoro, pharmacist from Vomero, in a vintage photo

He and his family moved into the newborn quarter Vomero and precisely in the place that in those years he was seeing the rise of villas liberty of great engineers and architects like Adolfo Avena, Gioacchino Mellucci and Stanislao Sorrentino. They took up a house at number 84, right in front of the Chiaia funicular and within walking distance of Vanvitelli square and from the ancient Haas villa.

And in that same building, at number 80, it opened the first pharmacy that the neighborhood remembers. Biagio bought, in the following years, a laboratory in via Bonito and invested in an ice cream shop, on the same street from home.

piatto gelateria Biagio Santoro
A dish from Dr. Biagio Santoro's ice cream parlor.

The first pharmacy in Vomero

Biagino", So nicknamed by the patrons of his business and friends, inaugurated the"Pharmacy San Francesco“, So called because Biagio Santoro was very devoted to the famous saint, as well as frequent visitor to the church of San Francesco, still located in via Aniello Falcone, at the foot of the stairs leading to via Luca Giordano. In fact, moved by the devotion to the humble saint and by the generosity that characterized him, annually organized a large table set for the less well-off of the areas adjacent to the district, at the time still mostly rural.

farmacia vomero biagio santoro
The Santoro Pharmacy in a vintage poster.

Biagio Santoro's pharmacy soon became one fundamental stage for the then little nourished but growing number of inhabitants of the Vomero and also of the neighboring places, in fact, among the most regular customers there was Romualdo Scherillo, doctor and mayor of the small town of Soccavo, at the time still not included in the city limits . Furthermore, Biagio himself, a good and helpful man, did not refuse to provide health care when it was possible for him to leave the shop.

The San Francesco pharmacy had become an important meeting place for the inhabitants, as well as to collect the prescribed drugs and to ask the pharmacist for advice on what to do to treat their ailments, also to have a chat in friendship with the affable owner and to discuss business. It was like a village club, in a neighborhood not yet fully integrated into the dynamics of the rest of the city. She had also received awards at international exhibitions, which earned her the adjective "award-winning" on advertising posters.

Biagio Santoro abitazione e farmacia
In this building, on the first floor, there was the residence of Biagio Santoro. Immediately below, the premises of his pharmacy.

The was also a frequenter Cavalier Donnorso, which he later founded "Circle for the interests of Vomero“, Which soon constituted an alternative meeting place for business discussions.

Also noteworthy is the figure of Clorinda, wife of Biagio, who contributed no less than her husband to making her family a pillar of the nascent Vomerese company, thanks to her active participation in society: with an eye towards the less well-off, especially women who, like her, had had many children, he founded a committee dedicated specifically to them, which soon gained notoriety. She and her committee, in fact, took part in the baptism of Maria Pia of Savoy, to whom they also donated a cradle made of precious materials.

Biagio Santoro: il primo farmacista del Vomero
Medal-favor celebrating the baptism of Maria Pia di Savoia, given to Clorinda Lammoglia as president of the committee for large families.

With the advent of the Second World War, part of the Santoro family moved out of Naples to save their life from the numerous bombings that tormented the city and its inhabitants in those terrible years. Biagio remained to carry out, however he saw his residence ransacked by German soldiers.

Biagio Santoro died in 1951, at the age of 78, later a life dedicated to his work and to the people of his neighborhood. As for the pharmacy, the premises were sold and this first underwent a change of management and then a definitive closure. The various activities that have taken place have never equaled the symbol of aggregation and dedication that was the San Francesco pharmacy.

-Leonardo Quagliuolo

I thank Manuela Santoro, descendant of Dr. Biagio Santoro, for pointing out this interesting story to me and for providing me with useful material.

For more:

The Vomero capital of Naples“, By Gastone Bellet

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