One of the weirdest, but most intriguing, florals I have ever smelled, Santa Maria Novella’s enviable status as apothecary as much as perfumery certainly comes into focus in their most unusual offering.


With a dense, medicinal, almost creepy take on a tropical flower – herbal, smoky, heady and unlike anything else – it is hard to imagine what the monks were quite thinking of as they checked the macerations in their cellars; nodded ‘si’, and sagely began to pour the tarry liquid into bottles.



With its almost perverse combination of sanctity and putridity, I think that Frangipane is probably one of my favourites from SMN (along with the thyme-laden Sandalo, Tuberosa, Pot Pourri, Garofano, and their emotive, inimitably rarified patchouli), although I have yet to actually take the plunge and buy some. Surprisingly, I have also heard that Frangipane is popular with certain, in-the-know swathes of Tokyo dandies, who make the pilgrimage to the city’s fashion Mecca, Isetan, to keep themselves in stock. It is an oddball’s scent, certainly, with its faint, bourgeois-repelling echoes of the centuries; compelling in its strange austerity. The palpable, fruited loneliness of the basilica.




Frangipane is a warm, lilting oddity, as if the tropical flowers in question had been marauded; sequestered; and were now feverishly practicing cello in a grotto (cavernous notes of nutmeg, thyme, and Peru balsam overladled onto frangipani, tuberose and coal-touched orris). A genuinely original scent, it is definitely worth investigating if you yearn to escape from the every day; love flowers, herbs, spice, and dreams, but crave singularity.

































Filed under Flowers


  1. I have 4 SMN fragrances and have had the privilege of actually been there twice. It is a surreal experience and different from any other perfume shop I have encountered. It is more like the monastery it once was and in fact, when you first go in you actually have to ask where the perfume shop is because you feel like an intruder. Once in there, the perfumes, soaps (which are wonderful) and beauty products of all kinds but different than the ones in department stores, are displayed in ceiling high bookcase type of arrangements, And the ceilings are very high. But it smells divine and the atmosphere is ethereal and almost heavenly. One feels like genuflecting while sniffing!

    • I know. I adore that place – I once did an Italian course in Florence – and my friend Georgia’s house in London is practically a Santa Maria Novella shrine, with cases full of their products in those beautiful paper, gold-embossed boxes.

      What scents of theirs do you like the best? Have you tried this one?

    • And I agree with you. There is something genuinely almost holy (is it that extreme lack of anything tacky in their products, that deep, almost spiritual, cleanliness that gives that impression?). I always have the feeling of clarity and distance with them.

  2. I have not tried the Frangipane. I own Acqua di Lavanda Ambrata, Acqua di Colonia Melograno, Gelsominio and Violetta. Due to your review, I am now eager to try the Frangipane as I do like “odd” scents and would not have thought one would have been found in Santa Maria Novella. But the monks also created Limoncello and Frangelico so I guess they had time to develop their sense of smell and taste as they had to give up some of the other senses!

    • I personally find many of their scents odd, particularly the white florals Gardenia, Tuberosa and of course Frangipane, which are all very fleshy, creamy, almost ‘off’. The ones you mention are much easier to love ( though I am not sure I know the jasmine one very well ), particularly Melograno, which Georgia’s whole house smells of (those bath salts!).

      The Pot Pourri is amazing and must be smelled!

    • I now also own the Patchouli…which I adore. However, I still have not tried their Frangiapani.

  3. Lilybelle

    If I ever manage to visit Florence first stop will be SMN. I’m dying to go there. 🙂

  4. Spelling error in Gelsomino (not Gelsominio). I have several of their soaps which are wonderful and they have a fantastic body milk (Latte per il Corpo)–not really scented but much like milk. Also the hand treatment (Pasta di Mandorle) which is really a paste and does wonders for the hands.

  5. Olivia

    This is beautifully written, N. I spent some time in Florence when I was an art history student, but it was before I really fell into this happy perfume dorkdom (and too busy wearing heady Thai oils and being a gap year cliche) so I didn’t go to SMN – but I’ve lusted over photos of it since (beautiful, isn’t it?) I love the aesthetic of the bottles too – antiquated and economic. As you probably know I love frangipani. I take on board this is a bit of a weird one but I’m intrigued by the idea of a rendition overlaid by that cool cappella mustiness (phantasmagoric layers of past incense, candle wax, dried flowers, dust and cold stone; a frangipani frieze painted in Giotto’s frangible, sunk-in sepia tones – nice idea.) Peru balsam often adds a particular (peculiar) kind of archaic mustiness, dontcha find? Anyway – emergency – suddenly there is a huge almond paste hand cream hole in my life.. (God! Yum!)

    • ‘I Was A Gap Year Cliche’: great expression and title for a novella ( don’t you adore Thai food though, with all that coconut? It is my absolute favourite)

      As for the almond, it really is a hand ‘paste’, not cream: a mandorla mitt for winter, and thus, for us, essential.

      I love how you describe the appeal of Santa Maria Novella. What’s so great
      about them is that they aren’t twee. The flowers especially, like this and the tuberose as well as the gardenia, are almost frighteningly plush.

  6. Olivia

    Good god, a mandorla mitt – the things you speak to me! (Why does it seem Italians in particular are so great at almond stuff?) Yes I will be needing this, immediately (sod the ‘winter’ bit.)

    I do like a bit of plush. I’ll certainly keep it in mind too sniff through these (I think they have a London shop, don’t they?)

    I LOVE Thai food – all that coconut and kaffir lime, anisic Thai basil and chilli (I am a chilli fiend) – it’s in the complex balancing act between sweetness and sour that makes it so yummy, I think. Basically yes, as a life rule if it’s a coconut, I’m in.

    I really was a gap year cliche though (tie-die, beads, bleeding heart leftiness, melodramatic poetry, the works. For shame, even a tattoo – in brown ‘make it look like henna so I can fob Mum off’ ink and, god, written in Khmer – which obviously, I still have. Mum no longer buys it.) Of course I am a weather beaten, flinty cynic now 😉

    Had an amazing car boot find yesterday! Will email you a photo later!

  7. I have been to Santa Maria Novella three times and still have some bottles of their scents that I bought In my travels. It is the most wonderful place to be in…a scented heaven of sorts. You experience the spirit of the monks who established it as well as the beautiful fragrances in the store off of the chapel. It is ethereal, beautiful and heavently fragrant. A place where you can also take in the beautiful surrounding aura. Only in Italy.

    • I know. And the RIDICULOUS thing is that I haven’t actually been there. I was sitting with a friend in the piazza opposite the church, looking at it from the outside AND NOT KNOWING THAT THE PERFUMERY WAS WITHIN.

  8. veritas

    Sounds quite good….the perfume that is…
    I enjoyed Florence but the magic for me was in Venice…..

  9. Have tried so many SMN fragrances, yet I do not recall trying this one. Next time at the local stockist I will have to give it a spritz. A medicinal and balsamic frangipane sounds divine.

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