BUONA SERA E BENVENUTI A BARNEYS! ~ Acqua di Parma Launch at Barney’s

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Last Thursday night I co-hosted the launch of Acqua di Parma at Barney’s NY here in San Francisco. I was invited by Michael Rogers the rep for the line at the exclusive department store to help set up the event and introduce him and the line to the Barney’s customers.

Here is what I had to say about the Acqua di Parma that night.

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As far back as I can recall I have found a fascination with the lands that are kissed by the salty waves of the Mediterranean. The golden glamour of Egypt, the mystery that is Marrakesh, the fallen heroes of Hellas, and the place where God met man in so many different languages, but of all these lands one claimed my heart when I was very young. There in the middle sea stretching down from Europe toward Africa like an exquisite Ferragamo boot is Italy.

In dark Cinemascope dreams, painted in lush strokes of Technicolor….as a little boy in the front row of the Fox Theater I found the map to my heart’s home. It was the 1950’s and after the horrors of World War II Hollywood went on location and in so doing took me and the rest of America on a grand tour. “Roman Holiday” made a Vespa ride through the eternal city the hart of bitter sweet romantic possibilities.  “Summertime” gave us Venice as we had never dreamed it could be, at any age.  De Sica showed us “The Gold of Naples”,

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Luchino Visconti swept across a Sicily now gone with the wind in “The Leopard” and Fellini gave us “8 ½” thousand ways to  re-imagine our dreams, It all happened in the darkness of that old theater. A darkness that to me was brighter than sunflowers in Tuscany and as fragrant as Parma violets.

 

In the midst of this boom of movie making in Italy the imported Hollywood stars I was watching on the screen, like Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner

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and David Niven discovered the Perfume house of Acqua di Parma. They fell in love with unique beauty of the fragrance first created in 1916, Aqua di Parma Colonia.

 

Think of it, 98 years ago. Hemmingway was driving an ambulance in the Alps, Paris was the last stop before Hell and the world was fighting for inches in trenches in the Great War to end all wars. Out of that terrible time came this beautiful fragrance and many more to follow.

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It survived World War I, this cologne fist created to scent newly sewn Italian suits and men’s handkerchiefs. The great depression didn’t diminish its beauty. And then it was liberated by the Allies on April 25, 1945 to a new world with a new look of glamour and sophistication. It became so interconnected with Old Hollywood that to this day it carries a cache of chic not many other houses can match. In one very real sense Acqua di Parma is Hollywood on the Tiber in a bottle.

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But it is much more than that to me. It is the smells of Italy. In each bottle from the Colonia of 1916 to the newest of the Blu Mediterranio it is there. The leather scented air of Florence, the Lemoncello nights of Positano. It is there in that little deco bottle. From the twisted juniper trees on high Sardinian cliffs to the rich gourmand blend of pasta and wine that is Rome. It is there.

 

When I finally made my way to Rome, to see it for myself, to be immersed in my own dream, and to wake every morning and realize it was better than any movie, it was real.  I smelled the trampled earth of the Circus Maximus after the rain, and a smoky incense swirl that meets the air when a church door opens, the flowers cut fresh at the foot of Giordano Bruno in the Campo di Fiori, and the shimmery slippery wet cobblestones of the via del Corso. Italy is fragrance, it is perfumed by history. These smells are the essence of Italy and as I breathed them in I knew at once that I had come home at last.  Now it is your turn to find your story in the bottle, your turn to smell Italy and become a part of the dream.

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We had a nice turnout and everyone enjoyed Michael’s presentation of all of the fragrances of the line. He was so engaging and entertaining. I was so impressed by the time and effort he put in to the presentation. The table was beautiful and there were even samples of the ingredients for everyone to smell. Every aspect of Acqua di Parma is hand made. Even the beautiful boxes the fragrance come in. Of particular interest were the new Leather and Oud fragrances. At the end of the event every guest received a goodie bag packed with samples to try out at there leisure.

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(Michael Rogers of Acqua di Parma)

 It was so much fun to be a part of this wonderful launch and I want to thank Michael and Christina and the entire fragrance department staff who are always hospitable and wonderful. And welcome to Barney’s Acqua di Parma!

 

If you are in the San Francisco area, do drop by Barney’s and say hello, smell some incredible fragrances and tell them I sent you.

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Barney’s NY San Francisco

77 O’Farrell Street

(415) 268-3500

LA SERENISSIMA WINKS ~ 10 Corso Como Uomo by 10 Corso Como

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William and Charlie always took a vacation from each other in the middle of their vacation. When they ware abroad this practice helped to keep their friendship fresh and happy while in such close quarters. On this particular trip the “Your on your own day” happened on a Wednesday and it happened in Venice.

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For there stay, William rented an apartment on the Piscina Sant Agnese near the wooden bridge on the Academia side of the Grand Canal. There was only one key to the apartment. So it was agreed on this Wednesday that one of them would hold the key and return to the apartment at two just in case the other needed to pop in to freshen up in la stanza da bagno.

Out the door and at Calle Chisea William said “goodbye” and went left and Charlie said “see you later” and went right.

“Gondola Mister?”  The handsome blond gondolier that Charlie saw every morning at Ponte San Vio called out to him and tipped his hat followed by a graceful bow that set his gondola to seductively sway at its moorings.

“Grazie no Signor.”  At one hundred fifty a pop Charlie knew it was a luxury he would have to pass up.

The gondolier winked. “Maybe domani?”

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Charlie laughed and began to whistle “Meglio Stasera” and in so doing turned his morning outing into a Pink Panther adventure sans inspector Clouseau.

At two thirty-five Charlie realized that William was most likely not coming back to the apartment. He decided to have a small glass of Lemoncello. At two forty five he had another and realized he hadn’t eaten lunch yet. At three with William a no-show Charlie headed for Campo San Barnaba for a bite of of something to soak up the Lemoncello that was making him feel just on the edge of silly.

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Sitting under a square white umbrella in the clear luminous light of the campo where years ago Katherine Hepburn fell into the canal in “Summertime” Charlie savored the best lasagna he had ever tasted.  He called the waiter over and ordered third glass of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. When the forth glass of wine was set before him he saw William coming across the campo from the Ponte dei Pugni he nearly knocked over his wine when he jumped up to wave to his friend he hadn’t seen in seven hours.

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Reunited and refreshed they each bubbled over with stories of there exciting day. Another glass of wine was ordered. After lunch they crossed the Grand Canal on a traghetto, the poor man’s gondola. Feeling a wee bit tipsy from the wine and the Lemoncello Charlie sat down to keep from re-enacting Hepburn’s tumble into the indubitably questionable waters of the Grand Canal.

“Signore! No sit!”

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By five that evening Charlie was somewhat recovered and able to stand in a traghetto, when William suggested it, he was very agreeable to a having a cocktail. Why not they were after all on vacation weren’t they? Besides that, there was an hour or three to kill before dinner. The view from the tables outside at the Accademia Foscarini Bar e Pizzeria was the money shot of the day and the friends agreed it would be a stunning spot to rest their feet and lubricate the liver. They ordered Negronis. Charlie had never seen such a huge cocktail tumbler in his life.

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The May sky which was streaked with rose and amber over the Grand Canal an hour before was now spangled with stars as they headed out to dinner at Osteria San Barnaba. Fueled with Negronis and un grande amore vivo e tutte le cose italiane, the two friends charmed the waiters at the Osteria. By one in the morning they were sharing a gasoline like drink called Grappa with their waiter Antonio and singing “Volarie” off key but with great feeling. At two A.M. Antonio bid them buona notte on the street outside the Osteria.

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Shoulder to shoulder, very fuzzy and smudged at the edges William and Charlie wandered through the sleeping city.  Suddenly they stumbled upon the immense splendor and expanse of the dark choppy Giudecca Canal. Bobbing gondolas glimmered a rich dark shellac in the moonlight. There was not a sound but for the soft slapping of the water against the stone stairs that led down into the ink blue waters.  William had fallen moodily silent and was looking intently at the wet velveteen waters as they slapped the ancient stones.

“Don’t do it.” Charlie said. “It is so beautiful and it would be a dramatic end…a death in Venice, but don’t jump in.”

William smiled. “I wasn’t thinking that, I was thinking of The Wings of the Dove.”

Charlie put his arm around his best friend. And at that moment the sky above the Giudecca exploded in a glittering shower of fireworks.

“Look William, it is all for us.”

“La Serenissima is winking.” William said softly.

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Gondoliers watch the fireworks from Venice across the Giudecca

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10 Corso Como Uomo by 10 Corso Como is a beautiful Spicy Oriental for men. The house of 10 Corso Como which is dedicated to art, fashion and design was founded in Milan by Carla Sozzani a gallery owner and publisher. It began as a gallery in 1990 and has since grown to include fashion, food and a hotel. The philosophy behind this house is to present the world of art, music, design, cuisine and fashion to reflect the inspiration of world cultures.

The perfume opens in a clear spicy zing of ginger ringing with notes of bergamot and mandarin orange. This is a lovely crisp and eye-opening scent, not shocking to the system but rather delightful and warm in its opening presentation.

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Accademia Foscarini Bar e Pizzeria

The dominant note in the perfume enters rather fast to join in the sparkle created by the ginger and as the bergamot and mandarin fade to the back this lively Pepper takes center stage. Along the way in the heart of the fragrance the peeper is joined by a shy Ylang-Ylang and a bashful jasmine. Together these two floral notes smooth the pepper and ginger out and lead the way to a really nice dry down.

In the base notes there is a clean Musk that never gets soapy but stays true along with the Cedar to a classic masculine oriental feel. This is added by a light shimmering veneer of amber and vanilla.

Overall the perfume lasts about eight hours on my skin and has a noticeable sillage in the first few hours. I must thank Michel Gizinski at Neiman Marcus for introducing me to this wonderful fragrance. Michel is an incredible ambassador of fragrance, so knowledgeable and eager to share the world of fragrance with his clients. He has been dubbed “The Nose of Union Square” and indeed he is the go to man for many San Franciscans who are into perfume. The nose knows!  And because of this lovely man, I always find myself coming back to 10 Corso Como Uomo when I am looking for something sophisticated, unusual, and neo-classical in feeling.

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10 Corso Como Uomo ~ 5 Platinum Stars

MOVIES ITALIAN STYLE ~ Aqva Pour Homme Marine Bvlgari

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“Tu vuò fa l’ americano!
mmericano! mmericano
siente a me, chi t’ ho fa fa?
tu vuoi vivere alla moda
ma se bevi whisky and soda
po’ te sente ‘e disturbà.”

Italy in the 1950’s and 60’s as seen in the movies was such a wonderful place, one wonders if it really existed. A place where Sophia Loren raised her precocious nephew on the island of Capri and fell in love with Clark Gable, or the Italy of Gina Lollobrigida dancing the night away with Rock Hudson on the Italian Riviera. The cinema Italy of De Sica, and his Gold of Naples, or Luchino Visconti’s gorgeous Rocco and His Brothers. And then there is the land of Fellini, from Il Vitelloni through the Dolce Vita of the Via Veneto to the dreams and magic of Juliet and her spirits.

With each film visit it is breathtaking and seductive and like Katherine Hepburn’s first view of Venice in Summertime it is love at first sight no matter how many times you see it.

 

 One visits Italy in the movies be they American or Italian films and one enters into a place so incredibly alive. It is a land that is vibrant and so full of color, passion and drama that it almost hurts the heart to hold it all in without crying. A place where life seems to bubble forth in pure joy like the never ending waters of the Fontana di Trevi. Toss your three coins in and you will always return to il cinema d’Italia.

Aqva Pour Homme Marine Bvlgari for Men takes me to this Italy every time I wear it. It  is like a refreshing spray of the Adriatic Sea on your skin while skiing behind a beautiful vintage 1959 speedboat off of Rimini. It is a movie in itself and a tour of Italy from Sicily to LakeComo. You blast off with the Italian Grapefruit and Neroli opening that I love so much. Then it segues into savory rosemary freshly picked from the gardens of the Emilia Romagna.  Salty seaweed from the bay of Naples and water notes that are quite nice and sophisticated. At the end, in the dry down you are in the sunset of the scent of lingering cedar that remind me of the umbrella pines around Torre Astura. You may end up humming “Tu vuo fa l Americano” yet you will feel so Italian doing it.

 

It is  so fresh and light yet lasts a good eight hours or so. It just puts me in mind of Italy in the late 50’s, fun, bright, and jazzy. A definite spring to summer scent and with a few spays you are staring in your own Vittorio De Sica movie.

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Four gold stars ****

ON THE TRAIN TO VENICE ~ Armani Eau Pour Homme

The uniquely plaintive train whistle echoes thought the huge train shed of
Stazione Termini Roma.

(“ROME ADVENTURE” 1962)

The doors with an airy whishing close and with the second  whistle blast the sleek Ferrari red Italo bullet train begins to wheel like a  silky sliver of light from the cocoon of the station. Suddenly, like any city in the  world, the backside view of Rome appears. Across the rows of polished steel tracks the walls and roofs of the city begin to slide away with increasing
speed, crumbly, golden and eternal, farewell Roma. Onward the train glides toward the final destination of Venice.

The train at top speed cuts with  surging power and grace though the beautiful central valley of Italy that lies  between the Apennines and the costal mountains. This deep lipstick red machine  is now speeding along at a smooth imperceptible 250 miles an hour. Quietly it  banks like a private jet gently and with much less noise it takes a turn. With
each turn left then right it becomes a waltz across the landscape Train  attendants move along in their chic uniforms with carts overflowing with snacks  and beverages. Everyone on the train except the tourists are thoughtfully and  beautifully dressed. Outside trees, and farms and hills and towns fly buy in a  beautiful kaleidoscopic whiz of green light and terracotta shadow. The glamour  of train travel is alive and well in Italy.

(LEAVING FLORENCE)

In no time at all the Duomo  of Florence appears on the right side of the train. In the station and out again  and on over the pass in the Mountains between Florence and Bologna.

(PASSING THROUCH BOLOGNA)

There are  high towers in the city of Bologna that lean too. Pisa has no exclusive rights  on leaning towers in Italy. Bologna’s can be seen high against the sky as the  train rolls out of the station to cut across the Po Valley and into the Veneto.

(ARRIVING VENICE ~” SUMMERTIME” 1955)

As the train leaves the mainland and ventures like Cupids arrow straight across the causeway  for the heart of La Serenissima the city shines on the lagoon. In moments the  passengers are descending from the train and moving caught up in the bustling  throng, though the station and out onto the Grand Canal. The whole world has  changed with this startling view of Venice accept the legendary style of Italy  and her people. They like Rome are eternal.

(KATHERINE HEPBURN HAPPY TO BE IN VENICE IN “SUMMERTIME”)

In its classic men’s perfume  from 1984 Armani Eau Pour Homme, the fashion house of Giorgio Armani captured  all the style and refined polish one finds in a train trip across Italy. Sleek,  elegant and powerful this fragrance has it all. It pops on the skin at first spray, the top notes of mandarin, green orange, basil, bergamot, lemon all  conspire to create what I can only describe as jalapeno peppers. This surprising  accord almost lost me the first time I tried it on but it was as it turned out  just a little lurch of the train leaving the station. I was willing to overlook  this in anticipation of the journey ahead. Up from the bottom notes comes the  sandalwood to smooth and calm the top notes. This note like a good train  conductor stays always present for the rest of the journey.

As the opening notes die away and leave the sandalwood to greet the most powerful of the heart notes jasmine, and lily it moves to its restrained presentation which  makes it stand out against the other overwhelming power fragrances of the 80’s.  These two notes hold court over the more subtle rose, nutmeg cumin and clove.  Here it is close to the skin and will remain so. As the journey though the  heartland continues enter the notes of cedar, oak moss and musk. This lasts a  good four to five hours. As the train begins to loose steam in the dry down  there is just a whispered memory of jasmine and sandalwood left and they find  support in a hint of patchouli musk and vetiver. At about 6 hours the ride is  over.

The first time I tried Armani Eau Pour Homme I found it to be a  bit of a disappointment. That was two months ago. As time went by I would come  back to it and try it again. Finally I was in tune with its subtle style. Like  the extraordinary suits and elegant gowns of Armani it is all about understated  elegance.

FOUR GOLD STARS ****

ROME ADVENTURE! ~ Gucci Envy for Men

The seven hills at sunset, a swarm of reeling starlings black against the amber sky. The sounds of voices from high windows in narrow streets are like battling arias from an opera by Verdi.  Hundreds of Vespas beep a high urgent call as they careen past the Vittorio Emanuele II monument to shoot down the Via Imperiale at top speed toward the Coliseum and a night of fun. In the museums you see faces in stone thousands of years old. Faces of men and women of astonishing magnificence and authority, only to step out into the sunlight and see the same faces warm and alive and in the flesh.  Every where you turn there is beauty. Beauty in color, textures, architecture, music, smells, sounds, tastes. This is a city that is more about being in the moment and alive than any place I know.  Welcome home, welcome to Rome. Benvenuti a Roma!

Envy by Gucci is an intense experience. Like your first trip to Rome, it like the Eternal City is layered beautifully, with the smells of food, and gardens all rich aromas of red Italian wines. Florence smells like expensive warm leather,Venice smells of sharp crisp sea salt and grappa. But Rome is unique and Envy takes me back to Rome every time I put it on.

The oriental ginger, incense, amber, patchouli, along with anise, nutmeg, gives it a gourmand glamour.  The deep sensuous musk, Cedar wood and cardamom bring in the feeling of the Borghese gardens on a steamy roman summer night. The color, did I mention the beautiful color of the juice? It is arrestingly beautiful, like the new green of the sycamore trees in early spring along the Tiber. You could get lost in the fresh promise of that sycamore green.

Envy is a stunning masterpiece that does not disappoint in the areas of silage, projection and longevity. Lasts on me around 8 hours, it really delivers.

I am just swept away by this elegant and supremely Italian fragrance that is as gorgeous as the men and women of Rome. Ché bella città, quello che un buon profumo!

Solid Five Platinum Stars *****

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