The Season of Senses in Monti’s Profumoteca
Spring in Rome is a sensory experience. The scents of jasmine or gardenia in bloom greet you where you least expect it: on cobblestone city streets where aromas of Spring alternate with whiffs of culinary delights from trattorie. Even foods are floral, like any one of the signature Roman dishes based on artichokes that are also in bloom in this season.
Sense of smell is immediate, unmistakably emotive, and has the ability to transport you to specific memories: a meal, a landscape, the nape of someone’s neck. One good reason to return to Rome over and over again is to relive memorable experiences often conjured up by scents around you.
The power of scent is at its height in the Spring—the season is a natural aphrodisiac. The temperature begins to rise, colors and patterns in clothing are more alive—think Missoni—and so what better time to pay a visit to the most talked about perfume shop in the Rione Monti neighborhood of Rome? Trendy, but still caché, Monti is known for its authentic Italy appeal, vintage funk fashion, zero-kilometer gourmet street food, and alfresco pergola-laden cafe culture.
Strolling down via Leonina, which offers glimpses of the Colosseum, I wandered into a gem known as Alé Parfum, a “profumoteca” run by two Italian women, Giancarla and Paola who deftly take customers through the notes of each perfume as well as its origins. A treasure trove of fragrances, elegantly curated, with antique stone arches framing the collection. A “Caravaggio-school” style painting is the finishing touch. A feast for the olfactory senses, but also for the eyes with its rows of elegantly shaped perfume bottles, this shop is a gem not to be missed, in a neighborhood that sits just above the Colosseum, and just above the crowds of tourists.
Radical chic. This is the way Giancarla describes Monti. What could be more radical, more chic than this shop that carries fragrances ranging from classic perfumes from Capri to an alternative French line that boasts a perfume called sécrétions magnifiques to a fragrance created as a tribute to Grace Kelly?
Any film buff who enters Alé Parfum won’t be disappointed. There are a handful of film-matched fragrances that are entertaining and that offer, at the very least, a glimpse into European popular culture.
The first perfume that stole my attention in the shop was the fragrance created for Totò himself, the charismatic and well loved Italian actor, singer and songwriter. The scent is called Antonio De Curtis and its signature bottle features an expressive sketch. From the same collection the Profumoteca also carries The Principe dedicated to Totò as well as the women’s fragrance Malafemmena, dedicated to his wife Diana after they separated and also named for the iconic song.
On the topic of princes, Grace Kelly, American actress and wife of Prince Rainier III of Monaco, is also remembered by a fragrance called Gin Fizz by the house of Lubin. The scent was created in 1955 to honor her beauty and evoke that year’s most fashionable cocktail, the Gin Fizz.
The alternative line of French fragrances also includes, Rossy de Palma, a scent was dedicated to Spanish actress Rossy de Palma, well known for her role in Almodovar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Like her beauty, the perfume is unusual “uniting the strong rose notes with ginger, black pepper, bergamot, Bulgarian rose, jasmine, frankincense, patchouli, cocoa and benzoin.”
This is just a teaser of what is found inside Alé Parfum. There are a number of Italian and French fragrances including for the home; there are creams galore some of which are 100% pure with nothing added to what is essential and a line of creams that the artist Madonna is purported to use; there are beauty products for men, including old style razors, brushes for beards and tonics; there are top fragrance lines from the United States, India and the Arab World (Mortal Skin for one is especially refined and unique as is its bottle).
Italian? French? New World? Far East? There are so many high quality fragrances to choose from. Your choice depends on which experience you wish to celebrate, to transmit.
Jasmine is bloom in Rome. It is a flower that emits an intense fragrance at night, especially during full Moon. Take a stroll in via Leonina in Monti…the view of the moon above the Colosseum is unforgettable: a sensory experience you won’t forget.