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August 2019

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Three days ago I received a package from Hendley Perfumes containing a discovery kit with samples of Amora (2016), Blond (2018), Bourbon (2015), Fume (2015), Mown (2017), Narcis (2019 Laboratory Series release), Untitled (2019), Bloodline (created for American Perfumer in 2019, limited edition, sold out), and a 9ml travel spray of Rosenthal (2015).

I reached for Rosenthal first. This is what I usually do when I’m facing a discovery kit created by a perfumer or brand I’ve had no previous experience with – I tend to start with a rose-themed perfume if there’s one in the collection.

It’s like an entry-level test of a kind, “show me what you can do” – since there are really so many “rose” centered perfumes already out there: rose/oud and rose/patchouli combinations are well-covered genres, making it hard for any perfume brand to set itself apart.

Rosenthal is a “Dark Rose“, belonging to one of my favorite kind of rose-themed perfumes (formally classified as an Oriental/Floral). For me that means that it should take me places, emotionally.

So it did. I wore it on a hot, hot day (+35C), without analyzing and taking notes. I was on the go, working all day and I resprayed just once in the afternoon to feel its opening again. It wasn’t until I returned home, kicked off my heels and sat down to relax when it hit me.

Memories surfaced, happy and sad, things and people I haven’t thought about for ages. If you feel like skipping the story, just scroll down to the part “it smells like“, or something like that, no hard feelings.

In the 5th or 6th grade in elementary school one of my additional assignments in German language class was to learn the song “Sag mir wo die Blumen sind” (Where have all the flowers gone) – by heart. As a straight A student and a geek (which I was…am?) so I did, listening to Marlene Dietrich perform.

Later on, I thought I forgot half the verses, other lessons and assignments took over.

Fast forward to Gymnasium, third grade, age: 16, season: Summer, location: an International Summer-school. Not just any, as a straight-A student I was among few to be granted a free three-weeks stay in Germany, at a pretty famous facility not far away from Hannover. We slept in a dorm and on my first day there, I met my German roommate. I’ll call her Viviane.

We did everything teens did at that time in any Summer-school: attended German language classes in the morning, English language classes in the afternoon, hang out together, debated different Weltschmerz issues, and laughed some more until 11 PM – lights-out, dorm doors closed.

Viviane and I would then sit on the windowsill in our room, overlooking beautiful green hills, and chat for another hour or two in a most vivid and crazy combination of German and English, yet perfectly understanding each other.

She was a tall blonde with huge blue eyes, always smiling, so different than other kids: she was wearing genuine vintage clothes, like a pair of very narrow, original riding pants the French Army Cavalry soldiers wore in WWI that she bought at some flea market in France. There was something Marlene-like about her.

We shared our makeup and fragrances, simple ones like rosewater and patchouli oil (parfum wasn’t for young girls back then – I got my first bottle of perfume when I turned 18), layering whatever we had, experimenting.

On her skin and hair that Bulgarian rose-patchouli combination smelt darker than on me, and that seemed so much in contrast with her Rosenthal white, porcelain-like complexion.

Rosenthal, the perfume Rosenthal smells like a dark, big, burgundy-colored rose in full bloom, the kind of rose you want to dip your whole face into and just dive into it, inhaling its scent in deep breaths as if not to miss any fragrant molecule it has to offer. The sort of a dry-woody rose, smoothly gliding all the way to the drydown.

Its inner movement maintains a linear, steady pace with smaller sinusoids of other notes circling around it. They arise and fall in movement, interweaving at some points, ranging from cool, herbal, almost bitter notes to waves of dry fruits-and-berries vibrations, all the way down to fine lines of dusty incense and tamed patchouli following this rhythm quietly – just shining a different light on thick, velvety rose petals, adding them dimension.

Hendley weaves all these side effects around the main theme seamlessly, landing it in what feels like fluff, a milky pillow made of sandalwood. A “Dark Rose” it is indeed, a beautiful, unisex dark rose, smelling so…natural.

Back to the story: one day, during our morning classes, a teacher opened the classroom door and summoned Viviene. Her parents were on the phone (there were no cell phones back then), and it was urgent. She rushed out and didn’t return to the class. I found her later, in our room, sitting on the windowsill. Her eyes were red, traces of tears visible on her face.

I sat there with her for hours, in silence, just being present. When she started to talk I had to swear first that I won’t tell any of this to anyone: her parents wanted her to quit Summer-school and to return home immediately. She had leukemia, her latest tests came back from the hospital and weren’t good at all. She refused to leave, and she definitely didn’t want other kids to know about her illness.

Viviene told her parents that she wants to stay for those couple of days until Summer-school ends, no matter what, that she’s tired of hospitals, tests, anxiety and fear in her parent’s eyes, restrictions, medications, white blood-cells counts and leukemia she’s been fighting for a while now.

We made a pact that we’ll pretend that none of this had happened. Nothing at all, we would both carry on like there was no phone call, no leukemia and no test results for the next three days. She stayed, and I kept my promise.

On the last day of our stay, we had a picnic on grass outside our dorm. One girl brought her guitar and we were singing songs that we all knew. At one moment, I heard familiar accords and Viviene sang, her soft voice quieting us all down. I suddenly remembered the song and all the words:

“Sag mir wo die Blumen sind,
wo sind sie geblieben
Sag mir wo die Blumen sind,
was ist geschehen?

We said our goodbyes next morning, I returned home and life went on, memories of that Summer slowly fading away.

Come September and the beginning of a new school year, my German language teacher gathered participants of that Summer school course to write a thank-you letter to our teachers and staff in Germany, we all signed it, and the letter was sent (yes, letters, there were no e-mails…).

Sometime before Christmas we received an answer: they’ve sent their best wishes and informed us, with regret, that Viviane had passed away that August, one week before the beginning of a new school year, and one week after her 17th birthday.

Yesterday, while wearing Rosenthal, I heard again Viviene’s voice, remembered her bright blue eyes, big smile, funny vintage clothes, and how we both smelled while laughing carelessly for those three weeks, sitting on a windowsill in a dorm, somewhere up in the hills surrounding Hannover:

Sag mir wo die Gräber sind,
Blumen wehen im Sommerwind
Wann wird man je verstehen?
Wann wird man je verstehen?

You can find complete song lyrics in English and German here.

Notes: Incense, rose, iris, juniper, sandalwood, patchouli, angelica root.

Sillage and longevity are moderate – I’ll quote Hans: “Monster longevity and projection are a disservice to the beauty of the fragrance.”

Rosenthal – Eau de Parfum, available as 9ml travel spray/28USD and 50 ml flacon/150USD. Discovery Set includes six 1.5ml spray vials/36USD. Samples can be purchased individually – at Hendley Perfumes.

The Plum Girl

Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl, Hendley Perfumes, Unsplash

The Discovery Kit was sent to me as a prize I won in an Eau My Soul Facebook Group give-away, Rosenthal travel-size sprayer and opinions of my own.

Disclaimer

This happens often. I pull out a perfumes sample pack, start testing one by one, taking notes for “drafts&quick sniffs“, and usually the one from which I expect the most, or the one I’m uncertain of mentioning at all -is the last one to be worn and tested extensively on my skin.

Unutamam had to wait. Truth to be told, I simply needed time to focus on it properly, I don’t like to rush a perfume. It sat on my desk for weeks, even months now, placed there with a purpose: to tempt me, because the perfumer signing it – Miguel Matos has thoroughly, positively shocked me with Jungle Jezebel he created for Sarah Baker: you can find my short review here.

I was looking at Unutamam, it stared right back at me.

Do I like being surprised by a perfume? I do: don’t want just to smell nice, I want more, I believe in perfume as an art form! When it does surprise me, the level of expectations for any future work of the perfumer creating it rises: that’s a double-edged sword to be dealt with.

Would I wear such perfumes? Of course, I would! I do because what is the purpose of art but not to move you, shake you up, make you stop right in your tracks, wonder, feel, change, renew, tickle your thoughts? I remembered reading a quote on dear Robert Herrmann‘s (fragrance journalist for CaFleureBon, The Fragrant Wanderer) Facebook page cover: “Life is too short for polite fragrance.

Picasso once said: “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. and I couldn’t agree more with this definition.

Back to Unutamam – meaning “I can’t forget” in Turkish. A song (composed by the renown Turkish artist Sezen Aksu, sung by Ebru Gündes, you should really hear it first – here) – this is inspiration behind this perfume, a feeling, an emotion, desire and passion – something we can all identify with, because feelings are the universal language, drawing a map of world with No Boundaries.

“I didn’t forget I can’t forget

My hopeless love, don’t worry

If this is called living I’ve lived but

Most of my life stayed in you.

Am I regretful? Never.

I became more beautiful with grief.

Well, hello Unutamam. Aman taman – your time has come, I thought. I remembered Nishane’s wonderful new collection launch party in Milan, how we all listened to this song, most of us not understanding its words: just feeling it, eyes closed.

The first spray, and the first tacts of Unutamam: an intense opening with a whiplash of rosemary bursting through the air, brightened by minty-cool tones and a dash of dry lavender backing it up.

If the word lavender comes from Latin lavare, to wash, this kind of lavender washes the “daily dust off my soul” as I feel its herbaceous-sweet side, swaying toward tenderly aromatic-spicy, inviting. Miguel says that’s an Oregano twist he added to the classic fougere structure…

It glides on, warming up on my skin with traces of gentle smoke swirling towards the ceiling in a room with windows obscured by heavy curtains, adding shade and slowing down its rhythm, as if warming up.

Traces of jasmine arise, resembling moments when you can smell the trail of flowers in a room that once hosted an exuberant, lush bouquet in a vase, but then somebody walked in and removed it while it was still very fresh.

Only a handful of white and red petals are left behind: it feels as if the layer of florals, now turning spicy, was lifted to make a place for a smooth transition from the heart of brightness to the body of seductiveness, underlined with veils of smoke brewing underneath.

Level of undertones rises, revealing a thick, matte layer which feels like rough black leather soaked in patchouli and castoreum, binding you to the ground with just a hint of moss lurking quietly from beneath. At this point, I still felt what might be lavender – but this time showing its different, woody facet, reminding me of thick branches under an old lavender bush, carefully framed with oak-moss.

In the drydown phase, I enjoyed yet another layer of Unutamam revealing itself: the smooth ambery – caramel finishing touches, creamy and sensual, glowing on your patchouli-smelling skin in a discreet oriental mode.

Hours later, when Unutamam became a skin-scent, caramel hues melted away leaving me with a silky, ever so gentle balsamic aroma.

Intriguing, an oriental-fougere-animalic type of a fragrance (every time you say “barbershop fragrance” one little fern plant withers…) with an initial invigorating wake-up call followed by florals floating upon smoky tides of sevdah, saudade, balancing between variety of deep emotions and sensuality turning raw: it’s tame and wild at the same time, introvert and extrovert, and it takes you on a ride with turns and twists with a hint of a vintage French and Middle East vibe strolling hand in hand along urban, asphalt city streets.

Miguel Matos, a perfume critic with abundant fragrance knowledge, a self-taught perfumer who pushed the boundaries, crossed the line, and started to compose his own creations – he did it his way. Bravo!

Unutamam is a brave step forward for Nishane, and a fine unisex perfume: let’s say that for this Turkish brand “imagination” is now flowing stronger, with just right touch of “weirdness”.

Notes: lavender, rosemary, mint, juniper, jasmine, carnation, patchouli, amber, oregano, castoreum, cistus, oakmoss, caramel.

Umantaman is an Extrait du Parfum in 30 ml bottles/125 EUR. Test before you buy: all my reviews are based on perfume worn on my skin, not blotters only. Sillage is strong, longevity above average.

Do you like to be surprised by a perfume? Did any of your greatest surprises turn out to become your favorites?

Feel free to share in your comments here, or: IG the_plum_girl, FB The Plum Girl, and Twitter @DPlumGirl.

The Plum Girl

Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl, Nishane, Unsplash, and Pexels.

The samples kit was graciously given to me by Nishane at Esxence 2019, opinions of my own.

Stazione Leopolda shall soon open its doors for the 17th edition of Pitti Fragranze, 13-15th September 2019!

Need I say that I booked my special little apartment in Florence immediately after Esxence? I did…

I also talked recently with quite a few friends from Fragcomm – sadly, many gave up coming to Florence this year, which saddens me even more because Pitti and Esxence ARE the only places where we manage to gather, coming from all over the world. I’m still hoping some will change their minds: Florence is always a good idea! We had a great time at Pitti last year, and everyone did manage to find some new perfumes to love.

You can find my 2018 “People of Pitti” reports here, and here.

I won’t elaborately compare Esxence and Pitti here and now – let’s just say that Esxence 2019 was truly overwhelming, I wrote 4 blog entries about it – Inspiration Flow – Esxence Milan 2019, Veni, vidi…amavi: Esxence – The Scent of Excellence 2019 – Part I, Ave Perfumes! Esxence 2019 – Part II, and Act III: Events&Extras @Esxence 2019.

I’ll just repeat some Pitti numbers from 2018 for you: around 2150 buyers, arriving from more than 50 countries. Yes, Pitti seems to be more B2B oriented. 190 Maisons and brands (including skincare and cosmetics)- 70% not from Italy. Around 1450 registered buyers from Italy. In order to register as press, you must submit your previous coverage of the fair…fair enough. Pitti is not open to the general public.

Esxence, on the other hand, broke all the records this year with 6000 m2 of exhibition space, 7890 guests, and 221 brands.

This year’s Pitti exhibitors list is not closed yet, but I did notice some big distributors and very dear brands missing (like Kaon, or Calé/Silvio Levi for example) – you can check the current exhibitors’ list here.

Division of exhibition space is the same as the last year: newer brands/artisan/niche are placed in the “Spring” section, larger distributors are to be found in “Classico” section.

I also noticed a lesser number of events outside Stazione Leopoldi this year too – listed in “La Citta delle Fragranze” events list, but there are still some attention-worthy venues planned in museums, historic buildings, perfume boutiques, and gourmet venues.

The concept of this year’s exhibition is described as follows:

“The unveiling is essential for beauty, preventing its undressing and unveiling. The impossibility of unveiling beauty is its nature.” – Walter Benjamin

The new edition of Pitti Fragranze is represented by an image presenting the duality of beauty and art:

“Beauty – as a harmonious element, a dynamic and changeable reality, in which we must learn to be and move.”

In contact with skin, blending with skin:

What was the tipping point for me to decide to attend this year? I’m an eternal optimist, so let’s try to take a look from the bright side: a retrospective and presence of Jean Claude Ellena, to start with!

Jean Claude Ellena will be the special guest of this edition of Pitti Fragranze, discussing his olfactory works between 1976 and 2017 with Chandler Burr (swoon):

Can’t wait to ask him about his new creation for Frederic Malle too! (I hope my sample of Rose & Cuir will arrive by then)

Every year Pitti focuses on one raw material: this year during RAW, we’ll learn more about wood and about its role in many perfumer creations (presentation by MANE). I’m looking forward to this, as well as Atelier Parfumèide workshop “Olfactory Analysis and Olfactory Design: Natural extracts and aromachemicals” – these learning opportunities are so valuable! Here are the brands that shall present a fragrance dedicated to Wood.

Something else I don’t want to miss: Museo Villoresi, Via de’Bardi 12. Last year, while visiting, Mr. Lorenzo Villoresi announced that we shall see each other next year in his museum.

He showed us his beautiful gardens overlooking Arno, talked about raw materials, plans for the museum – in my opinion, this is a place every perfume lover should definitely plan to visit when in Florence if you want not only to visit this glorious villa but also to learn about raw materials. I couldn’t get my hands off this bowl with Orris roots:

Perfumes? Well, it certainly seems that I’ll have enough time to cover the whole exhibition this time, something I failed to do at Esxence. There are some new launches announced, a couple of brands I still need to get to know and explore, meet and greet with dear friends from the perfume world – this being really the best part of any fair.

New perfumes to keep an eye on (in alphabetic order, I will add more as I receive information):
27_87 – Sonar
– Acampora Profumi – well, that’s breaking news! They will present 9 new perfumes, a complete line created by Miguel Matos (I wrote about his Jungle Jezebel/Sarah Baker Perfumes here)!
– Fiori Del Male – Gourmand 1
Francesca Bianchi – a new perfume! (she’s not saying much yet, not even to me, all we know is that she got blisters on her hands from packing samples!).

Update:

– Acqua dos Azores launch is announced

– Oliver Durbano: a new fragrance launch

– Antonio Alessandria: Dies Aurorae launch

I shall also check out Mendittorosa new Talento again, Ineke, Timothy Han (again, yes), Viadeimille Sicilia, Zero Molecole, D.S.&Durga, etc, and drop by and hug dear Pissara/Dusita, Oliver Durbano, and many other friends – Florence provides such a beautiful setting for having a drink or dinner together, chatting about perfumes, getting to know each other better…

More perfumes? I’m sure I’ll have enough material to write about and bring closer to you, and at least one to fall in love with.

Follow me here, and on IG: the_plum_girl, or Twitter: @DPlumGirl – I’ll try to report live as much as my phone battery and WiFi hotspots can endure.

The Plum Girl
Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl, Pitti Fragranze

It’s like when you’re on a roller coaster ride. You know that moment where you go quickly over a peak in the ride, and you feel that weird sensation in your stomach? Then you plunge. At that moment, you’re weightless, free of anything pushing or pulling you, it’s exciting and challenging at the same time.

Yet, you take the plunge.

Later on, when your heart stops beating faster than normal when adrenaline levels settle down, you’ll say: that was a wild ride! And yes, you’ll be willing to repeat it again and again.

This is what Etruscan Water feels like to me. This is what I felt like, in the Etruscan forest leading to Buca delle Fate/The Fairy’s Hole Beach!

Free-falling. I took the plunge, and how!

Francesca Bianchi released Etruscan Water – 30 ml Extrait du parfum – earlier this year, making it the first fragrance in a line she named Freefall. This line is to represent the influence of her personal research on masterpieces of perfumery, taking a new direction in her work, while still remaining “The Princess of Dark Sexiness”, I would say.

You might have already seen that I traveled (together with a bottle of Etruscan Water) to the exact spot Francesca told me inspired this perfume. You can find my travelogue here. This might be helpful to understand the inspiration behind this perfume. I always find that interesting and important in artisan perfumery. Where did it all begin?

It all began sometime long, long ago at Etruscan Coast, of course. Yes, Etruria is definitely under her skin, her Tuscan heart beating strong. It is amazing, this patch of land between Livorno and Piombino: from wild boars to seashells, from golden fields of wheat as far as you can see, including tall “umbrella” pine trees and miles of sandy or rocky beaches.

Tall cypresses, those beautiful guardians of time, overlooking roads leading to typical Tuscan houses and villas, vineyards and farms.

I went on that “rollercoaster” called the path to Buca delle Fati, located when you turn left into the woods, off road, just before you reach the ancient town of Populonia Alta, stumbling upon Etruscan graves and remains along the way, and walking in footsteps of ancient inhabitants of this area.

Etruscan Water followed me like a melody, an ancient and familiar tune while entering these vibrant Mediterranean woods, following a narrow trail, with no one in sight. It felt like walking through a time portal: branches close behind you and the last traces of present civilization disappear very quickly.

Shade of ancient trees feels like a gentlest hug, providing air of freshness all around you, rising from the ground, evaporating from thick leaves of shrubs around you: opening of Etruscan Water, intense with bright citruses of various sorts is that breath of a Mediterranean forest which energetically pulls you in, so strong that you succumb to it, following up this trail wherever it might lead you. Francesca twirls those citruses abundantly, they form an addictive cocoon around your body.

As your skin, ears, eyes, and nose become accustomed to the forest surrounding you, you start to notice details among branches of trees and along your path. Lizards running across your trail, the sounds different insects make, flowing of other scents intermingled, like basil, or that fine layer of almost bitter immortelle growing in bushes scattered upon the hillside.

If entering these woods was like a time portal that makes you shed your everyday burdens of life, making you feel as if you have returned 2000 years back, walking on paths Etruscans walked on, this is also the moment in perfume’s development where you notice influences from the past: it has got that feeling of grand, now vintage perfumes and colognes, chypres of refined and noticeable sillage.

Perfumes that make you think “God, that man smells good!”. Yes, these were obviously an inspiration, but Francesca wouldn’t be Francesca if she hadn’t continued on – her way.

Between layers of immortelle and iris lies jasmine, and the whole composition continues to carry that air of abundance, becoming utterly seductive as the perfume develops, changing its rhythm.

The air of abundance of nature you feel shifts in a different direction as you walk on, finally being able to see the Sea through branches.

There is a feeling of the sea near present in Etruscan Water: this is in no way a marine, aquatic, openly “salty” fragrance, and yet you feel the presence of the sea in the atmosphere, in your sinuses, and on your skin. Just a touch of dried up sea salt on your skin hair…

Buca delle Fate beach is that magical spot that inspired this perfume. You can reach it after a thirty minutes hike: stones washed with seawater, misty air and the island of Elba looming over the horizon. Legends say that mermaids lured fishermen and sailors here with their irresistible voices, preventing them from returning home.

Etruscan Water carries that Bianchi DNA, an animalic accord with erotic jasmine and iris hand in hand, majestically performing, throbbing deep beneath the surface, with a musky, cistus tainted dry down in the shade of a hundred years old oak tree. It’s a feeling of old, creamy and rich mossiness, reminiscent of dark patches of moss you can see on ancient Etruscan ruins.

Masculine leaning, yet unisex. Which reminds me: I’ve researched and found out that Etruscan women had an important role in society, with a more liberal attitude than other ancient societies at that time. From what is known, married women attended chariot races, were literate, and could inherit family property – something unheard of in Ancient Greece, for example, so ladies – it works for us, too.

Etruscan Water is available in Extrait du parfum concentration, 30 ml/98 EUR, at Francesca Bianchi Perfumes here.

Notes: Bergamot, Green Tangerine, Grapefruit, Petit Grain, Basil, Caraway, Immortelle, Jasmin, Iris Root, Musk, Ambergris, Labdanum, Vetiver, Oak-moss.

The Plum Girl

Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl, Francesca Bianchi Perfumes Official
Opinions and the bottle of my own.
Disclaimer

Eyes closed, I dream about traveling to places near and distant, familiar ones greeting me with a smile, unknown ones calling my name.

Travel broadens our mind and expands our hearts, yet there’s something soothingly rewarding in – returning. To yourself. I know well where my safe harbor is. Your Ithaca, my Ithaka – they are always a place hidden inside our hearts:

“May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind
as many sensual perfumes as you can

and may you visit many Egyptian cities to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years…”

Ithaka now, on my skin. The power of poetry, words enhanced by verses, translated into the first perfume in the new, Versi trilogy by MendittoRosa:

This poem inspired Stefania Squeglia of Mendittorosa Perfumes to find a new perfumer, young Camille Chemardin and trust her with Ithaka.

Mendittorosa shall have each flacon in this line with a hand-made wooden cap, and a unique tablet, with a sign for each perfume.

Presentation is quite elaborate, illustration made by Massimo Alfaioli (who also made beautiful drawings for Talismans Sirio).

A seemingly simple poem. A seemingly simple perfume. It isn’t.

Bearing in mind that the journey is much more exquisite and rewarding than any arrival at the final destination, I embark this ship, with a glass vessel carrying a few drops of perfume.

Ithaka greeted me with waves of bergamot-clad, salty deep-sea air carrying scents coming from a big harbor ahead of me, bringing back that sweet feeling of land finally reached – before you can even see it clearly. It’s a rewarding smell after many days spent at sea.

The port is busy as a beehive, you can hear the murmur of people at the market beside the ships, and your nostrils detect a fine, dry and sweet scent of creamy labdanum and incense filling the air as you disembark your ship.

Your nose, cleared by salty seawater now feels intensely scents almost forgotten: incense becomes rich with the smell of spices, swirling around you softly. As you get accustomed to the surroundings, the rhythm of the fragrance changes, images become less abstract: now you can feel even lighter nuances, a hidden freshness beneath, as waxy-thick white Magnolia petals emerge and touch your skin quietly.

Salty tones are still present robbing it if it’s sweetness yet leaving it humid, very restrained on my skin, accentuating patchouli over Magnolia. Salty Magnolia made me sniff my wrists over and over again.

As the fragrance develops further, whirls of smoke roll in from someplace distant, present but not disturbing, just signs of nearby life going vibrantly on.

The composition remains airy and light, tenderly woody with added cedar tree shavings, and now definitely grounded, like when you walk barefoot upon soft, warm, dry and resinous-smelling earth. Hours later, this fragrance lingers on the skin quite close, its final tones becoming smoother and even a bit sweeter in a dry&powdery way, probably due to Benzoin, reminiscent of Vanilla,

Just as the poem, I find Ithaka illuminating, multilayered, very well blended, soothing and calming. Like arriving home after a long trip or reconnecting with your inner purpose, feeling thankful:

You can read the complete poem Ithaca, written by the Greek poet Constantine Cavafay, born in Alexandria – here.

Although I have stood at the remains of an ancient Phoenician market by the Mediterranean sea in North Africa (preserved for eons with desert sand), I didn’t have to travel far this time, Ithaka, Ithaca is an inner journey:

“Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.”

Notes: Bergamot, Aqueos Magnolia, Incense, Patchouli, Labanum, Incense Resinoid, Virginian Cedar, Cypriol, Benzoin.

Ithaka is EDP, 20% concentration, 100ml/200 EUR – available at Mendittorosa. Longevity is remarkable, sillage noticeable. Test before you buy it.

Enjoy many journeys of life with Ithaka always in your mind!

The Plum Girl
Elena Cvjetkovic
Photos: The Plum Girl, MendittoRosa, painting “Odyssey Kisses His Native Land” by Jan Styka.
The sample is a decant Stefania made for me when I visited her stand at Esxence Milan, for which I am deeply grateful.
Opinions of my own.

This year one perfume influenced our (my?) decision where to spend our family vacation, Part I – Etruscan Water by Francesca Bianchi Perfumes.

Ergo, the Etruscan Coast, what else? The rest of the team didn’t mind. Anyway, if he couldn’t talk you into visiting his birthplace, I don’t know who could:

Just kidding (and not). This perfume has been haunting me ever since I first tried it, seducing me over months to follow, and when I fall in love I can’t really focus, and I go all the way to the Moon and back, collect a star or two while floating blissfully in space, do a couple of backward flips, usually lend straight on my nose, and this is why I didn’t finish my review yet! It’s still brewing inside my heart. I stray: let’s move on, vacation, road-trip, brain-out time…

Oh, Italy! Sights and sounds, scents and tastes!

My secret mission: to seek and find the exact spot (which she casually mentioned to me during a conversation) that inspired Francesca Bianchi to create this perfume! I shall show it to you, don’t worry.

The Etruscan Coast is a long narrow stretch of coastline along Tuscany’s coast that reaches from Livorno to Piombino:

As always, we follow our internal family vacation rules: stay local, eat local, drink local, keep away from mass tourism (if possible), try to communicate in the language spoken where you are, be open-minded and learn, learn… When in Rome, right?

On our no-hurry-no-stress road-trip from Zagreb to the Etruscan Coast we stopped in Trieste, just because of the beautiful architecture, and to grab a couple of good caffee basso’s. If you are passing by, make sure to visit Piazza Unità d’Italia, Museo Revoltella, and Miramare Castle, built for Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg (executed in Mexico).

Padua too, just because we love to return to Padua!

We spent two days there, going to St.Anthony’s was obligatory: if you take a better look at these photos, you’ll notice my scent of the day:

We also made short stops in Bologna and Ferrara, just as a quick reminder, because we stop there every time when on our way to Florence. When in Bologna, do try the ragu bolognese (yes, it’s there again…)

I was fortunate to find and book a nice apartment for us in a small town of Riparbella, a quiet, strategically located place close enough to all points of interest. This was our sweet, old fashioned penthouse in a typical Tuscan house:

From there we drove along the coast, and inland. If you don’t feel like driving around a lot, find a “base camp” close to a train station: trains in Italy are really a cool and fun way to get around!

Livorno

Livorno is a port, dating way back to Etruscans. Then Romans came, and many more rulers to follow. Medici invested in transforming it into an “ideal town”, and an important trading center. As we walked around the city, heavily destroyed in WWII, I couldn’t help noticing that most of the facades desperately need renovation…yet it is charming in its relaxed way. You can easily reach all the main sights around the city center on foot – do stop and take a look at Monumento dei quattro Mori/Monument of the Four Moors, completed in 1616. If you can find an angle from which you can see noses of all four Moors at the same time, that brings you luck.

From Livorno you can grab a ferry to many destinations, like Barcelona, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, etc. – I will explain more about ferry tickets a bit later on.

Volterra

A must-see! The city of alabaster, with fortifications, many Etruscan and Roman remains and a wholly functional – state prison. The atmosphere is timeless, local products tasty, and alabaster hand-made souvenirs tempting. Local food and wine, coming from surrounding farms are delicious:

Rosignano Marittimo/Solvay, Marina di Cecina, San Vincenzo, Montecatini Val di Cecina

From Livorno to Piombino there are miles and miles of sandy beaches (imagine the intense scent of wet sand, sea, seaweeds, and Mediterranean shrubs), and interesting small towns – old cities, located away from the seaside, up in the surrounding hills. Those soft, curvy, old Tuscan hills…with narrow winding roads leading sharply uphill. Second gear and there you go.

Since I’m not exactly a big fan of sandy beaches, we would just stop by to take a swim to cool off, and continue gallivanting (thanks for this word, Nick) around these cities.

Montecatini Val di Cecina was very refreshing: a beautiful, small medieval town, dreamy and graceful. Great local wine, too!

Elba/Portoferraio

We reached Piombino to take a ferry to Elba. Ferries leave for Portoferraio almost every half an hour, but we had to rush to catch our ride (Tip: it’s better to book your tickets online two or three months ahead, and compare prices. Weekend rates are more expensive and do try to avoid the vacation period between August 5-20, if you can). There’s plenty of parking places, so you can leave your car in Piombino, and travel around Elba with local, public transportation, which functions very well. From Piombino, you can take a ferry to Cavo, Rio Marina or Portoferraio on Elba, for example, or travel to Pianosa, Sardinia, Corsica, etc.

I’ve already written a text about Elba here, but I loved it so much that I really looked forward to going there again!

I stopped by one of the Acqua dell’Elba shops located in the center of Portoferraio to check out their new, limited edition perfume Cosimo I de’ Medici:

The best ever spaghetti con vongole, too:

Sightseeing, Napoleon’s home-in-exile and empty streets at siesta time:

Finally, one beach that I enjoy tremendously: the very shore from which Bonaparte escaped to Corsica, just us and couple of people there enjoying it, maybe because you need to hike down a steep path to the beach which is cool until you realize that you have to climb up the same way, flip flops and all:

Talking about aquatic frags – it smells great here!

Populonia

This part I enjoyed the most: tall, beautiful and old umbrella pine trees. Miles and miles of beaches (sandy, again…):

Etruscan remains all over the place and a small museum in a perfect little ancient town of Populonia Alta:

Yes, we are getting closer to THE place of inspiration: Buca delle Fate/The Fairy’s Hole Beach and Cove! I’ve done some crazy things in search of inspiration behind a perfume, but never like this! Just imagine a thirty minutes walk amidst thick Mediterranean woods and macchia, the Etruscan quarry and tombs that you pass through in the woods, lizards running across your path…

When you finally reach the rocky coastline, the full magic of Buca delle Fate takes hold of all your senses. The sea, the macchia covered hills behind you, the whole Island of Elba in view: what a magical place! There’s a legend: this place was (is?) inhabited by mermaids who bewitched the fisherman and sailors, to capture them and prevent their return home:

Remember to bring your own water and food, and that it takes another 40 minutes to return to the main road (less if you’re not wearing flip flops as I did).

That’s not all: during our stay in Riparbella, we attended two local events: Wild Boar Hunters and Harvest Festa with an exhibition of old tractors. That smell of fresh hay:

On our way back home, we stopped to spend a couple of more days in Montegrotto Terme near Padua: thermal water, indoor and outdoor pools, massages, Turkish baths, and more great food. We discovered a small restaurant there – Mamma Perdonami, I really recommend it:

Tip: pasta doesn’t make you gain weight. I lost 2 kg in Italy while enjoying pasta as primo almost every day!

I hope you will find some useful information here, feel free to ask me if you’re planning to visit these places and have additional questions.

I shall publish this perfume review soon, in the meantime keep an eye on new blog posts here, and make sure to visit my IG account too!

La vita e bella!

 

The Plum Girl

Elena Cvjetkovic

Photos: The Plum Girl