Blog post by Gwen
Across from the train station in Florence sits Santa Maria Novella – the first great basilica built in Florence. Assigned to the Dominican Order, work was started on the church in 1221. The fathers grew herbs in the church gardens, which they used in the balms and ointments they made for the infirmary. They must have known what they were doing cause in 1612, the fathers got permission to open their ‘pharmacy’ to the public, and that’s how the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella was born. Soon their creams, potions, lotions and fragrances were internationally known, and the fathers never looked back.
A pharmacy is still there today, and it’s an actual temple of beauty – frescoes, marble columns and inlaid tables – the store has a fascinating history, and so does Acqua di Colonia, one of their great fragrances. It was created in 1533 on the occasion of Catherine de Medici’s wedding to Henry ll of France and came to be known as "Acqua della Regina" (Water of the Queen).
I love tracing a scent back in time, and I love the whole romance of a perfume created for a wedding, but I wear Acqua di Colonia because of how it smells.
It opens with tart, bitter bergamot backed by bright, juicy Amalfi lemon. A note of fresh, floral neroli counterbalances citrus fruits and bonds to the neroli facet of sweet, fruity tangerine that gives Acqua di Colonia a luminous quality. At the heart, neroli’s lavender facet brings forward a note of aromatic lavender that’s floral, herbaceous and camphorous. Petitgrain, woody, fresh and green, joins the lavender. Clove adds spicy warmth, and rosemary echoes the camphorous aspect of the lavender. It all sits on a base of warm, sweet benzoin that hints at seduction.
The drydown is refreshing, refined and elegant, with no harshness, and it sits on the skin beautifully. There’s a real synergy between the notes and their facets as they join and intermingle and highlight each other that gives the cologne interest and depth.
Whenever I smell Acqua di Colonia on my skin, I think of the fathers in the monastery's garden choosing the plants and herbs with purpose. I smell the wedding wishes the fathers put into the fragrance: the fresh, cheerful notes of citrus for a bright future, the ripe, juicy fruits suggesting fertility, some flowers and herbs for abundancy and a little sweetness for a happy life.
Check out Acqua di Colonia in our Shop.