UNA NOTTE A ROMA ~ Le Gemme Bvlgari Haute Parfum

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Slick and glittering of ruby and emerald reflected from the traffic lights, the Via Veneto was empty after the predawn spring rain. Nick Abbot walked down the steps of the Excelc6ior Hotel and trough the porte-cochère filled with the thrill of his first morning in Rome. He could not sleep from the excitement that keep waking him to whisper “five days in Rome…why are you sleeping?”

On the sidewalk near to where he remembered Marcello had returned Ekberg to the Hotel in black and white a half a century or more ago, he smiled. It really was Rome…and it felt like coming home.  He looked up the street. Café de Paris was half hidden by the sycamore trees its sapphire blue neon swirling. The sidewalk before it held the memory of Valentino as a youth bumping into destiny and Giancarlo Giammetti on that very spot.

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Beyond was the ancient Porta Pinciana gate in the Aurelian walls that opened onto the Borghese gardens. He crossed the street and just past the Fellini plaque he turned down the Via Ludovisi.

A Ferrari convertible sped past sending a spray of water up from the street. Caught momentarily in the headlights the water arched over the sidewalk and became spray of diamonds as they fell in slow-motion into a pool of shimmering platinum. The woman driving waved to him her fingers fluttering bejeweled in amethyst. In the rear view mirror He caught her smile, so like Claudia Cardinale’s.  He walked on not knowing where he was going. He just wanted to feel and smell and embrace the city he had waited forty nine years to come home to at last.

The only sound was the click of his heels on the cobblestones.

“Marcello! Where are you?”

At the sound of her voice he stopped and turned in front of the Villa Maraini? Silence, only silence. The kind that only exists in a city as it breathes slowly in and out as it sleeps.  There was no one behind him. He walked on past the Hotel Eden and turned left along via Francesco Crispi. The sidewalk became narrow and kept him close to walls washed in citrine and terracotta. A shutter opened across the street as he turned the corner onto via Sistina and he caught a glimpse of a dark woman. She looked down at him and laughed and shutters closed. That laugh was so familiar. He stopped…wait a minute. He knew that laugh and that dark beautiful face. Anna Magnani! But that was impossible. He laughed softly, it must be jet lag he thought and walked on toward the obelisk up ahead. At the Hassler the street opened onto a small piazza.

“There you are! We have been waiting for you.”

He turned to see young Monica Vitti standing in front of the spinning gold and glass revolving doors of the Hassler. Smoking a cigarette, she was black and white film incarnate. No color except for spectacular Technicolor diamond and emerald necklace which she touched lightly with her right hand. There was a matching ring. And likewise the earrings danced from her ears matched the entire suite. She dropped her cigarette onto the cobblestones and walked right through him. Astonished Nick turned to watch as the Italian star skipped in her evening gown to meet Alain Delon who was waiting in the shadow of the obelisk.

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“I can’t believe……” Nick’s heart skipped five beats as he saw them walk to a flight of stairs then disappear down them. He ran to the stairs and was stunned by his first sight of the Spanish Steps as they tumbled and spilled before him down to the Piazza di Spagna.

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The celluloid phantoms of Vitti and Delon were gliding down the steps toward the Via dei Condotti. Nick stepped down onto the first marble step worn by centuries of those who walked before him. The air became light, and the sound of Nino Rota’s music filled the sky as the first touch of dawn rose at the top of the steps over the Trinità dei Monti . Nick was near euphoria as he moved down and down amid a parade of cinema dreams. Ingrid Bergman passed on his right carrying a parasol…from her neck hung diamonds to dazzle the most jaded eye. She smiled at Nick. From his left came Virna Lisi dripping in scintillating stones she smiled into his eyes. As she passed him she caressed his chin with the tip of a finger and priceless rubies winked from her ears. Legends from every era of film came and went as he descended. Joan Collins in black pearls, Sharon Stone in gold, Grace Kelly in sapphires, Romey Schenider resplendent in amethyst. Audrey Hepburn met him half way down and took his arm. She was eating a gelato on a cone and held it out to him to take a taste. It was like nothing he had ever tasted before. Audrey then led him to the bottom of the Spanish Steps to the man waiting below. She kissed his cheek and vanished in swirl of stars.

Richard Burton stood before him. As he turned to lead the way he spoke as only he could in that baritone made in heaven at Shakespeare’s suggestion.

“’We will have rings, and things, and fine array’”

Nick followed unbelieving and wanting to go on forever in whatever magic this was.

Richard Burton stopped half way down the first block and turned. He smiled.

Nick looked up at the building. One word over the door. BVLGARI.

“That is the only word Elizabeth knows in Italian.”  Burton said.

The music stopped, the street was deserted …they were all gone except for Nick.

A touch of breeze up from the Tiber tosseled his hair and whispered in his ear.

“Welcome to Rome.”

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The new haute perfume collection of perfumes by Bvlgari is inspired by the iconic stones for which the Roman jewelry house is famous for. Six fragrances from six stones that create what Bvlgari calls “The Bvlgari Gems Road”.

The collection is called Le Gemme (The Gems) and it is something to celebrate.  The house known for adorning the necks, ears, wrists and fingers of most if not all of the legends of the 20th century and beyond has in the past impressed us with such fragrances as the amazing Bvlgari Black, The Jasmine Noir collection, The Aqua collection and Bvlgari Man collection and Omnia.  But with this new and very exclusive release the house is concentrating on perfumes that represent the very core of the Bvlgari brand. The soul of chic that is Bvlgari jewelry.

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First in the lineup is Ashlemah, (sweet dreams) is based on the amethyst. A stone associated with divinity, spirituality and purity. This perfume is the aristocrat of the line. It is highly sophisticated in nature and wears on the skin with regal beauty. Purple after all is the color of kings. The notes are lavender essence, Iris absolute and musk. No muddle of too many symphonic notes but rather a chamber piece of clarity and beauty. It opens in Lavender but the star in the evening sky is the imperial cool beauty of a lovely iris note. This is held aloft on the skin by a clean clear musk.

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Sunlight over Capri, Joy and la dolce vita are what we find in our second fragrance Maravilla (delight / marvelous ). The stone that we explore here is the golden Citrine, the stone of intelligence, and sunny disposition. In fact this chypre fragrance is my favorite of the line, bright, effervescent and shooting light and joy right off the skin. This is a lemon grove hugging the cliffs along the Amalfi Coast. The notes of Italian Lemon tree, Orange flower absolute are married to a playful and yet grounded rich patchouli. Again just three major notes and what a magic marriage of notes these three are. The patchouli with the two citrus notes is a brilliant move by the perfumer Daniella Andrier who is the nose for the entire collection. It is woodsy and warm. This will be a huge summer and spring hit.

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Mystery and solitude are Calaluna, the moonstone. The goddess, this stone is associated with magnetism, and intuition. Calaluna is also a beautiful isolated bay on the island of Sardinia. Azure waters and white warm sands are the signature of this place where the cliffs dotted with caves falls it the sea. This fragrance of White Iris, almond flavored Heliotrope and Sandalwood is warm and lonely. Not the sad kind of lonely but the self-possessed solitude of one who lives comfortably in one’s own skin. This is a very contemplative fragrance. When I wear it I feel the doors of introspection and discovery unlock and open before me. Truly beautiful, and again only three notes that blend to do all of this. Less is becoming the minimalist’s everything. That everything embodied here is the pinnacle of cool and chic.

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Lilaia was a Naiad of Spring to the Greeks and Romans. A fresh water nymph and daughter of the river Kephisos. She also lends her name to this green fresh fragrance by Bvlgari. Lilaia is inspired by the green Peridot a gem of rebirth and change. So fittingly this is a beautiful aromatic slightly fruity perfume. The notes are Galbanum, Mastic absolute, mint, bitter orange and musk. The Mastic give the aromatic resinous galbanum a full round lushness of a green Mediterranean forest of pine and cedar like accords. This to me smells like the umbrella pines on the Palatine hill in Rome. There in the Farnese gardens at the top of the hill just before you enter the ruins of the imperial palaces there is an overlook perched over the Forum. At that spot, under those umbrella pines you are enveloped in the most wonderful woody green scent. This to me is where Lilaia now lives singing her song in harmonious lovely notes.

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The Pink Tourmaline is a spitfire stone from Brazil, and at Bvlgari they call her, Amarena. In Italian, Morello Cherry. She is all about heat and glamour and a big bold flower in her hair. This fragrance sambas on the skin to a wonderful tune created by the notes of Amarena Cherry, Violet, Rose Centifolia and Tuberose. This is a glamorous floral that becomes more entrancing after the sun sets. In fact there is a rather playful war of the roses going on here. A tug of war between the temperamental rose and the heavy lidded languorous tuberose. But as you move into the fragrance the two kiss and make up ending in a rather intricate sexy tango. For a winter seduction under the stars in the Borghese gardens wrapped in chinchilla. Well look no further, is your arsenal of love.

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From across the empire and beyond the deserts of the Middle East came spices and the rarest of gems to tantalize and intoxicate the aristocrats and emperors of Rome. For thousands of years and to this day the markets of Rome such as the open air market at the Campo de’ Fiori are filled with wonderful smells. Here in the last presentation of Le Gemme, Bvlgari dazzles us with the exotic Noorah. Inspired by the Silk Road between China and Rome one particular stone made its way through the East to the capital on the Tiber. That stone was Turquoise. Noorah means the “exuberance of the heavens” and what a perfect name for this exotic sensual perfume. Galbanum, cardamom, and vanilla found in the markets of Rome are lush and interesting here in the opening. I pick up a rich sweet tobacco note along with the very intriguing note of candied dates from Arabia. The caravan from Petra has arrived! This one when it first hits the skin is a bit biting but settles down nicely into a warm embracing and very inviting scent.

I found it interesting with each fragrance in the line that they vary in intensity and each as it should for what it is. Some lighter as in the Maravilla and others bold and deep such as in Amarena. With them all I found the longevity to range from good to excellent. The most interesting aspect of that would be that at about five or so hours they seemed to die but then about twenty minutes later they bloomed anew. I found that delightful. In all they last between eight to twelve hours on my skin. Projection is fine Amerena being the one to push out the most. So there is, in this respect something to please almost any taste in that regard. Marketed to women for the most part they all, to me work well as unisex scents. So fellows don’t be shy, step up and try some truly wonderful fragrances to wear with that great Bvlgari watch.

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The line is making its U.S. debut this month April 2015 in a select number of Bloomingdales across the country. As for Europe I am under the impression it has already launched. The beautiful Bvlgari 6-piece Collection box of 10ml sprayers is available at $260. A 30ml bottle retails at $155 and the 100ml bottle at $310

Le Gemme Bvlgari collection has been a joy to explore. A wonderful olfactory journey though the past and present along a road paved with jewels, gems and memories.

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MOVIE MEMORY ~ The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) 1963

The Leopard is perhaps the most beautiful films in Italian Cinema and one of the best from this country of great filmmakers. Directed by the master of period films Luchino Visconti it is sweeping, grand and magnificent in the telling of the story of the unification of Italy from the point of view of Sicilian Prince Don Fabrizio Salina. It encompasses the fall of the old ways of the aristocracy of a divided Italy and the rise of a new country with a healthy vibrant middleclass that would change Italy forever.

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The film is dominated by the best work captured on film of the great American actor, Burt Lancaster. He inhabits the role of the Italian Prince Salina with the dignity, power and grace of a true prince of cinema. It is reported in the extras on this Criterion DVD that he based his character on that of the equally aristocratic Visconti. Shrewd man that Lancaster was, for he presents us with two portraits, that of Visconti vision of the prince and that of his own interpretation embodiment of the director. Throughout the film there is in Lancaster a touch of the wounded or fallen hero. As the film progresses he fades in power and seems the verge of some terrible loss. His world is dying and he is on the edge of death itself. He seems, and is in fact in the end very near death though we are not shown anything more than a mere indication of his doom. In his final moments on screen he is heartbreaking.

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There are so many other wonderful performances in the film. Rina Morelli is proud, haughty, silly and touching as the wife of the Prince. Terrance Hill is wonderful in his small role of Count Cavriaghi, friend and wartime companion to the prince’s nephew Tancredi Falconeri. Alain Delon creates in Tancredi a magnificent spoiled and ultimately self-destructive young man who at first embraces the changes in the new Italy even to the point of wooing a woman from the middle class who a few years earlier would never have even been considered suitable. He gives in this film one of his best performances.

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And among the most luscious women of the Italian cinema of the 1960’s is Claudia Cardinale. A star of so many memorable films in both Italy and the U.S. she is here so stunningly beautiful and perfect as the fiancée  of Tancredi that she seems almost unreal. Her Angelica Sedara is both ethereal and earthy. The scene where she reacts at a formal dinner to a ribald story told by Delon is perfection. Her presence at the ball at the end of the film is truly memorable.

The sets, costumes and locals of the film are resplendent in scope and detail from the magnificent villa of the prince with it’s real silk walls to the ballroom at the end of the film set in the center of a palatial villa of unequaled splendor. The film is so magnificent that it is almost impossible to take it all in at one time. It bears repeated viewings and on the largest screen possible.

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This Criterion presentation is magnificent and loaded with wonderful extras that shed light on the making of and restoration of this masterpiece. The DVD is full of insights, included are interview with the screenwriters, set and costume designers, and the producer as well as the charming Miss Cardinale. You are also given the chance of viewing the Italian version or the re-cut (by a young Sydney Pollack) American version.

Visconti was an incredibly gifted and fascinating filmmaker who should not be overlooked by any true lover of cinema. The Leopard is his masterwork.

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What perfume would  Prince Don Fabrizio Salina have worn? Well for my money in the saving scene it would have to be ,  Garofano by Santa Maria Novella. One of the oldest perfume houses of Italy. This carnation perfume created in 1828 would have been perfect for the prince with its  top notes of  lemon, bergamot, mandarin and neroli. Middle notes of rosemary, petit grain, lavender and clove. a nice drydown of carnation and benzoin. An eau de cologne fit for a Prince.

THE FOREIGNER ~ Samourai by Alain Delon

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Nino Rota’s music filled the theater in rolling swells of Italian grandeur. The camera followed a young man though the ornate room of Sicilian palace as he made his way and his goodbyes to the family who lived there. With a final farewell to the dour Concetta he hopped into a buggy and road off as the camera rose high over the gardens of the palace of Prince Don Fabrizio Salina. That was the first time I ever saw him and I knew at thirteen that I had just seen the most beautiful man in the world. The film was Visconti’s masterpiece, “The Leopard” and the young man was Alain Delon.

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(Alain Delon, Claudia Cardinale in Il Gattopardo 1963)

My parents were bored with the epic film and somewhere in the middle of the film we committed movie sacrilege and left the theater, very much against my will because the film and Alain Delon had captured my imagination. I would see him again and very soon.

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     I found him again in the dark of the Fox movie palace in Riverside. He was a gigolo boy toy in the delightful “The Yellow Rolls Royce”, And the following year there he was in the epic war film “Is Paris Burning?”  He even did a western, “Texas Across The River”. He was magic in French and Italian but the Americans didn’t know how to use his unique abilities when they turned their CinemaScope lenses on him. He was more or less just required to be beautiful as the camera dollied to a heart stopping close-up.

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    So to really enjoy his acting gifts I had to go to the little “Foreign” movie house behind the old Fox Theater.  There He was in Antonioni’s haunting “L’eclisse”, He stunned us as the deadly American who stole a rich boy’s identity in “Purple Noon” the first version of “The Talented Mr. Ripley” Then the brilliant and tragic “Rocco and His Brothers” sealed his fate as a talent to be reckoned with.

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(Rocco E I Suoi Fratelli 1960)

“Borsolano” a gangster film set in 1930’s Marselles followed and the dangerous and beautifully stylized “Un Flic.” But perhaps his most famous role was as the Parisian hit man Jef Costello in the gorgeous film “Le Samourai” It is no surprise then that in later years when Delon began is foray into fashion and perfume he should create Samourai as his most famous signature scent.

 

The opening of Samourai is so sharp and crisp is seems almost to make the sound of a steel samurai sword as it is pulled in one swift motion from its scabbard.  This Oriental perfume has a spare elegance in its notes, almost like a beautiful Japanese flower arrangement. The opening of pink pepper and cedar on paper is soft but on the skin it is sharp wood and a hint of the medicinal. This is almost like a preparation for the skin, a cleansing for what is to follow.

Slowly the flowers are arranged and it is indeed a masterful Japanese design of the florals and citrus. A sumptuous rose is the center around which is placed spray of sensuous jasmine and buds of lemon and bergamot. The base of the arrangement is rooted firmly in a bed of dry aromatic vetiver.  The entire arrangement is set on a raw unvarnished sandalwood table for solid support. Elegant and pure, not a clean or fresh scent but rather something of a mystery to be explored as it unfolds.

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     This perfume was created in 1995 and holds its age well, there are flankers that followed which I have not tried, and two “women’s” flankers as well. Not a silage bomb in the least. It is too elegant and smart to be so obvious. It casts its net at about a foot or so and trails in subtle tendrils of scent. On my skin it lasts about 6 hours and most definitely can be worn by both men and women. The bottle is really beautiful. A square which on its sides twists from left to right as it moves up from the base. This design makes it fit into the hand very securely. The aqua marine juice contrasts to the silver lettering on the bottle and the stunning silver cap. All together it is a beautiful presentation.

Alain Delon was and still is a beautiful man who at 78 is still acting and making magic for us on the screen and in the perfume lab.  His allure is so enduring that Dior now uses his face as the face of Eau Savage.

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SAMOURAI BY ALAIN DELON: FIVE GOLD STARS

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