Florence, the renaissance city is a great place to visit if you are interested in this period of human history as well as the arts. Small and compact the city can be walked with ease. Hiring a bicycle to tour its cobbled streets is another popular way to see the sights and explore the artisan leather makers, paper and ink craftsman and antique traders dotted throughout the city. Many luxury brands use local expertise to make their prêt-a-porter collections. Forty-five minutes outside of Florence, The Mall, a village of designer outlets set in the Tuscan hills is an excellent place for bargain hunting if you have a taste for discounted wears by Dior, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and many more. Cultural activities include visits to the gothic Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo), the medieval Ponte Vecchio that was constructed during imperial Roman rule. Renaissance art fans will enjoy the museums Florence has, which display works by Michelangelo and Raphael. Culinary fans can take advantage of the many cooking courses Tuscany offers in traditional Italian cooking.
My scent adventure started at the Officina Profumo- Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. I have used their products before and have always had an interest in visiting the original apothecary, one of the world’s oldest perfumeries. For a detailed account, click here.
The following day I made my way past the Ponte Vecchio to meet Florentine Perfumer, Lorenzo Villoresi. His Atelier, nestled amongst the rooftops that overlook the Arno River is a slice of Tuscan magic. We discussed his creative process and approach to bespoke perfumes. For a detailed account, click here.
Walking through Florence there are numerous perfume sellers to discover ranging from corner pharmacies carrying a dusty collection of forgotten classics to new boutiques specialising in the ‘niche’. After my meeting with Lorenzo Villoresi I made my way to the Ortigia boutique. Close to the Ponte Vecchio and not far from the peaceful Boboli gardens, Ortigia is a small operation created in 2006 by an English, Italian couple. The Sicilian house offers a range of Mediterranean scents that are traditional themes with a modern edge. Their Melograno fragrance is an interesting interpretation of pomegranate with woody, Cedramber notes.
Borgo San Jacopo 12, Florence
Within Florence’s luxury precinct is Olfattorio. A nice example of perfume retailing Olfattorio houses an excellent range of perfumes. The Different Company, L’Artisan Parfumeur, L.T Piver and Diptyque are some of the better-known offerings. With six stores in major Italian cities this Florentine boutique is an impressive symbol of their capability and is larger than the boutique in Rome. I like their perfume metaphor connecting the sampling of perfumes to tasting champagne. In place of generic paper smelling strips the boutique offers branded paper cups that stand in Perspex holders, creating the silhouette of a crystal champagne flute.
Via de’ Tornabuoni, 6, Florence
Cutting through the narrow streets of Florence, Profumeria Elisir was a chance discovery on my way to the Piazza del Duomo. Not many perfume retailers can claim their ceiling art is a 17th century fresco. The post renaissance space was rebuilt by Gherardo Silvani during the first half of the seventeenth century and houses a comprehensive collection of fragrances from brands such as Byredo, Lorenzo Villoresi, Miller Harris, Nez a Nez, Montale, Profumi Del Forte and Boadicea the Victorious. I met with Daniela who was looking after the store that day. A beautiful Florentine woman, she juggles working in the perfumery with work as a kitchen hand for a local chef. Eager to share the boutique’s wonders I was encouraged to gorge myself on testers. Communicating with a mix of English, Italian and Spanish we stumbled through the store leaving a trail of smelling strips in our wake. Half way through the store and a well-dressed Florentine man enters. Grey suit and cognac oxfords this man is elegantly presented. I encourage her to serve him to allow me time to discover the store for myself but also to observe the way Florentine men buy fragrance. He is decisive and confident, quickly pinpointing two Montale fragrances as potential purchases. With some persuasion he soon leaves carrying with him a new scent. Daniela mentions to me he is a well-known politician in Florence. I can see she is star struck and I ask what he purchased. It is one of the more feminine Montale and I am surprised to discover he is buying for himself. I love this sense of adventure and confidence Italian men have in their choice of fashion and perfume. With time to consider while Daniela was occupied with the Florentine politician, I too decide I want to add a bottle of Montale to my collection. After sampling their extensive oud wood collection I decide I would like Aoud Lime. A scent of crystalline roses warmed with saffron this is a welcome change from the resinous leather ouds that are popular today. I am also interested in the fragrance French interior designer and architect Andree Putman has created. It is called Preparation Parfumee and is a fresh, light, unisex scent. Authored by famed nose Olivia Giacobetti, the scent was created in 2001 and has notes of driftwood, grey pepper, water lily and coriander leaves. While it is certainly a noteworthy scent, I decide I am happy with one bottle of Montale, Aoud Lime. The days of collecting fragrances that are like blank sheets of white A4 copy paper are over and I am in search of something more. I pay for my purchase and bid farewell to Daniela. Her genuine warmth is much appreciated. Two hours later I am on the train to Rome.
Profumeria Elisir, Borgo degli Albizi, 70, Florence