Florence, city of perfume: retracing the footsteps of the ancient Florentine perfumery tradition

The Renaissance era is synonymous with Florence, the city of the arts and creative genius par excellence, which between the late 1300s and the late 1400s was the center of the world and the cradle of masterpieces whose importance is universally recognized. Not everyone knows, however, that it was during this era that another art, perfumery, was also perfected. It was from the ancient Florentine perfumery tradition that contemporary perfumery took off, thanks in part to the intercession of a young Caterina de' Medici who elevated this art destined to become an indispensable status symbol for the social coexistence of the European nobility and the wealthier classes.

Perfume was already a widespread practice among major ancient civilizations, but it was largely abandoned during the Middle Ages. It was during the Renaissance that the it came back into vogue at the major Italian courts. Almost every convent in Italy's major urban centers had at least one alchemist friar dedicated to working with herbs and extracting their essences, and Florence was no exception: at the convent of Santa Maria Novella, where the world's oldest pharmaceutical workshop still stands today, Dominican friars began to study the properties of medicinal herbs, effectively laying the groundwork for the art of perfumery. In the early 16th century in the city, perfumes were regularly worn by ladies of wealthy or noble lineage, and among them a great enthusiast was Caterina de' Medici, great-granddaughter of Lorenzo il Magnifico.

In 1533 Catherine moved to Paris to marry Henry of Orleans, the future king of France, introducing many customs and traditions related to the Tuscan culture into the French court: from the use of the fork to local food and wine excellences such as olive oil, cheeses and Chianti wine, to the use of perfume. Indeed, the young noblewoman had brought with her from Florence her trusted perfumer, Renato Bianco, who became known to the French as René le Florentin. The Florentine alchemist had learned the secrets of herbal distillation from the monks of the convent of Santa Maria Novella, and once he arrived in France he undertook to spread his knowledge in the perfumery arts, contributing to the birth of new perfumers ready to meet the growing demand of the French nobility. In a reality that was as opulent and refined as it was malodorous, and that already placed enormous value on the exterior, perfume was going to represent the missing piece to increase one's social prestige, as well as a valuable mean of facilitating interpersonal relationships.

Soon the French conquered the supremacy of perfumers, retaining it for more than two centuries. However, the Florentine perfumery tradition still lives on today, handed down and expressed by many artisan realities of excellence. Realities such as Aquaflor, which is dedicated to the ancient art of perfumery following the techniques and secrets of the past, but with an eye that looks to the present and the future as a one-of-a-kind perfumery house. On the one hand, a completely centralized artisanal production in our precious underground laboratory guarantees full control over the processes and allows us to pursue the highest quality in every single bottle produced. On the other hand, a vocation for openness to sharing and collaboration makes Aquaflor much more than a perfumery house, but rather a meeting point for different artistic forms and a place where one can experience a true sensory journey: entering Aquaflor mean interrupting the timeline and immerse oneself in a world of smells, sensations, memories and beauty. A world where, thanks in part to the workshops conducted by our expert perfumers, every visitor has the opportunity to have an experience to cherish forever.