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Venezia Giardini Segreti – jasmine and resin and salty skin - January 25, 2016

My secret garden in Venice. Photo:

Venice is a place of secrets, a result of its geography, I think. Built on 117 small islands, linked by bridges and canals, Venice is a maze of hidden entranceways, narrow corridors and passageways, just big enough for surreptitious meetings and clandestine assignations.

In its prime as a naval power, threats of treason and revolt could topple the government and Bocca di Leone, (snitch boxes set up by the government to collect anonymous letters of denunciations and accusations into a locked box through an opening in the shape of a lion’s mouth) were placed in key sections of the city, while representatives of the state strolled through Venice, listening in on conversations and discussions and gathering gossip and information that might be of interest to the dreaded Council of Ten.

It’s no wonder secret gardens would be sought as a respite from all the intrigue, the hustle and bustle of a busy port and the crowds in the markets. The same holds true today, only now it’s the tourists Venetians want respite escape from now I suspect.

Which brings me to Venezia Giardini Segreti, from Italian niche house La Via del Profumo, launched in 2010 in  by one of my favouite perfumers, and really, really nice guy, Abdes Salaam Attar, (nee Dominique Dubrana).

On the La Via del Profumo website it says, “Venezia, Giardini segreti” is inspired by the “corti” - the courts of Venice that contain its secret gardens, hidden within the maze of the city - and particularly to the imaginary “Corte Sconta detta Arcana" of the "Favola di Venezia" di Corto Maltese, first discovered in the recesses of Hugo Pratt’s mind, and illustrated by his hand.

“When the Venetians grow tired of the established authorities,” he writes, “they walk to these 3 secret places and, opening the doors that are in the bottom of these courts, they go away forever into beautiful places and other stories.”

The "Favola di Venezia" translates as the Fable of Venice, one of a series of adventure comics written and illustrated by Rimini-born author Hugo Pratt and centered on the escapades of sailor-adventurer Corto Maltese during the early 1900’s. What inspired me to try Venezia Giardini Segreti was the promise of the Venetian gardens I know – the smell of sitting on a terrace garden with the smell of jasmine against the backdrop of the sea contained in a small, quiet space.

Venezia Giardini Segreti opens with jasmine – intense, indolic and green. It smells like jasmine that is alive - growing and thriving – lemony/celery aspects make me smile. A note of lush rose is here and it heightens the floral aspect of the jasmine. They swim above my skin, until a note of pungent, woody, resinous myrrh surfaces and anchors the flowers and makes Venezia Giardini Segreti darker and drier. Then, the smell of warm, salty skin starts to come up through the flowers. It’s not sweaty or dirty - it just smells like I’ve been sitting in the sun. It’s the effect of ambergris that I am experiencing.

Abdes Salaam says ambergris is “…the magical ingredient that renders the fragrance three-dimensional, the noble pheromone with a scent of leather, of sea and of mother’s milk.” I must confess, that I get the leather and I get the sea, but not the mother’s milk.

Oh, I suppose I could keep dousing myself with Venezia Giardini Segreti to see if I can find that whiff of mother’s milk, but treating it like a challenge instead of the wonderful sensory experience it is would, I think, ruin it for me. I think I’ll just think of it as a secret ingredient for now and enjoy Venezia Giardini Segreti as one of the most gorgeous jasmine fragrances I have ever worn.

As it is, Venezia Giardini Segreti is a beautifully-nuanced skin-scent that transports me back to my serene, terrace garden oasis. And, really, isn’t that one of the cornerstones of a great fragrance? It is for me.

Venezia Giardini Segreti is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.