ROMAN NIGHTS

How does one capture the magic of the Eternal City at night? Annabelle Fernandez looks to Bulgari’s newest fragrance for the answer.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

How does one capture the magic of the Eternal City at night? Annabelle Fernandez looks to Bulgari’s newest fragrance for the answer.

Anita Ekberg wades into the Trevi Fountain in La Dolce Vita.
Anita Ekberg wades into the Trevi Fountain in La Dolce Vita.
Bella Hadid is the face of Goldea, The Roman Night.
Bella Hadid is the face of Goldea, The Roman Night.
Bulgari’s signature serpenti is coiled around the neck of the flacon.
Bulgari’s signature serpenti is coiled around the neck of the flacon.

There are some cities that can’t help inspiring countless odes in their honour. Think of Paris, and how the City of Light’s cafés served as a haven and muse for the likes of Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Ernest Hemingway; think of New York, and how the City that Never Sleeps has cultivated timeless tributes from everyone from J.D. Salinger to Jay-Z. Then, there’s the Eternal City. 

While the love letters to other cities might revolve around specific landmarks, the enduring power of Rome lies in its nickname (which, fittingly, was coined in the first century B.C. by the Roman poet Tibulus). The Eternal City has lived through many eras; and there are stories to be told in every via, villa and piazza. The artistic homages to the city prove as much: In film, fashion and beyond, when Rome is referenced, it is always a character; never a backdrop. 

But what about a scent inspired by Roman nights? When I learnt that I would be heading to Rome for the launch of the latest addition to Bulgari’s Goldea fragrance collection, The Roman Night, my curiosity was piqued. The city is known for many things—which of these would Master-Perfumer Alberto Morillas reference in the fragrance? Could it be one of its many magnificent historical monuments lit up against the night sky... in particular, the Spanish Steps, which was recently restored to gleaming condition courtesy of a donation from Bulgari itself? 

Every spring, the steps are covered with azaleas—flowers that might not be used much in perfumery, but there are plenty of other pink flowers Morillas could have used in its place. 

The Pantheon lit up against the night sky.
The Pantheon lit up against the night sky.
The iconic Spanish Steps.
The iconic Spanish Steps.
Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck make 
their way around the city on a Vespa in Roman Holiday.
Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck make their way around the city on a Vespa in Roman Holiday.

Or, with gelaterias in every corner of Rome, perhaps the scent could be inspired by classic gelato flavours? Pistachio, lemon, berries... there’s a whole kaleidoscope of flavours that could be used to bring out the warm sensuality of the city.

Put the Spanish Steps and gelato together, and one thing comes to my mind: The iconic scene in Roman Holiday, part of Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) and Princess Ann’s (Audrey Hepburn) whirlwind tour (and romance) across some of Rome’s most famous landmarks, after Bradley first comes across the princess sleeping on a bench near the Roman Forum at night. Zingy, zesty citrus notes would be the perfect representation of the pair zipping across town on a Vespa.

And in Federico Fellini’s masterpiece, La Dolce Vita, life for journalist Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni) is never sweeter than in the film’s night sequences, when dusk brings a series of titillating adventures—most memorably, when he follows the actress Sylvia (Anita Ekberg) into the Trevi Fountain for a pre-dawn frolic. Sweet and spicy, the warm caress of vanilla would echo that moment perfectly. In short, if Morillas has managed to conjure up a scent that reflects the serendipity and sensuality of Roman nights, sign me up.

Fronted by Bella Hadid, with Goldea, The Roman Night, Morillas has created a floral musk chypre scent for the Audrey Hepburns and Anita Ekbergs of today. “When I first imagined a Roman night, the idea of the chypre-infused signature came to me instantly,” said Morillas. Looking at the ingredients Morillas used to mesmerising effect, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had these iconic film references in mind. Instead of typical fruits, Morillas combined ripe, luscious mulberry with black peony to form juicy, sparkling top notes. Sweet and tart, mulberry makes for a refreshing gelato flavour—and makes me think of Roman Holiday’s sweet-yet-moving ending. And, his choice of nocturnal flowers like nightblooming jasmine and tuberose, which have a mysterious, magnetic quality that make for hypnotic heart notes, can’t help recall the characters in La Dolce Vita, who blossom in the night. Ekberg’s sensuality is further reflected in the luminous base notes, with radiant black musk, intoxicating patchouli and noble vetiver... all of which could describe the actress as she cavorted in the Trevi Fountain in a black gown. So what did I think when I finally got the chance to smell the scent for myself? As it turns out, my prayers were answered. Sweet, decadent and addictive, it is an irresistible scent that keeps you wanting more—just like a night out in the Eternal City.

“When I first imagined a Roman night, the idea of the chypre-infused signature came to me immediately.” — Alberto Morillas 

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