In April I had the chance to visit the Veneto region of Italy (a region I kept mispronouncing until certain friends set me straight). It’s where Bottega Veneta was founded fifty years ago and is home to the great visionary, Andrea Palladio, who inspired much of the architecture and gardens in the region today. These are the gardens and villas that inspired Parco Palladiano, the newest fragrance collection from Bottega Veneta. Creative director, Tomas Maier’s goal was to bottle up the quintessential Italian experience and capture the beauty and heritage of the land in these fragrances.
Each of the six fragrances tells a story and there is meaning behind each. I got to hear firsthand from the perfumers about these stories and inspirations. But let’s backtrack a tiny bit – my only real experience with Italy thus far had been two trips to Milan (which some will say is not the “real” Italy). I always imagined the countryside of Italy to be filled with rolling hills and golden light. That isn’t so far from the truth, and bonus: there are bucket loads of beautiful wisteria too. I spent a grand total of barely 36 waking hours in Veneto, but the feeling of the region was palpable.
That one whirlwind day began with a visit to the Bottega Veneta atelier where we witnessed first-hand the “intrecciato” (the signature weave of the house) being woven by hand. Photos weren’t allowed but it was truly amazing to see the craftsmanship and time that goes into these bags. On a side note, my very first luxury handbag ever was actually a Bottega Veneta Campana, and though I’ve cycled through and sold many of my other bags, I can’t let go of this one for both its sentimental value and classic design.
From there, we headed to Villa Fracanzan Piovene, a villa inspired by Palladian architecture, where we enjoyed a lunch and tour of the property. The afternoon went by in a flash, with visits to the Basilica Palladiana and the Teatro Olimpico (the first roofed seated theater in the world) in Vicenza.
Then, the exciting and highly anticipated part of the day began. We sat down with the perfumers and smelled each of the new perfumes, which are named by Roman numerals to reflect the classical heritage of the Palladian villas. They represent different moments throughout the day, from morning to evening, taking us on an imaginary journey through a Palladian garden.
So we begin with the scent of magnolia in the morning. This fragrance (I) by Michel Almairac captures the experience of sitting under the magnolia tree before the sun has had a chance to alter its scent. Then morning fades, and the light is very bright (II). This fragrance by Alexis Dadier is about the cypress tree. Notes of salt and pepper express freshness and the two-fold personality of the tree. We are meant to feel the elegance of this tree. For Daniela Andrier, another Parco Palladiano perfumer, a visit to the Palladian villas 25 years ago profoundly evoked things for her. On her process, she says, “It’s a matter of memories… universal memories that we can all relate to.” This fragrance (III) turns a bit melancholy, with the overripe pear that signals a change in seasons, from summer to autumn.
For Dadier’s second fragrance in the collection (IV), the azalea is at the forefront. It is the end of the afternoon and there is a cloud of smell from the flowers that have been warmed by the sun all day. It is a comfortable feeling. There is creaminess and woody chestnut to balance. We move on to Andrier’s second creation, an herb/spice garden that has been in the shadows (V) in a cool place away from the sun, a “majestic place” she calls it.
We end the journey with a rose that has been outside in the garden all day (VI). Mylene Arlan and Michel Almairac’s rose is not your typical rose. It’s more delicate and soft from soaking in the sun’s golden light, yet spicy from cinnamon, sandalwood, and cedar.
Later that evening, we visited Villa Rotonda for the culmination of our olfactory journey. Here we got to walk through the proverbial Palladian garden and experience artful installations interpreting each of the fragrances. If I absolutely had to choose a favorite, it'd likely be a toss-up between II and VI. They really all are beautiful.
Parco Palladiano is available at Bergdorf Goodman and Bottega Veneta at $295 a bottle.
In collaboration with Bottega Veneta