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The aromatic essence of Florentine hills

This potpourri’s heady scent has become a lifetime companion

The aromatic essence of Florentine hills

September 08 2011
Anna-Marie Solowij

The first time I smelled Farmacia Santa Maria Novella’s potpourri, it gave me a horrendous headache – but then I had tipped an entire 100g sachet into a dish on my desk. Once I’d recovered, I discovered from a rough translation of the notes on the packet that the centuries-old recipe, from the Florence pharmacy established by Dominican friars in 1612, produces a heady, almost medicinal spiced herbal scent, the strength of which is controlled by puncturing the bag with a pin, not emptying the contents into a bowl. Further reading revealed that the aromatic mixture of leaves, berries and flower petals gathered by hand from the Florentine hills is left to soak for several months in earthenware jars before drying and packaging.

Although I got off to a bad start with it, this potpourri has become one of my all-time favourite scents to live with. I hang some sachets in my wardrobe and slip others between the clothes in the drawers of my dresser where it lightly perfumes my clothes (Jane Birkin once told me that she always carries around a handful in the pocket of her army pants).

This potpourri is an essential travel companion, too, being accomplished at removing the anonymous, synthetic odour of a freshly-cleaned hotel room, replacing it with something interesting and familiar. But perhaps the thing I like best about Farmacia Santa Maria Novella potpourri is its ability to help me sleep at night – not least because of its Tuscany-tinged scent, but also because, unlike the ubiquitous scented candle, there is no need to worry about whether you’ve blown the damn thing out and no risk of it setting off the smoke alarm.

Refill sachet, £18. Silk sachet, £24 for 40g.