Classic Italian perfumery has a reputation for flamboyance – embodied by the Cinecittà glamour of Sophia Loren, as well as the gold tan and bleached-blonde aesthetic of Donatella Versace. It may be a cliché, but one need not be a marketing specialist to notice that Italians wear scents differently from the French or Germans. Women enjoy lush white florals with a touch of powder for an enveloping, lingering effect. Men aren’t shy about donning sweet perfumes and using them to make a statement. Encounter such a fragranced denizen cutting la bella figura at an outdoor café some place in Rome or Palermo, and you’ll understand better Italy’s penchant for the baroque.
To see how Italians themselves create their perfumery traditions today, one might explore Antonio Alessandria Parfums and Rubini Profumi, two new artisanal houses. Both blend classical themes and modern shapes in an original way. Both convey a message that perfume is wearable art.
Antonio Alessandria, a native of Catania and owner of a cult fragrance boutique, Boudoir 36, founded an eponymous line in 2014. “My perfumes are my stories, often coming from my past, from my memories and my culture,” says Alessandria. The creations range from sumptuous blossoms (Fleurs et Flammes, £165 for 50ml EDP) to bittersweet woods (Noir Obscur, £165 for 50ml EDP) and their plots are complex and multifaceted. As Luca Turin commented on his newly launched blog Perfumes I Love, “[Alessandria’s] perfumes have a specifically south Italian impetuous innocence that reminds me of fin-de-siècle composers like the great and largely forgotten Giuseppe Martucci.”
Nacre Blanche (£165 for 50ml EDP), for instance, is an interpretation of tuberose. Alessandria emphasises the warm, skin-like mid-tones, the spicy richness and the delicate sweetness of powder in a white floral accord. The effect is intimate and tender, despite the opulence of the composition.
Another perfume line of note is Rubini Profumi, the brainchild of Andrea Rubini. His family has owned a fragrance boutique in Verona since 1935, and being surrounded by iconic perfumes from houses like Guerlain and Chanel, Rubini became inspired to add his own contribution to Italian perfumery. His debut, Fundamental ($145 for 50ml EDP), is also an illustration of how a felicitous collaboration can bring about memorable results. Rubini worked with perfumer Cristiano Canali and creative director Ermano Picco on a fragrance that not only paid homage to the legends of the past, but also gave a new twist to the marriage of woody notes and fruit.
Fundamental is an orchestration of woods, from green, lightly smoked vetiver to creamy sandalwood. Its basso profondo range is further amplified by leather and honey, an unexpected diversion from the initial happy brightness of grape and tangerine. Like Alessandria, Rubini aims his perfumes at both men and women. After all, why should beauty be limited by arbitrary gender divisions?