Roma by Laura Biagiotti belongs to that outré category of scents that lend themselves well to brumous days and which were apparently marking their territory throughout the 1980s by fusing a minty, agrestic top note with an orientalized amber on the bottom. The initial impression, if you don't know the perfume beforehand, is somewhat alarming, as if the fragrance is starting to go off, but that weird tension is fully itentional. Must de Cartier (which weaved galbanum on top) and Dune by Dior (with its broom and monastic herbs) are two other perfumes which share kinship (and so is Fifi Chachnil). But Roma (1988) is less discussed about than either one, possibly because Cartier has luxury cachet thanks to the jewelry side of the business and Dune is sort of a cult thanks to renewed interest following good reviews. Such is the fate of some worthwhile but under-appreciated fragrances but this is precisely why I intend to highlight more of them on Perfume Shrine in the following weeks. (How about an Underrated Perfume Day featured regularly?).
|via Patricia C./Pinterest|
Though Biagiotti's Roma smells decidedly "Italian" (warm, golden fragrances that extol the pleasures of being human and alive) it doesn't necessarily lend itself to the classical image of either the Eternal City, la passeggiata or the column-styled bottle meant to kitschify the many adorning the Forum. (In that regard I prefer the vintage images of Fendi with the Raphaelite model kissing the statue).
Nevertheless the tag line has always been "un soffio d'eternità" which my rusty Italian translates as "a breath of eternity". Considering it has outlasted other fragrances that came and went, after 25 years on the market it feels like an eternity all right, in a good way. It's rather unsettling nevertheless to think I used this during heavy flirtation so many years ago, one memorable summer with bathing suit changing cabins on the shore a dark silhouette over the sea's horizon and the crushed chamomiles littering my pockets. More things change, more they stay the same, I suppose.
The greenish pungent top note in Laura Biagiotti Roma, recalling spearmint-on-acid and sassafras, very quickly gives way to the balsamic scent materials (myrrh and amber especially) that immediately rise to the surface, almost swamping the bridge flowers in deep sticky goo. But there is a lasting citrusy element which consolidates a classical oriental fragrance feel. My old bottle additionally features an inky note of oakmoss, earthy and bitterish, that is perfectly tempered with the myrrh resin (in itself bittersweet), creating a contrast that keeps me interested for the duration of Roma on my skin. If you like the amber coziness drydown of CK Obsession, Dune or Must you will find a good alternative in Roma.
|via Michele Tiscini/Pinterest|
In recent reformulation the moss in Roma is toned down, as are the animalic elements (civet), and the fragrance feels somewhat sweeter and lighter in volume to me, which subtracts something of its original charm and potency (Typical I should say for a Procter & Gamble owned company). Still, it's different enough than most fruitchouli scents on department store shelves nowadays and therefore worth trying out for yourself.
Although marketed to women (having a traditionally "plush", warm, silky skin feeling that reads as feminine), I believe the tension between the top notes and bottom lends itself well to male skin as well. Though Laura Biagotti has a Roma pour homme as well, the feminine is delicious on discerning gentlemen.
(*This is beautiful, but I find the acting a bit corny, don't you?)
Notes for Laura Biagotti Roma:
Top notes: black currant, Sicilian bergamot, pink grapefruit, mint and hyacinth
Heart: carnation, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley and rose
Base: amber, sandalwood, patchouli, musk, civet, vanilla, oakmoss and myrrh.