During Christmas last year, as my sister, brother-in-law, and I were catching up, they told me about a good friend, Joyce, an American in Florence whose morning walks through local gardens had inspired a small line of artisanal soaps and candles. Joyce was taken with a certain fragrance, a heady amalgam of scents that to her encapsulated Florence and all its splendor.
Since modelling in Italy (Milan) in the 70s, Joyce has spent at least a quarter of each year in Florence (and her ancestors are Florentine). For several years in the late 90s and early aughts, she created and then directed a series of cultural events that brought the best of Florentine craftsman community to the US.
Two years ago, she decided to take the next step in this artistic, cultural venture by creating a line of luxury home items, Splendor of Florence, all of which both utilize and celebrate many of the traditions of highly-skilled craftsmanship Italy is known for: soap; design; paper; and fragrance, to name some. And she wanted everything to be 100% made in Florence, start to finish.
Michele, my brother-in-law, wondered if I'd want to try a few Splendor of Florence items. Um, yes.
"But," I warned, "I'm really sensitive to scents, so I doubt I'll like the candle. And I rarely like bergamot. Is bergamot in there?"
"Yes, but just try them," he said. "Joyce worked for years to create the fragrance and bring her ideas of pure, local, handcrafted products to life. They are really beautiful items."
Shortly after, a generously sized box wafted alluringly onto my front porch. Inside were nestled bars of soap and candles, exquisitely wrapped (the Italians really know how to wrap things; go look at individual lemons in their grocery stores! Each is a treasure.) in thick paper and boxes whose surfaces are printed with designs inspired by the tiles and mosaics found on many a Florentine church and palace. The proprietary fragrance is called Passegiata which means a walk or a stroll, drawing on all the dreamy meanderings Joyce has enjoyed in Florence's lush gardens over the years.
Despite my concern about lurking bergamot, Passegiata is an endlessly pleasing, unique, relatively subtle scent. A blend of orange blossoms, lime, bergamot, rose and cyprus -plants you'd find and experience in Florentine Renaissance gardens- the fragrance smells real, honest, not remotely cloying or chemically. Think real sugar versus saccharin- the difference is enormous.
The soap is triple milled, solvent free, and contains olive and apricot kernel oils, which make for a very creamy and moisturizing bar for body and face, in addition to the highest quality essential oils. Each one lasts for ages, doesn't crack, and holds its scent. My shower always smells so lovely.
The candles, soy-based, are almost too lovely to burn, and the diffuser is alcohol-free which means they aren't flammable and they last much longer than most diffusers whose high alcohol content makes them evaporate rapidly. Isn't the packaging and design chic but also accessible?
As y'all know, I am deeply committed to supporting best-quality, location-based craftsmanship that values both product and producers. And I love what Joyce has done with Splendor of Florence and all the men and women she has empowered and honored by seeking out their guidance, skill, and expertise. She has truly paid homage to Florence in so many beautiful ways.