Monday, July 02, 2007

Reflections on Italy: Florence

When I reviewed Tocca Florence, I did my best to describe the fragrance's namesake without experiencing the charms of the city. Some of the words I used include artistic, intellectual, spiritual, charismatic and cultured. After spending the day there just a few short weeks ago, I second those adjectives and I add beautiful, classy, sophisticated and historical.

As Mr.TMH and I walked the streets and photographed the beautiful architecture, I said to him, "This is like Rome without all of the hassle." One of the most charming aspects of Florence are a few cobblestoned walkways and streets that don't permit vehicles. It creates a sort of oasis protecting tourists from noise and air pollution, giving them ample energy and ability to shop and enjoy the charms of the city. Thus, Florence caters to tourists very well. I even enjoyed an American breakfast there! And yet, I did not buy what you would expect to buy in Florence. Most are drawn to Fendi, Bvlgari, Dolce & Gabbana and the like, as well as the infinite amount of jewelry and paper products. (Tip: Do not buy expensive jewelry in Florence if you can avoid it. It is marked up much higher than you will find in Bologna, just a train ride away.)

As my husband wrote last week, we were on a quest for the bulk of the morning to find i Profumi di Firenze. Much to our dismay, none of the sales associates at department stores or commercial "perfumeries" had any idea to what we were referring when we asked where to find them. As we strolled through Piazza della Signoria, an herbal shop caught my eye and I mentioned we should go in there. He said, "No, that's just an herb shop" so we continued exploring the Piazza. As we passed it a second time, I said, "I know you think it's an herb shop but I must go in there. It looks really interesting." Funny how our stories differ! Lo and behold, there we found ourselves in front of the i Profumi di Firenze altar of scent! My husband's story is accurate from here. ;-)

Something about testing this historic line in Florence allowed me to revisit scents I had passed on at other times. The three that I have added to my collection include Talco Delicato, Spezie di Medici and Caterina de Medici, all unique and interesting in their own right.

To select a fragrance that defines this city is perhaps the most difficult of all cities in Italy. Florence is so charismatic that I struggle even giving it a persona. What persists in my mind after exploring it and reading an incredible novel, The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant, are its rich art work, original literature and political influence. A lush, romantic, powerful and feminine city, Florence defies a unilateral lable. And yet, if I must, I will describe it with the following fragrance: Caterina de Medici - partly because both the fragrance and Caterina originate there, but also because the fragrance notes are dynamic, feminine and lush. The following description is from C.O. Bigelow's website: "Exquisite ambrosial floral bouquet, named for its benefactress and faithfully replicated from the 16th century secret formula. Deliciously lush, its floral elegance evokes all that is luxurious and royal. Timeless beauty, day or night. Damascus Rose, Lily of the Valley, Iris of Florence (the City’s symbol) ." Good enough. I adore Florence and must go back.

Image source: "Dante and Beatrice", 1883 by Henry Holiday from This amazing artwork holds significance for us. My husband has oft compared me to Beatrice after studying Dante during his PhD coursework. We even (poorly) tried to duplicate the painting when we were in Florence, sans the costumes! Dante's literature had significant influence on Florentine history.


Anonymous said...

Hi, T! I'm enjoying your descriptions of the cities you visited! I'm hoping to get to Florence next summer for "the sniffa." :) It will be fun to try to envision Florence next time I sniff Caterina, too! Rome sounds chaotic; I think the more laid back cities seem more my style. Keep 'em coming!

ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...

Good Morning Linda!

Oh, please tell me about the sniffa! Is it a European tour? The more I think about it, the more Caterina fits Florence, really. It's just such an elegant city. You're right about Rome, controlled chaos for sure. You would adore Taormina as well, if you like laid back. ;-)

Have a great day! Your packet is going out Thursday so be on the lookout.


Anonymous said...

The Florance sniffa is apparently in the works by the Sniffapalooza folks! No details yet, but it should be similar to the trip to Paris they're about to take. Wouldn't both of those be fun?!

And thank you so much for the upcoming Italian packet!! I'll be very eagerly watching my mailbox!!

I think DH and I will be sniffing around in Sdale today. I'll let you know if we discover anything new! Happy 4th to you!