Thursday, November 14, 2013

Laura Biagiotti Roma: fragrance review

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.


  1. i LOVE the idea of regular 'under-rated perfumes" entries...more, please!

  2. I second "nofixedstars" comment about the under-rated series...especially if some of them are at least semi-affordable for sampling. I have loved Dune since I first sniffed it many moons ago, and still keep a bottle in my collection. Maybe I should try Roma. Thanks, as always, for your wonderful blog. Judy

  3. Anonymous15:58

    Yes, please shine a light on "under-rated" or "flying under the radar" perfumes, especially if they can still be found!

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

  4. Miss Heliotrope00:48

    Underrated perfume day? Yes please.

  5. annemariec02:13

    I've had Roma on my 'to try' list for ages so your post has prompted me to finally go ahead and get hold of some samples. I wonder if I will smell the civet and oakmoss shaped holes in the current formulation? Sigh.

    I agree about the acting in the ad. And spritzing in the car is just wrong.

  6. Maria05:05

    Another vote for Underrated Perfume Day!

  7. I voted Uderrated Perfume Day too!

    *They must have taken that movie in the VERY early morning Helg - how can you have Rome with only a girl and a guy floating around there ?? LOL

  8. NFS,

    right, so considering this seriously. :-)

  9. Judy

    great, so looks like most of you agree it'd be a good idea.

    Yeah, do try Roma, it's still likeable and it has common elements with Dune you'd find pleasing. It's sensual and quite easy (easier) to wear.

  10. Anna,

    thanks, I will.

  11. MH,

    a regular feature should be nicer rather than random, I suppose, so I will devote a day in the week for it.

  12. AMC,

    do try to get ahold of this, it's nice and easy to wear. I find it lends itself easily to most seasons too, despite the amber it has a certain "freshness" (weird, I know, but it does). These days everything has an oakmoss and civet semi-hole, so poor Roma can't complain too much.

    I wish they'd consider real actors, with depth of feeling, for something that is accompanied by such romantic music as the one from R&J.

  13. Maria,

    it's official: we're going to have an Underrated Perfume Day on Perfume Shrine from now on. I'm compiling a list of fragrances as we speak, so if you have suggestions, I'm all ears and eyes.

  14. M,

    darling, so nice to see you and with such a miraculous, speedy recovery!!!! You're an ace.

    Indeed, when is Rome so abandoned, so empty, so quiet?? :-D

  15. Oakland Fresca20:03

    I totally agree with you about Roma--at least the bottle I had in the early 1990s was both lovely and memorable!

    About the ad above...I love marketing and am willing to suspend disbelief AND shell out my sheckles for a good yarn (and a decent frag), but that Roma ad has the opposite effect on me! I adore the 1968 soundtrack from Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (which I had to watch during assemblies for several years in middle school in the late 70s) but when I hear it, I can only think… “tsk tsk, it is going to end in tears!”

  16. Oakland Fresca,

    thank you for commenting and welcome to the Shrine!

    Glad to see another one who remembers Roma fondly.

    Funny about the commercial. Yeah, the music does give a premonition of a non happy ending (contrary to the script of the ad), but I like non happy endings myself. (I'm that sort of gal). Then again, how that would fit from a selling point with a happy context of "story" in the commercial is anyone's guess. Good catch!

  17. Morticia21:10

    I love the idea for under appreciated perfumes. Count me in. I used to wear Roma all the time and then poof I couldn't find it. My line up was Roma, Boucheron, Macella Buriani, Bal a Versailles and Molinard. They've all been destroyed (reformulated). E. I didn't even know Roma was still out there,do you recommend it? I so wish I could go to Europe again to see what perfumes are worthwhile because I don't think we have many in the U.S. anymore. From my mentions above, do you have any suggestions of today's perfumes that may me similar?

  18. Mort,

    it's a deal then, will do it.

    You had a wonderful rotation there, which Molinard, if I may ask? Molinard de Molinard? (Love it, have very special memories attached too).
    Yeah, reformulation is a bitch, but some are not totally ruined. Roma is still nice, though not the towering thing it was once. From today's frags, have you tried Alahine, Tolu, Hedonist, Tsarina?(most are reviewed here, do a search).
    I'm wracking my mind to think of a good fruity floral that doesn't involved berries (Insolence or Gucci II do) to offer something for Molinard. Maybe it will come. If so, will add it later.

  19. morticia23:42

    Elena, I liked Molinard de Molinard/ I also love Tolu but it is very pricey for me these days. You are the one that turned me onto it ( sample you sent). It seems nothing has staying power these days. I'm just not happy with many fragrances these days. Oh well... I can always dream. :-)

  20. Mort,

    we like the same one then (I also love Molinard de Molinard, it was a very special gift from S.O who hand picked it himself at first throes of love)

    Hmmm, I'm afraid all the scents I suggested to you then are out of budget. :-( *hanging my head in shame* Tolu is wonderful and I admit I hadn't recalled me sending some, but then I try to convince everyone it's great so that they won't stop producing it, ever.

    I will revert when I think of a more budget-worthy alternative. Hmm, this needs some thinking.

    Thanks as always for your reply!

  21. Is it the vintage version that have the tall bottle?

  22. Hilde,

    I believe so, yes! :-)

    Hope this helps.

  23. I have the new version and it is good too, but lack the monster quality of the bottle my mum has, but still a very good perfume. Since I own an old bottle of Le Must EdP, I understand what you mean with familiarity. I did not try the flanker from 2010, but are considering buying the one from 2013 which is wonderful on me. It does stand out from the usual fruity patchuli liquid that normally is a flanker perfume. ;)

  24. Hilde,

    that's absolutely good to know, thanks so much for following up!
    Yup, agree with you :-)

  25. leathermountain09:54

    I finally got around to sampling Roma yesterday based on your recommendation. Thank you for that. I quite like it. I agree with your comparisons with Must and Dune, and I might add Shalimar. While Must's pineapple note goes a bit over my limit, and Dune gets too sweet too fast for me, Roma strikes a lovely balance. I'm getting a strong leather note, or some related tarry/powdery combo experience, and that helps the balance and also is what brings Shalimar to mind. Also the mint flips in and out of my perception in an unusual and fascinating way. Mostly I think I would rather wear Shalimar, but if Shalimar is just a bit too much on a given day, then Roma might be just right. It certainly makes a more appealing variation than the Initial flanker that I find simultaneously thin and syrupy and unfortunate. Thanks again for pointing me in the direction of Roma! :)

  26. A,

    thank you for taking the time to comment in such detail. I'm so happy you found something enjoyable in Roma, it's a rather scorned oriental, but it deserves recognition, something wearable about it. I like your comparison to Shalimar and the nuanced breaking down. Enjoy!!

  27. One more thing: Yves Rochers Voile d'Ambre is very much alike the old Roma and it is not expensive either. I have bought two backups in case they discontinue it. ;)


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