Saturday, June 30, 2007

Reflections on Italy: Rome

Nothing could be more diametrically opposed to the warm embrace I experienced in Taormina than the sensory onslaughts of Rome. Just as I thought I had adjusted nicely to the time change and various cultural differences, Mr. TMH256 and I arrived in the ancient city filled with so much life and activity it deafened me at first. Slowly and painfully I came to appreciate all that the historically rich city had to offer. From the San Clemente Basilica to the Colosseum and Vatican City, we packed as much sight-seeing in our three days there as two people possibly can without collapsing. (Actually, I did nearly collapse from the heat and the crowds on our second day!) If you have not yet been to Rome and you like to travel, it most certainly should be on your list of "must see" cities. I am thankful to say that I have been there and yet I have no desire to go back, at least not in June.

Because we were there during prime tourist season and it was oppressively hot, I characterize Rome as harsh, like a strict parent, unforgiving and cruel at times. Rome is most certainly masculine and it holds onto you with a painful force that won't let go. Everything about it is larger than life - the ancient ruins and architecture, the loud scooter noise, the cars that barely stop for pedestrians, the umpteen street vendors that approach you with such force you must nearly become violent to get rid of them, and the resilient people who call the city home. Rome demonstrates the alpha and the omega, the epicenter, if you will, of western civilization as we know it. Infinite literature has been published on the numerous ways in which Roman ideas have evolved to affect nearly every modern society. Suffice it to say that most of your daily routine has its origins in Rome. Even blogging on the internet correlates to the Roman notion of constructing meeting places for ideas and conversation.

Therefore, the fragrance that epitomizes this city has a lot to live up to. It must have significant history that has impacted the course of fragrance creation and it must be masculine and strong with a drydown that never lets go. After considering many possibilities, my choice is Guerlain Habit Rouge. It hails from one of the best perfume houses in existence and it has been described as "a beast of a scent" with its powerful opening, "ahead of its time" yet classic, enduring and unique. Fitting for Rome? Certainly!

Incidentally, for the full three days that we toured Rome, I wore Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta, the only scent I had with me that was soft and refreshing enough to combat the heat and harshness that surrounded me. I plan to review it in more depth this week.

Image sources - SPQR (initials of the Latin phrase referring to the government of ancient Rome); Habit Rouge

Friday, June 29, 2007

Reflections on Italy: Taormina

After a very busy week of work and a sense of overwhelming gratitude to finally be home, I am now ready to discuss the nuances of our Italian trip of a lifetime. My biggest challenge lies in trying to describe the thousands of sights, sounds and sensations we experienced over the course of eighteen days. However, what better tool to describe the details of each city than to take an idea I had prior to our departure: identify the fragrance that characterizes each city.

Our first destination was Taormina - an exquisitely beautiful, charming and emotionally inviting town built into cliffs on the east coast of Sicily. From the warm reception of our hostess Pina, to the delectable food and fantastic shopping, our experiences in Taormina remain my favorite portion of our trip. Taormina offered me a warm embrace as I recovered from jet lag and conditioned myself to cultural differences of Italy.

The day I discovered the fresh deliciousness of a Caprese sandwich (tomato, mozzarella, basil, oregano and olive oil on warm Italian bread), I also discovered the motherload of all perfume shops. Settled into Via Umberto Corso, the shopping mecca of Taormina, and very close to a basilica, lies a charming little shop called Narcisse. The owner Alessandra is a beautiful and intelligent woman and wisely stocks the most niche of all fragrances. As the rows upon rows of high end perfume bottles lay before me in this most unexpected of places, my jaw dropped and my mind churned in anticipation of what I would find there. Upon my first visit, all I could do was stare and wander, overwhelmed by the intriguing collection, including Acqua di Parma, Annick Goutal, Creed, Dyptique, Etro, Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier, Molinard, Penhaligon's, Serge Lutens and more! After digesting the information in front of me, I left to consult friends on what I should purchase. I returned a few days later when Alessandra was working and she helped me to uncover a few new loves: Nasomatto Absinthe and MPG Soie Rouge. I purchased the Absinthe, figuring I would not be able to readily find it in the USA. I have not been disappointed with it so far.

Perhaps my love of Taormina has a little to do with the discovery of Narcisse, but not entirely. Taormina offered warm days lounging in the sun, shopping, and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea followed by dazzling nights of fantastic food, charming music, friendly locals and interesting events. Italians from "the boot" travel to Taormina to vacation so it truly epitomizes relaxation and offers majestic views. To characterize it, I must pick a comfort scent - one that is warm and friendly yet exciting, full of life and abundance. I cannot forget the "lemons on steroids" that I dubbed while we passed the local market, so the fragrance of Taormina must incorporate a citrus note as well. My choice is Annick Goutal Les Nuits d'Hadrien, my perfect citrus-y yet warm comfort scent. With an intoxicating combination of invigorating citrus, resilient cypress, energizing juniper and comforting vanilla and amber, Les Nuits d'Hadrien fits quite well. If only I could intersperse my work days with lunchtime in Taormina and a Caprese sandwich, life would be grand!

Image sources: Taormina post card -; my own photo of me standing outside Narcisse

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I Profumi di Firenze Terra di Siena

Mr. TMH here...

My smokin' hot wife and I have just returned from our vacation in Italy. We had many great times and we definitely made eternal memories. I was excited to watch Italy through her eyes and I continually was amazed at her strength and patience during what seemed at times an uphill battle. (Tutto tranquillo!)

I could go on about our wonderful trip but that is not why I came on here tonight. TMH256 has asked me to review Terra di Siena by I Profumi di Firenze. As she mentioned in a previous post, we traveled to Florence on Tuesday June 19. We were in search of I Profumi di Firenze. We stopped at several stores, asking where we could find this line of perfume (acqua odorosa = odorous water!) No one had ever heard of it. Strange, I thought. Being in "Firenze" I was certain we could find the "profumi" part without too much trouble. We temporarily abandoned our search and started to view the city's landmarks. We were in Piazza della Signoria (in picture) minding our own business when we came upon by mere coincidence the one and only shop in Florence that sells this exclusive line! Erboista apparently means "jackpot" in Florentine Italian!

I sniffed like Robin Williams on speed, going bottle by bottle. It became evident that nearly all of the scents were for females. I was at the very least enjoying reading the names on the bottles...when, in an unfocused moment, I sniffed Terra di Siena. Santa Cleopatra!!!
Hello new favorite scent! I have searched high and low for the notes but no luck. I can say, from my very amateur perspective, that Terra di Siena is very light and very floral with a hint of citrus. Since you can't buy it here in the states and the chances of you getting mine are about as good as getting Dick Cheney to smile, maybe this will help: imagine Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme as a non-smoker. It struck me immediately as being very close to it without the tobacco. It's one of those scents that will always remind me of Italy. This is definitely a scent that can go both ways but if a man is to wear it he must be very confident in his persona and he must wear it because HE likes it first; not to impress anyone else (that comes naturally). You see, I'm convinced that as a man becomes more confident his skin undergoes a chemical reaction, that when blended with Terra di Siena, becomes irresponsibly charming. I sprayed this while we were in the store and throughout the day, combined with a bit of perspiration from my skin, this scent did not fade in the least.

So, what sort of outfit do I imagine wearing with this scent? An Italian suit, classy tie that most American men would say doesn't go with the shirt and suit, with one of those REALLY wide European knots, too. Dark brown shoes that make lots of noise when I walk because they're Italian and they have leather bottoms. Nice watch and briefcase because Terra di Siena is important and has to be places. This scent is disarming to others, mood-altering if you will.

The only bad news: I lost about 3ml on the plane due to the rough handling of my luggage.
Quei bastardi!

Bologna Contest Winner

Thank you all for your beautiful entries regarding the fragrance that Bologna would wear. Although there were many great and thought-provoking suggestions, I am pleased to announce the very deserving winner: Lindabd! Anne Pliska is a perfect fit - tart, sassy, strong and enduring yet distinctly feminine. Lindabd, you are in for a treat.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Green, Green Grass of Home

Well, hello ladies and gents!! I have finally returned to the good ole' US of A and I am ecstatic to be here. Italy was fantastic, beautiful, delicious, historic, more than I expected and yet incredibly challenging, frustrating and irritating. I now have a greatly expanded appreciation for simple creature comforts that so many of us Americans take for granted - things like air conditioning, wide open spaces, large cars, reasonably sized showers, and kind service people. Most of all, I am glad to again be surrounded by the only language I truly understand, English.

Thank goodness for my husband who speaks fluent Italian beautifully, we were able to cover lots of ground and discover many incredible sights, eat great food and ... you guessed it ... sniff lots of fragrances! We each made some important additions to our collections. For me, i Profumi di Firenze Caterina de Medici, Spezie de Medici and Talco Delicato, as well as a new discovery, Nasomatto Absinthe. For him, i Profumi di Firenze Terra di Siena and Serge Lutens Gris Clair.

I will be back to post the winner of the Bologna Contest who will receive a decant of Nasomatto Absinthe! I will also review my new additions and Mr.TMH256 has promised a review as well. Thank you for your patience during our absence and please stay tuned while I decompress and face piles of mail and e-mail. As they say, reality hits like a sledgehammer!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Greetings from Florence!

I have three minutes left at an internet cafe so this will be short. We have had a most incredible vacation and I have been able to indulge my olfactory obsession quite often. Today's discovery: Spezierie Erboristerie Palazzo Vecchio - I was just there a few short minutes ago and tested nearly every I Profumi di Firenze fragrance ever made! I will share more on our return. Have a great and fragrant day.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bologna Contest

In honor of one of the cities we will be visiting, Mr. TMH's writing:


Bologna---distinctly female.

She’s not your elegant type, she’s
independent, that beautifully rough girl
in high school who played volleyball
and softball who’s not afraid to sweat or bleed.
She always wears loose clothes and
no make-up, seldom wears deodorant.
She's not concerned with your perception.

She's complex in character, her parents
divorced when she was young and
she was raised by the church.
She has difficulty trusting any man and she
keeps a thousand secrets and you
would die to know just one of them.

She frustrates you, disappoints you,
pushes you away with her attitude and strong arms.
And just when you’re ready to give up
and leave her, you see that beautiful city
slowly blink her brown eyes and
gracefully flip her coarse hair.

And only then do you realize she is a woman you will never
satisfy in any way; she asks only that you never leave her.

Dear readers, while I am away, I ask that you please identify the fragrance she wears and why. The winning entry will receive a generous decant of the scent I buy in Italy!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Parfumerie Generale Un Crime Exotique

Oh, the gloriousness of packets containing samples of newly released scents!! After a long day at work, I came home to find my Lucky Scent packet just begging me to open it and test the four new samples I ordered. The first of the four? Parfumerie Generale Un Crime Exotique.

Holy gingerbread, Batman! This spicy, gourmand scent will perfectly compliment the gift wrapping, decorating, cookie baking and shopping frenzy that is December. I would love to devour my wrist as I smell this scent. The top notes scream freshly frosted, slightly warm, still soft gingerbread cookies. Although I would like to say that the other notes make their appearance, mostly this scent sings the praises of gingerbread. For kicks, I will list the notes from Lucky Scent's website - Chinese osmanthus, tea, cinnamon, star anise, mate absolute, vanilla sugar, South Sea Island sandalwood. Did I mention gingerbread? Heh heh. If you like smelling of the festive spice, I am quite certain this scent will amaze you, from top to bottom.

I apologize for the shortness of this review. My head is elsewhere tonight, new samples and all. I am departing for Sicily in less than 48 hours. Although I do not anticipate having the ability to blog while I am on vacation, you never know when I will come across a fabulous new scent and/or an internet cafe. Please know that I am wishing all of you a very fragrant few weeks. I will miss your comments. And I will be back with more fuel for my writing than ever!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Laura Tonatto Ambrosia

When I hear the word ambrosia, I recall the multitude of picnics during my youth, where family or friends would add an ambrosia salad to the menu of grilled meat, chips and vegetables. Ambrosia was a mixture of fruit (the best ones included maraschino cherries), coconut and marshmallows. Having a powerful sweet tooth from a very young age, this "salad" (read dessert) was quite often my favorite dish. I would attempt to pile ridiculous amounts, more than my little body could possibly devour, onto my plate. Therefore, to this day, any item with ambrosia in its title garners my interest.

Laura Tonatto Ambrosia bears no resemblance whatsoever to my childhood memories. Rather, it is vastly more sophisticated. Its namesake refers to the opulent nectar of gods in Greek mythology. And its scent is developed using the finest ingredients from Grasse, France, the originating location of the art of perfume as we know it. This scent is truly a chameleon with a remarkably dynamic development, like the themes of ancient Greek comedies which gave ordinary, every day people a chance at better circumstances.

It begins with a startlingly realistic rose note, and a voluptuous red rose it is. This rose conjures romantic dozens of them, elegant and timeless, like those utilized quite often during courtship. It is zesty, green and a little sharp at first, softening to a creamy bouquet. Just as the wearer settles in and relishes being surrounded by rose petals, the vanilla and amber slowly make their appearance. The rose maintains a strong presence center stage, while vanilla plays a supporting role for quite a while. Subdued amber serves to gently warm up the fragrance like soft background lighting during a particularly dramatic scene. Ironically, sweet vanilla overtakes all others toward the end of our hypothetical comedy. With ladanum to anchor it, the vanilla note proceeds through its delightful monologue with languor and dreaminess.

Laura Tonatto Ambrosia will easily satisfy lovers of rose in fragrance. It bears a slight resemblance to Bond No. 9 West Side, with a little less amber and a lot more rose and it possesses the feminine, frilly qualities of Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose. If you like your rose straight up, Ambrosia may be a little too warm and vanillic. However, with its dynamic qualities and beautiful interplay of notes, this captivating scent certainly remains true to its name.

Laura Tonatto Ambrosia may be difficult to find online. I located one e-tailer, HQ Outlet Store, 100mL retails for £40.50 but I was not able to access an order form. The website is definitely worth a peek and tells the story of this creative line,

Image source: Rose -; Greek Amphitheatre near Taormina, Sicily -

Paris Sniffapalooza

If there were one time in my life I wish I could go on two back-to-back European vacations, now is the time. My curiosity piques, my imagination runs wild and my zest for life explodes just thinking about being a part of this event. The Paris Sniffapalooza has sold out and an additional three seats have been added recently!! Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend. This is a public service announcement for those lucky enough to have the time and the means to take part! The following is written by the Karen's regarding this amazing excursion:

"We've got a great group going on this trip, an eclectic and interesting mix. And if you've ever had even a glimmer of a thought about going to Paris to visit fragrance shops, meet perfumers, have special receptions at fragrance houses, traverse fragrance museums and discover, learn, and sniff your way around this fragrant city that is the heart of the art of perfumery, then this is the fragrance-immersion journey you want to take!!

Oh, and did we mention that some very special fragrance friends will be joining us--- we will be dining with Karl of Aedes de Venustus, Ulrich Lang of Parfums Ulrich Lang (Anvers!), and we are in conversation with Chandler Burr, Luca Turin, and perfumer Maurice Roucel, among others! We are currently collaborating with L'Artisan, Creed, Michele Meyer of The Fragrance Foundation in France, Isabelle Dufour of IPSICA (the fragrance school near Versailles), Sabine Chabbert of Beyond Beauty/Cosmetic Executive Women - France, OsMoz, Firmenich, and Guerlain. Additionally, we're working on plans with Caron, Diptyque, Miller et Bertaux, Serge Lutens, Miller Harris, Parfums de Rosine, Fragonard (including their exquisite museum!), Montale, Molinard, Chanel, Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier, Annick Goutal and some newer niche houses, including MDCI and Crazy Libellule. Department stores we will be getting exclusive visits with include Printemps and Bon Marche.

Other extraordinary activities are a day trip to Versailles, the fragrance museum Osmotheque, and a private visit to IPSICA. Our itinerary also includes stops at Colette, that cutting-edge emporium of design and style, Mariage Freres, the incredible tea shop, a dinner cruise on Les Bateaux Mouches, and we will try and stuff in as much art, fine food, chocolate and wine as we can!"

Should you need more information, please log onto the offical Sniffapalooza website. Appréciez!

Image source: