Angels of Florence By Santa Maria Novella {Perfume Review & Musings}


As previously reported, Angels of Florence is a perfume which was released by the historical Italian perfume brand Santa Maria Novella in the fall of 2006 to help raise funds for the restoration of the 18 000 remaining books that are still left damaged by the catastrophic flood of 1966 in Florence.

The Santa Maria Novella line of fragrances I feel a particular tenderness for as their perfumes are of the good artisanal sort of quality with a definite old-world and even at times quaint charm...

I envision perfumes as being objects in the city and a good measure of their appeal resides for me in that they are part of the geography and history of a city.

How to waft aromas of hay or iris on the streets covered with cobbled stones? How to bring the charms of the countryside within the walls of the city? How to construct an idea of urban elegance through the art of scent? How to mark the rhythm of everyday life through the near-ritualistic use of perfume?

All these questions come back to me as I smell the Santa Maria Novella's creations which tend to be low-key, yet offer an engaging simplicity well in tune with the roots of the business which after all proclaims not really to be a perfume house but rather a pharmacy.

To the die-hard old-world urbanite in me Santa Maria Novella evokes the familiar and almost intimate relationship one can develop with a local perfume business possibly even a neighborhood one. It stands as an echo of past practices when pharmacists would mix fragrances at the back of their shops. It means that as a regular stroller in the city I will pass by a particular store many times and enjoy stepping into it in the most casual of manners and often come back out with one of the many perfumes on display. It is a very simple gesture that makes me participate in the texture of politeness that weaves itself across the streets of the city.

I imagine that were I a Florentine, I would patronize Santa Maria Novella like my forefathers would have done, without asking myself too many complicated questions as long as the scents maintained their quality. The bottles of Santa Maria Novella perfumes cost 45 Euros in Florence which also point to a simpler atmosphere than the niche boutique settings in which they are sold in the US with a mark up. Expectations may then heighten.

Angels of Florence is a pretty fresh fruity-floral that is not particularly distinctive except perhaps for certain green accents. It uncannily resembles 5th Avenue by Elizabeth Arden, only a little greener overall and less vanillic in the drydown. The latter is one of the light fruity-florals that I like (and not just me as it is a very popular and easy-to-wear scent).

The notes for Angels of Florence according to Aedes are for the top notes: jasmine, Lilac, Rose, Gardenia, Ylang-Ylang, Geranium, Orange blossom and Bergamot; heart notes are Peach, Prune, Melon, violet leaves, and cinnamon rind; base notes are vanilla, sandalwood, white musk, and ambergris.

The perfume starts with tart juicy fruity notes letting through a creamy angelic (we can hope) background. There are green stemmy accents with little gourmand macaroon undertones. The freshness of lilac, like in 5th Avenue, is quite perceptible. There is a pleasant citrusy and green crispness. The fragrance is fairly linear, almost like a real cologne were it not for the creamy layers underneath that are not too heavy. In fact, Santa Maria Novella do sell their fragrances as "acque di colonia", i.e., colognes in the old-fashioned sense except they last more like eaux de toilette. The drydown has a very nice spicy sandalwood coming to the fore. What I prefer most about this fragrance are its green realistic sappy nuances, but these are not developed to a point where they become very distinctive.

It is an easy and pleasant fragrance with a spring feel to it. It is yet another incarnation of the creamy fruity floral trend that is usually aimed at younger women. My main motivation in purchasing it would be to support the Angels of Florence restoration project (5% of the proceeds go to that in the end.) Were I in Florence as a tourist, I might feel charmed by the city and step out of Santa Maria Novella with a flacon of it, but with 5th Avenue on hand, I do not feel any sort of urgency to do so. If you want a less perfumey and greener version of 5th Avenue, you might want to give it a try.

Having said that, I for one, would be willing to have a flacon of each of their fragrances in their collection such is the inexplicable tenderness I feel for this brand.

You can purchase the fragrance at Aedes and Lafcony, $84 for 100 ml. Added: as of 2016 the price is now $135.

To better appreciate the history of Santa Maria Novella, you can watch a video on Lafcony in which Eugenio Alphandery the director of Santa Maria Novella is interviewed.

You can also browse the catalogue of the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella

Photos are from Aedes and

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