I went to Italy for two weeks at the end of October, and even the smallest towns there had little perfumery shops. It was much easier to find pretty perfumes - and lots of selection - than in some American cities I've visited. Given the huge fragrance displays in the local pharmacies and the presence of perfume shops on what seemed like every other street in even the smaller towns I visited, I got the impression that fragrance plays a larger part in daily life over there. As someone who doesn't feel entirely put together until I've spritzed on a little something, I completely agree with this approach!
I was already familiar with Dolce & Gabbana, Gianfranco Ferre, Ferragamo and some of the other major designers' perfume lines, so when browsing for goodies to bring home, I didn't linger long at those counters. I instead kept an eye out for lines that are harder to find back home. In a small town in Tuscany, a local perfumery carried the I Profumi di Firenze line. If you ever have a chance to try these scents, do so! They are beautifully made and while they are much less expensive in Italy, they are also available in the United States via Beautyhabit. After sampling the wares, I ended up with a bottle of Talco Delicato. I've worn this scent before and it's still one of my favorites from the line.
I've seen Talco Delicato described as a musky vanilla scent, which would make one expect something much heavier than it actually it. The name really says it best. Talco Delicato is a very warm and feminine scent that has a powdery aspect to it, but without making one feel as though one is smothering in a cloud of talc. I find this scent elegant and incredibly graceful. It drifts over the wearer and just settles in naturally. With its warmth, it's a perfect scent for fall and winter.
My next fun stop was at Santa Maria Novella in Florence. Known officially as Oficina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, this pharmacy has been open to the public since 1612. In addition to selling a variety of fragrant colognes (Zagara, or orange blossom, being one of my favorites), Santa Maria Novella also sells a variety of luxurious soaps, home fragrances, and skincare products. Many of their recipes are based upon those developed by Dominican friars around the 13th century, and the Domincans actually owned and ran the business for several centuries before it went into private hands.
The pharmacy is housed in an ornately decorated old building and it takes up several large rooms. Given the enormous crowds on the day I was there, they needed it! I didn't end up with any new perfumes for myself, but I did buy several of their milk-based soaps to give as gifts. The soaps are strongly fragranced and smell absolutely beautiful. I got some in carnation and some that are jasmine scented. They are blending beautifully in my sweater chest until time to wrap them for Christmas.
Throughout my travels, I noticed that almost every pharmacy or midlevel perfume shop had plenty of shelving devoted to a brand called L'Erbolario. I had seen a few of these scents in the United States, but I have no real familiarity with them. Given that the company makes perfumes with matching bath/body products, it made me think of something along the lines of Crabtree and Evelyn here at home. Every time I saw a display, I took a few minutes to try various scents. Oh my goodness, the variety!
Many of the scents were soliflores (based around a single flower), but some of the flowers were ones that I had never seen scents for before, such as Acacia, which turned out to be soft and rather sweet. They also make various citrus scents and a neroli(blossom of the bitter orange tree) scent. The Italians seem to love their orange blossom! Almost every line, whether high end or not, seemed to have an orange blossom cologne or neroli scent of some type.
After trying many, many fragrances from L'Erbolario's seemingly endless list, I settled on Fiori Chiari as my last fragrant souvenir of the trip. It has notes of lily, rose, peony, lily of the valley and various fruits. This scent smells of green grassiness and light blooming flowers. It's the perfume equivalent of walking in a sunny breeze, and I suspect I'll be wearing it a lot in the spring. Even though I visited Italy in the fall, this scent really captured for me the essence of how I felt on my favorite day of the trip, which would be the day my friends and I hiked through hills in Tuscany on a bright sunny day when the light made everything look unbelievably green.
And to bring it all back to Virginia, I discovered over Thanksgiving that L'Erbolario now has a US distributor, and this distributor is based in Charlottesville, VA! You can find the complete L'Erbolario line in the USA at Londons. They have a shop in Charlottesville (love it!) and a website complete with Cyber Monday deals. If you're interested in L'Erbolario, Londons has set up a dedicated website and those products can be found here.