Photo courtesy of Pitti Fragranze
Florence, like a fine and beloved fragrance, is above all else a sensual and emotional experience. Something about a subtle blend of orange blossoms, hibiscus flowers, and geranium notes wafts on the gentlest of breezes from the surrounding hills, meanders along the Arno among the tiled roofs of Renaissance splendor, and leads ineluctably to a place of trance-like dreams and memories. So, it’s not surprising that Pitti Fragranze (9 to 11 September 2016) with its more than 270 artistic niche perfume brands from around the world, attracts an intensely dosed draught of irredeemable perfumistas and dreamers to its alleys and ways each September. And like these dreamers, I’ve returned to Pitti Fragranze every year since I first inhaled its rare and inebriating ether 5 years ago.
Whether experienced from the intimate balcony of a rooftop studio overlooking the Duomo, a family owned palazzo within steps of the Officina Profumo – Farmaceutica of Santa Maria Novella, or, as I sit now, on the bowered terrace of the Hotel Tornabuoni Beacci, Florence is a transformative experience, where even the most mundane of moments become the stuff of legend.
Immediately upon crossing the Alps on the Air France-Alitalia flight from Paris, I know I’m entering another world. Even at altitude the curves of green Tuscan hills are unapologetically voluptuous, as they flaunt their stately palazzos, ordered olive groves, and the provocative sparkle of a river.
Only moments after touch down, it seems, I’m so distracted by the music of my taxi driver’s voice as he chats incessantly on his cell phone to various lovers (certainly!), that it’s only when he raises his voice and turns around in his seat that I realize he’s speaking to me. “The aroma of your fragrance is intoxicating, Signora,” he’s saying. In an instant, I realize with momentary despair that the sample bottle of Aether’s Rose Alcane, given to me the night before by brand owner Nicolas Chabot at the NOSE Scent Bar party in Paris, has spilled in my handbag. Although I can’t fully understanding the nuances of my driver’s words, it’s manifestly clear from his tone and body language that the he is ardently proposing marriage to me, or something even more wildly singular, and declaring that we must pull over pronto and subito, presumably at the next traffic island, to move forward with this now desperately urgent proposition.
In what peculiarly seems to be only seconds later, I experience the briefest moment of reality as the taxi pulls up in front of the hotel and my feet touch the ground — only to be carried off and hopelessly lost again as I’m engulfed in the dream of rarified elegance in the hotel lobby, the bellman, and my intimate 4th floor room with the window giving on to a terrace. Moments later I taste my first cappuccino in the garden of the same terrace, and drink in the fragrant air and the peals of church bells.
Beyond all doubt, I have tumbled down one of the most compelling rabbit holes on the Face of the Earth. And the story has only just begun….