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Angels of Florence – Uncomplicated and tender and beautiful – April 11, 2018

Photo from Wiki Commons: Square in Florence showing a white high water mark from the 1966 flood

An escape from the cold, dull Toronto spring to the warmth of the Tuscan sun. Driving along the FI-PI-LI on day trips to Siena, Pisa or Livorno, the windows down, singing along to Paolo Conti on the radio.

On this day, it’s Florence - the jewel in the crown for me. The Duomo, the Ufizzi, the Mercato del Porcellino and of course, the perfumes. Walking around Santa Croce, you notice what look like white bricks in the walls of some buildings but they’re really high water marks from the 1966 flood of the Arno, which devastated Florence. Considered the worst flood in Florence since 1557, it took place on November 4th 1966. Long periods of heavy, steady rain, filled the Levane and La Penna dams in Valdarno, the valley of the river Arno, and they began to release more than 2,000 cubic metres of water per second towards Florence.

At 4:00 am on November 4, there were fears the Valdarno dam would burst, so engineers released a mass of water. By the time it reached the outskirts of Florence it was traveling at 60 kilometres per hour. By 9:45 am the Piazza del Duomo was flooded.

As it traveled through the valley, the fast-moving water picked up debris and mud. It was so fast and so powerful, that when it hit Florence, it ruptured central heating oil tanks. The water, mud and oil mixed together causing even more damage. At its highest, the water reached over 22 feet before starting to ebb at 8:00 pm.
By the time the water fully receded, 101 people had lost their lives and millions of masterpieces of art – paintings, frescoes and rare books, were destroyed or damaged by water, mud and oil.

Realizing the cultural impact that of the loss of these valuable treasures would have, not only for Florence and Italy, but for the rest of the world, people began to help. Money for restoration and repair was raised through donations and fundraising, and people just pitched in. Like the group of Germans who repaired the musical instruments of the Bardini Museum. And the “Mud Angels”, young people from all over the world, who flocked to Florence and cleaned the mud, oil and garbage from the city and rescued damaged works of art, and books from flooded rooms. All of these donors, fundraisers and volunteers played a vital role in the restoration work that still goes on to this day.

Which is why I made a pilgrimage to Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella to buy another bottle of ‘Angeli di Firenze’ or ‘Angels of Florence’. It was launched in 2006 to mark the 40th anniversary of the flood and is dedicated to Mud Angels. In fact, 5% of the purchase price goes towards the restoration of artworks, which makes anyone who buys it an angel, I suppose.

Angels of Florence opens with a gentle note of bright bergamot which leads to a bouquet of fresh florals that weave and swirl around each other. I smell jasmine first, but then lilac comes forward, only to fade into a gardenia, ylang-ylang and orange blossom combo. But it’s a note of rose that stands really stands out on me. The floral notes are light and ethereal, punctuated with geranium and violet leaves that give it green infections, which add dimension before it gets fruity from notes of peach, prune and melon, warmed by cinnamon. Vanilla at the base sweetens the fruits and adds a lush creaminess, while sandalwood white musk, and ambergris ground the flowers and fruits and hold them tight to the skin.

Angels of Florence is a fairly linear fragrance, and by that I mean it’s uncomplicated. It has depth and progression but it is a simple, tender beauty that I feel is especially suitable for spring – no matter where you are.

Angels of Florence is listed in our decant store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.