Postcards from Italy: an olfactive journey
It was 1786 when Johann Wolfgang von Goethe began his long tour through Italy.
No wonder it took him almost two years, because our Country is studded with so many cities and places that are really worth a stay. These sites are so inspiring, that many perfumers through the decades have devoted great efforts to capture the olfactive atmospheres that characterize Italy. Let’s take a ride!
Trentino is where you can feel the hug of the mountains around you, the perfect place for long and relaxing walks in nature, getting lost in the sweet and intense smell of fir wood, in the nectarine and inebriating notes of larches and in the intense ones of pine and amber. Everything is then surrounded by the moss, got humid by the lively streams. In winter, this smell invades the air typifying the holiday season atmosphere. In summer the scents of lawns are a pleasure for our noses. If you have ever tried Kaiserschmarrn with forest fruits and want to bring back that sweet memory, then this is the perfect place for you: strawberries, raspberries and blueberries reign supreme here If you are a SPA lover, you have certainly experienced the hay bath: you’ll remember that forever, together with the reassuring and calming scents of the essential oils used for aromatherapy...
Travelling southwards we arrive in Venezia, one of the most beautiful and colorful cities in the whole world, one of a kind! Its relationship with the Eastern world in the past helped spread the distinctive scent of Oriental spices on the streets mixed with the moist and salty odor of the canals. “Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go”, said Truman Capote.
Unique and many-sided city, industrious and frenzied, hated or loved, but always inspiring, that’s Milano. The sole relaxing moment is in the late afternoon, when the fashion district stops for sipping a fresh Campari. The bitter and dry notes of the cocktail mix and match to the hot sunset rays enjoyed from one of the many rooftops next to the Cathedral.
Let’s move southwest, in Liguria. Almost near France there is Savona, famous for Chinotto, also called Citrus myrtifolia. The flowers of this fruit smell subtler than the bitter orange tree flowers. If you happen to visit the city, surely you will experience the smell of the salty and marine notes which intertwine with the sour and bitter ones of this flower. The Chinotto fruit is appreciated in jams, candies and liquors, apart from the famous soft drink called, needless to say, Chinotto.
Genova leaves the impression of its harbor, of oil stains floating on the water surface, of the noisy boats going back and forth. It’s not a clean, pure sea scent. An image that’s literally miles away from Portofino – the legendary romantic village represented by luminous and sunny notes like Neroli, a true invitation to live joyfully.
Going southwards, we arrive in Versilia and here we can take a deep breath to smell crispy salty notes, together with the woody and aromatic ones of the sun beds of the old and legendary bathing establishments but there’s also a sweet undertone of suntan lotion, Forte dei Marmi beach is so close! This is the actual smell of the most iconic Italian holiday, of the first summer loves and the endless parties.
If we proceed towards the inland of Toscana, leaving behind the sea, everything turns greener and drier: the landscape is made by soft hills, with vineyards and olive groves, endless lavender fields, whose smell permeates every dwelling. The relaxing atmosphere, the good food and the smell of nature make us want to go back in our childhood when we ran free through them.
In the heart of Toscana lies Firenze, well known for its long-standing tanneries. Walking through the little alleys of this cornerstone of art, you can smell the distinctive odor of leather coming from the leather shops and spreading out throughout the city, intertwining with the solemn smell of marble sculptures. Craft and art live together creating a timeless atmosphere.
Let’s proceed a bit further. Roma – that wasn’t built in a day, as we all know – has so many contradictions and faces, it’s impossible to tell a definitive smell. Roma has the smell of eternal beauty, in which old scents like the notes of lichen on crumbling rock of the Forum and the Coliseum, blend with the sparkling, intense and seductive ones of "The Great Beauty" nights. If you move through the old town to the hills you will be surrounded by the nature notes: the scent of Maritime pines bark, the inebriating and sweet notes of Jasmine especially in a warm day, and the pleasant fresh notes of maritime wind. But if you walk along Trastevere, you’ll smell the freshly baked bread, the dark sugar and the croissants.
Now it’s time to feel and smell the most Mediterranean, sunny and warm part of Italy. Capri is the sunniest and most stylish Italian city. Close your eyes and let yourself be overwhelmed by the smell of the sea salt, by the fresh and juicy perfume of lemons and by the elegant and delicate notes of typical bougainvillea.
If Italy is boot-shaped, Puglia is its heel. Here, the sea is a dream, but the inland has a very specific aroma, represented by the impressive quantity of oaks, cypresses and cedar trees. How not to mention the fennel, a real celebrity here, with its sweet, herbaceous and stinging notes. Don't forget to try it with the sensational tarallos when you will come by here.
Calabria is Bergamot’s cradle: a special and crispy citrus that has a sunny, sweet aroma with notes of sourness and acidity. But for information’s sake we must also remember that this Italian region is renowned for liquorice too, a gourmandise we can enjoy every time we like in Rossano Calabro, homeland of this delicacy.
Now, the two islands. Sardegna has a typical aromatic smell, the one arriving from myrtle bushes, from which mirto liqueur is made. Even the lentisco, an evergreen shrub, contributes to create a resinous, woody and somehow sensual and cosy scent.
Last but absolutely not least, Sicilia is possibly the sweetest island. Known all over the world for the hypnotic smell of its oranges, the reputed almonds of Val di Noto, the irresistible pistachios in Bronte, the perfect perfumed postcard could be represented by honeysuckle mixed with powdery and gourmand fragrances, typical of the countryside of the island.
That’s what Italy smells like. Not a single fragrance, but a real collection. And that’s the ultimate ‘travel kit’ or, even better, ‘discovery set’; because indeed, as Goethe wrote, "We are all pilgrims who seek Italy".
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