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Nose-to-Nose – Perfume shopping in Venice – June 11, 2014

Photo: Giovanni Bertolone at the Guerlain counter of Profumeria Bertolone in Venice

Kay: You know, we’ve been so pre-occupied with settling into summer that we haven’t had time to discuss your trip to Venice.

Gwen: You mean the Doge’s Palace, the fish market, the Rialto….

Kay: No, I mean the perfumes!

Gwen: Ha! It’s like we share one brain. You know, every time I go to Italy I see perfume lines we’ve heard of but not seen anywhere else, like, Perris of Monaco or Rheyms.

Kay: Yep, It’s always good to see the frags we only read about. So, any good stores?

Gwen: Actually, some really good ones.

Kay: OK, I’ll get the prosecco, you start talking…

Gwen: Department stores like Coin and Douglas have pretty good offerings and the stand alone stores like Merchant of Venice or Ortigia are great but I’m always drawn to the little niche stores.

Kay: Natch. So what did you find?

Gwen: First, I found Profumeria IDEAL. Nice little shop with good niche lines in San Polo. Then there’s Franco on the Rialto – pretty decent representation but La Gatta Vanitosa in San Pantalon had great some great lines and really good service while I Muschieri in San Marco rivaled any shop we’ve been to in New York or Paris.

Kay: That’s where you get Sigilli frags isn’t it?

Gwen: Yes, ma’am. But my best perfume shopping experience this trip was at Bertolone in San Marco.

Kay: I’ll top you up. Keep talking and don’t leave anything out.

Gwen: Well, it was a little hard to find, as most things in Venice are, so of course we came upon it by chance while looking for someplace else. Bertolone is a little larger than the others and they carry all the lines we love and then some, btu the fun part was when I noticed that they had a lot of discontinued frags on their shelves.

Kay: Like what?

Gwen: Navegar by L’Artisan, Amyitis and Oiro by Mona di Orio, some Annick Goutals and lots of others. I went there three days in a row and just sniffed, smelled and explored with Marcella the SA. Until she looked at me on day three and said: ‘You love these perfumes and so does my father. He owns the store and will be here tomorrow. I told him about you and he would like to meet you. Can you come by in the afternoon?”

Kay: Do you think that you just pestered her so much she wanted to pass you on to someone else?

Gwen: Maybe, but I think she was too gracious for that and I think her offer was sincere.

Kay: Ok, Ok, so what happened the next day?

Gwen: I showed up at about 3:00 pm and the most dapper gentleman was there to greet me. He was lovely! He doesn’t speak English but he does speak French, so once we got a translator…

Kay: Who?

Gwen: The guy I was with – my husband! Anyway, once we sorted that out Signor Bertolone took the time to talk about why he liked the lines he carried, showed me some of his favourite frags and told me some stories, like the day a member of the Guerlain family visited the store, or of hearing cellist Alain Meunier, widow of Annick Goutal, play at La Fenice.

Kay: Did you ask him what his favourite perfume was?

Gwen: Yes, but he wouldn’t say.

Kay: I’m not surprised; if he loves perfume he can’t just have one favourite.

Gwen: Good point. I also asked him who makes better perfumes the French or the Italians and I was surprised by his answer.

Kay: Which was?

Gwen: He said, “The French are the best at this”. He also said that Guerlain and Caron are his favourite lines. He loves the classics. And when I asked him if I could take a picture of him, he agreed as long as it showed him standing near the Guerlain display.

Kay: How sweet is that?

Gwen: Very. Venetian men have a way about them. And the time Signor Bertolone gave me, the respect he has for niche perfumes, the care he takes with his customers, well, my time with him was one of the highlights of my trip to Venice. Hey, you know what else I saw at his shop?

Kay: What?

Gwen: Knize Ten.

Kay: He carries Knize Ten? I’ve only seen that at Swann Pharmacy in Paris!

Gwen: I know. Doesn’t mean it isn’t in any other stores it just means…

Kay: ….we have some traveling to do.