LA STRADA DI GIO ~ Acqua di Gio by Armani



Eons of erosion and salty breakers have formed the cliffs along the Amalfi coast. Tourists from around the globe flock to this spot on the Italian map where the mountains dive from precipitous heights like suicide bombers into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Neptune fans the ragged rocks with a glittering saline spay like diamonds from the deep. Rocky small beaches challenge one to find a comfortable spot to lie under the bronze eye of the sun.  The one narrow road from Castelammare di Stabia to Vietri Sul Mare, the Via Mauro Comite is jammed with Vespas, Italian sports cars, and tour buses the size of small yachts. Hairpin turns and blind corners dare drivers to great speed and daring maneuvers. The tour buses lumber along and lean out on turns threatening to dive into the sea with all aboard.  The wondrous natural beauty of this garden of lemons and lime trees, flowers, fruits and scrubby trees is inundated year round by the masses seeking to find some little corner of the real and personal beauty of this legendary coast.  It has been like this since the days of the Romans.



High above the Via Mauro Comite and even further up than most would dare to go is a small sanitarium. It is a place where people go to recover from a long illness. Small cell like rooms open on to a terrace with views that seem to reach out to touch the very shores of Africa. Something left over from the late 19th Century, deserted now of the sick and in a limbo of antiseptic dreams it is waiting its turn to be transformed into a small tourist hotel. The quiet elegance of the place will soon be overrun by the fast money and hubbub clamor of the tourist trade and those who want to be where everyone else is going. What was once unique and apart is now copied and emulated until the original becomes mundane. But up here from high above the clamor of the masses in this place that will soon be transformed into the ordinary it is still possible to close your eyes, take a deep breath and smell what was once so rare.


Acqua di Gio by Giorgio Armani was first introduced in 1996, the nose behind the fragrance was Alberto Morillas the creator of so many classics, among them the legendary M7 for Yves Saint Laurent. Acqua di Gio was ground breaking and original with the introduction of the oceanic note and from its creation sprung a whole pantheon of imitators. It is so popular that reportedly a bottle is sold on this planet every five seconds. This perfume stands in legend like Chanel No.5 does for women, as the go to scent for men; what can you say about it?

It smells nice. It smells like a vacation at the beach. It smells ordinary in its extraordinary nature due to the fact that it is so copied and that is a shame. For in retrospect we are blinded by the imitators. Having smelled its clones by other houses, a few of which I own it is next to impossible to be objective. We have to travel back in time 17 years and clear our minds and try.
It opens with an antiseptic camphor blast, like a medicinal menthol that expands the sinus. This introduction fades to lemons and limes and a cocktail of citrus with a jasmine flower nestled in cooling ice. Then in the middle the Calone molecule induced sea air rises with an Oceanic note and carries with it the summery blooms of Mediterranean Mignonette, green peppery Freesia, lush mysterious Cyclamen, Violets, a drunk on summer Hyacinth, roses, wild rosemary and even more jasmine all woven into a garland jauntily placed upon the head of a tanned youth eating a juicy warm peach. He may even have dusted that peach with a bit of nutmeg. The dry down is a solid foundation of amber, patchouli, Oakmoss, cedar and a clean fresh musk. This is all very predictable .


Once worn for the day one can see the dull appeal this has to its wide range of admirers. It is supremely safe and unchallenging to the nose. A perfect introduction to those new and nervous to the world of scent, teenage boys I am told bath in it. Acqua di Gio is “classic” in this sense and has a sophistication in the way it was created by a master nose but unsophisticated in the results. Like the Amalfi coast has a reputation of great beauty and excitement and for that reason the beach is very crowded. When you get there you discover it is not Amalfi after all, but Coney Island.




****revised 1/7/13 to clarify my position on this fragrance*****


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