Follow Your Nose to Your New Favorite Perfume: Best Perfumeries and Perfume Shops in Florence
Florence, synonymous with opulence, lays a sensory feast. Everything looks beautiful, tastes fantastic, sounds lovely, feels amazing, smells divine. Locals and travelers have been scooping up luxury items for centuries in leather and gold, books and brocade, cashmere and gems.Yet in an appeal to all five of the senses, Florence counts also among one of the fragrance capitals of the world both for its perfumier history and its impressive contemporary assemblage of local perfumes. The olfactory still counts here as an essential component of la bella figura – you’re never fully dressed without a scent.
Florence teems with lush gardens. Behind every gate or high stone wall lies a profusion of roses and laurel hedges, bitter orange and lemon trees, the discrete private paradises nestling. Public gardens of irises and roses adorn the western hills. When peak bloom is in, locals and tourists alike throng the colorful paths.
Perhaps in part due to its abundance of fragrant flowers and the surrounding forests rich in herbs and wood, Florence became a leader in the manufacture of fragrance. And while in earlier centuries a perfumer could also function as a poisoner and an apothecary trafficked in perfume, today Florence fills with sweet and addicting smells. Purchasing a flacon became de rigueur during the heyday of the Grand Tour on the continent, the perfect finishing touch to an acquired bella figura. Seeking your own signature fragrance, or just looking to shake things up a bit in your toilette? We offer here a brief tour of some of the best profumers in town.
Farmacia Santissima Annunziata
A hidden gem awaits you on Via dei Servi in the cool shadow of the Duomo. Reigning calmly from a classic black storefront, Farmacia Santissima Annunziata was established in 1561 and offers today a curated collection of unisex in-house fragrances. While Whisky Nobile is a personal favorite (evoking leather chairs in a smoking room, cake, scotch, vanilla, well-oiled wood, and a bouquet tucked into a corner), I am also partial to Réunion Vanilla and its sunny caramel notes. Cuoio Toscano lingers fetchingly with notes of lemon, saddle, and wood. They’re generous with samples too; don’t miss the high-quality skincare and haircare. All preparations are proprietary.
Founded by English pharmacist Henry Roberts in 1843, Profumeria Inglese now spreads its magnificent emporium on Via dei Ginori, stocking all manner of brands, from Italian favorites Chicco, Collistar, and Acqua dell’Elba to European niche products like Rudy 1920, Logevy, and Fragonard. If you’re looking for home fragrance, hair fragrance, or scented linen water, this is your place. You’ll find the gracious staff solicitous in their both consultations and recommendations.
Antica Farmacia Münstermann
Toward the Arno, in Piazza Goldoni, is the Antica Farmacia Münstermann, opened in 1897 by the eponymous German chemist. If you like your fragrance with a side of time travel and a top note of steam punk, then this is the place for you. Step into the space, decorated in marble, tile, and wood, and be transported to a more genteel era. Grooming sets, soaps, and balms abound, but the Antica Farmacia Münstermann is known in particular for its dozens of special-made single note fragrances, which can be mixed or matched as you wish for the perfect scent. Fancy a bit of bay rum and lime? Or vanilla and tabac? Perhaps neroli with vetiver? The options are infinite, and the timeless packaging and gift-wrap is a plus – a draw in itself. On a historic note, it is said that homeopathic remedies were introduced here for retail purchase.
Aquaflor, tucked in a shady lane off of Piazza Santa Croce, is known in connoisseur circles for its unique fragrance palate. A fioraio (flower shop) sells bouquets next door, in nod to the literal roots of these olfactory pleasures. Their bottles of niche fragrance, like Invisibile and Jalousie for women or Pathos and Beirut for men, are leagues beyond commercial wide-releases from the big houses. A significant draw for visitors to Aquaflor is the bespoke appointments they offer with a master perfumer to help you craft your signature fragrance. All fragrances created on the premises.
Since 1983, Dr. Vranjes has been making magnificent fragrances. Dr. Vranjes might be one of the best-kept secrets in Florence and merits a wider global discovery. Their enormous bottles of ambient fragrance can be spotted in the lobbies of luxury hotels, retail boutiques, and professional offices around the city and further afield. Maestro Paolo Vranjes, a professionally trained chemist with a vocation in luxury fragrance, oversees the operation, carefully curating the mixes, specializing in the unforgettable scent that unlocks feelings and memories. Favorites include Rosso Nobile, Ginger Lime, and Ambra. I own two bottles of Dr. Vranjes perfume, whose containers evoke the unmistakable Duomo: Gennaio 28 Il Cuore, which smells like velvet true love with a woody base, and Settembre 19 Ego, which takes me immediately to a sweet bonfire of dried olive prunings, the promise of autumn breezes and star-filled nights.
Across the river in the narrow canyon of Via San Niccolò is the dual storefront of Sileno Cheloni, a bespoke perfumier that offers nothing less than an alchemical renaissance. The opulent interior is a fitting backdrop for the adventure: map your particular fragrance profile in the Profumoir experience with a dedicated expert and finish with a gilded flacon of your own inimitable perfume. An array of fragrances are available for both body and home, tied in inspiration and meaning to the dreams and myths that lurk in our deep subconscious, alongside the olfactory nerve. Archetypal fragrance names – Reginella, Firmamento, Satanel – further pull our strings in an irresistible response to whispered luxury and sweet secrets.
Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella
The grande dame of Florentine fragrance, Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, has been concocting fragrance and skincare since 1221. Fragrance runs the gamut at the testing bar, where a well-heeled assistant will graciously parse the notes for you as you peruse dozens of glass bottles. They also offer skincare for men and women, soaps and potpourri, traditional dietary supplements, and distilled liquors in bottles that recall languid mornings in a royal toilette. Flowers and plants that form ingredients for the preparations continue to be cultivated in their gardens in the Medici Villa La Petraia to the north of the city. When Catherine de Medici journeyed from Florence to France in 1533, her entourage included an Italian perfumer, Renato Bianco, who created Acqua della Regina to commemorate her wedding to Henri IV. Its citrus and white flower bouquet remains available today for purchase as the perfect accessory for your Renaissance fantasies. Other popular fragrances include bestselling Melograno (Pomegranate), Angeli di Firenze, Tabacco Toscano, Rosa Novella, Peau d’Espagne, and Nostalgia. I confess to being a dedicated fan of the Tabacco Toscano in warm months. And for winter, nothing compares to the toasted vanilla hazelnut of Lana (smells nothing at all like wool – be patient with the drydown). Their traditional potpourri – glistening and dark, lasting for months in a pretty dish – is truly unique and transportative.
Want to explore more before you sample or buy? Fragrantica is an excellent reference for impartial fragrance reviews. Thousands of comments about popular and niche fragrances can help you pinpoint whether you should pursue a new perfume based on your preferences.
Whatever the reason – whether shopping for yourself or for gifts – set time aside to peruse the delectable fragrances of Florence. Your most historic sense will thank you for selecting fragrances here, in one of the olfactory capitals of the world.