A breeze carries the fragrance of roses and lemon trees over the ancient Italian stone wall before you enter the garden. The fleeting blooms of flowers are in harmony with the permanence of ancient stone, and it is here in the Italian countryside, where one family has been taken with beauty and creation for centuries. Fully immersed in fragrance and the arts since childhood, Paolo Terenzi is a renaissance man dedicated to the pursuit of beauty, love of family and the art of fragrance.
Paolo is a third-generation perfumer whose roots trace back to the family’s production of paschal church votives in the mid-20th century. Together Paolo and his sister Tiziana launched Tiziana Terenzi in 2012. The jewel-like bottles, designed by Tiziana, encase perfume that is exquisite in its uniqueness.
The first time that I met with Paolo, he showed me a box holding vials of essence that have taken decades to collect on his travels including White Oud, Chestnut Wood, Amber, Vanilla and Cypriol. Experiencing fragrance alongside Paolo notes that are first unnoticed are brought forward and the individual elements are discussed with such passion, you can see why his life and work are so intertwined. From food, fashion, music, to the elements of the earth, he sees a vital connection and poetry that run through all things of beauty that make up life.
He is friends with agriculturalists all over the world and much like the production of wine, he will wait for seasons until he finds certain notes of an essence, lavender for example, that has the exact alchemy that he has in mind. Elements like rain, soil composition, and ocean air have effects on the flowers and trees, and he will search for years to find the exact scent that he is looking for. This is the antithesis of the mass-production fragrance house mentality.
He recalls memories spent at the family home in the Italian countryside with Tiziana, where the fragrance line is made to this day. In one memory, it’s a night spent outside in the gardens where a roaring fire distills flowers, and orientating himself by the stars, Paolo’s grandfather pointed out the constellation Orion and its mythical belt. This memory became the inspiration for Orion in the LUNA collection and is a creation of elements like Bergamot, Red Currant, Jasmine and Incense which recalls an ethereal, majestic fragrance with earthy undertones. He keeps a notebook on him at all times so that memory and discovery can be recorded as he discovers notes to combine, essences to explore and the muse behind the scent that he creates. He is a reminder to slow down and enjoy the beauty and wonder around us.
We talk about perfume, entertaining and family history:
Where is a favorite location that you source from? Can you tell a story of the lengths that you’ve gone for a particular scent?
My favorite ingredient is natural and I put it in all my creations! There is no distance I wouldn’t overcome if it was worth discovering a new precious ingredient to enrich our creations further.
I am used to traveling with the scope of finding the best farmers in the world and personally verify all the extraction details: I went to Laos for the best Oud, to Kazanlak for Bulgarian Rose and up to the Indian Ocean for Amber Grey. These experiences drove me to write notes about what I was experiencing as if my hands, eyes, and arms did not have enough room to store all the wonderful events. As a child I always linked the olfactory sense to my memories, trying not to use words but smells to tell the story of an emotion, a place or a meeting. Now that I have traveled all over the world, my library contains thousands of olfactory creations and memories, unforgettable moments of an extraordinary life and a journey that is not yet finished.
It is a family passion: our grandfather Guglielmo was a perfumer and collector! During his long life, he collected several precious oils and perfumes all around the world and nowadays these unique compositions are in my library. One of the biggest collections of Oud, some of which have macerated with original natural Musk for more than 45 years. Something so unique that has no price!
The packaging of Tiziana Terenzi is so beautifully made. Your sister is the creator of these vessels and packaging. Does she work off the inspiration from the scent to design or do you both work together with a concept from the start?
I am very close to Tiziana. We have shared everything since we were kids and we have always faced our life together, in good and bad times. The bond between brother and sister is the special touch that lies behind all our creations, like the magical ingredient in all our products that makes them such unique works.
In our creations every detail is important, and nothing is left to chance! Not only the bottle or the box is significant yet every single component, but even the imperceptible ones like the pump mechanism are also selected with the greatest attention and dedication since an artwork does not accept compromises.
Tiziana and I share everything. It is hard to tell where one word ends and a new one starts. She deals with the creative part and the design of the Brand however in every instance we share and participate together in the creative process, both in the fragrance and in the bottle. Every detail is examined and treated with the greatest attention and passion since our creations are entirely dedicated to the memory of our father Evelino who passed away more than 10 years ago. The Italian note ’X TE’ that you find in every box means “For You” as if it was a precious gift. For us is for Terenzi Evelino, the man thanks to whom we have become adults!
Do you consider your grandfather an influence of what you are creating now? Can you tell me the story of when he had you smell the lemons on your property blindfolded, and how this has shaped your understanding of the complexities of fragrance?
Grandfather Guglielmo had always loved perfumes, especially colognes; he created his own personal collection of them, using natural essences from his beloved land. His love of music and syncopated rhythm always seeped into his creations like an author’s signature.
He is the one who taught me all about perfumes. He was my Teacher. Together with him as a child, I walked through the woods, surrounded by the wonderful and unspoiled nature of our beautiful country. Being a Perfumer, he taught me to recognize all the smells of nature and to compose my own olfactory tunes. He would pick flowers and, with my eyes closed, I would play at guessing the species. He would break a sprig of wood and I had to recognize the plant. I always bring the scent of nature with me as my universal sentimental dictionary with which I write my olfactory poems. He’ll always be my Mentor and he is still the unsurpassed Master for me.
I’m very drawn to the idea of entertaining more at home. This is a prospect that people find daunting, but Europeans seem to do with such ease. Candles and home fragrance are a part of the ambiance that is so transformative, even in the smallest of dining spaces. What other elements are quintessential of the European hospitality that you like to live with on a daily basis and also for dinner or cocktail parties?
Hospitality in my region has a very strong value; it is a fundamental component of life.
Having guests is a blessing and we adore inviting friends over at home; enjoying the pleasure of tasty food cooked with passion for hours, while we share stories or opinions about the last book we have read or exhibition we have visited. Communing life with guests helps you grow and enriches your soul because it is a great source of stimulation for creativity and inspiration. I adore having good food in my houses, such as artisanal cheese and organic wines locally sourced from neighboring farms.
When I host a dinner I always create a magical ambiance by using candlelight only; there are hundreds of candles warming the atmosphere of my houses as I do not use any artificial light for these intimate gatherings. I also believe that a stocked bar is essential to create a true sense of hospitality; as a matter of fact, I am truly passionate about whiskey and I have my own precious collection with very rare bottles in my own bar at home. Wine is another key element: I love it and all the hard work behind a bottle.
A final touch would be some good music to accompany the storytelling of our lives. However, what I consider the true meaning of being rich is the pleasure of sharing these precious bottles and nectars with closest friends and people we love the most. This is the deepest essence of life and it is all enclosed in the various expressions of love.
Could you share a favorite family meal?
I’d love to share the most typical dish from our beloved region Emilia Romagna: the famous Piadina. This old, traditional type of bread used to be the food of the poor, but with time passing by, it became a traditional dish loved by many.
The traditional piadina is cooked in a teggia, a rounded terracotta like pan heated over coals, but nowadays most people make it on special electric stoves. Piadina can be stuffed with vegetables, cheeses, meats. Probably the most famous filling is with Parma Ham, Stracchino cheese or Squacquerone cheese (soft and slightly acidic white fresh cheese). There are many different variations, it can even become a dessert, with Nutella and bananas for example, or be turned into a vegetarian dish by replacing the traditional lard with olive oil or soymilk.
If you could choose one candle and one fragrance for readers to experience, what are your two favorites?
My favorite scent is that which I have yet to make and has yet to be created because this wonderful journey through emotions and experiences around the fire of life will never end. “Listening” to perfume takes time and patience. Scents, like a symphonic melody, evolve over time and a quick sniff is not enough to fully understand its explosion of perfume. I suggest you take your time when choosing a fragrance for yourself or a loved one. The scent accompanies you throughout the day and tells us about you, exposing your mood and character to those around you. It is an intimate part of our Being and it should be handled with care. The perfume is the brother of the breath and tames the heart of men, said the poet, and that is what I most firmly believe. Therefore, I always recommend that you dwell a while on the heart notes of the essence because they are the true song of the perfume. They represent what others perceive of us. In fact, the light and pandering top notes flee quickly in less than a few minutes, giving way almost immediately to the persistence and strength of the heart supported by the base of the perfume. As in love, so too does a scent need a beautiful heart and we must try to find this to understand the message and the melody of the essence.
A perfume is a good weapon of our soul and we must choose it with utmost care. When I create customized and tailored perfumes for my VIP customers, before working among the alembics and potions in my laboratory, I spend a lot of time chatting with them to understand the essence of their being. Only then can I translate their personality into a scent that will forever be their indelible signature written in the wake of the breeze. My most sincere general advice is to follow your nose and listen to your Soul… they will guide you to the right decision.
I consider all our creations as children and I do love them all equally; it is tough having to choose which one is the favorite among them. What I can confidently say is that artistically I feel a strong bond with the fragrance Ecstasy, because it embodies the style of creative tension, altered by dissonances and cosmic tensions that have been acknowledged by expert critics. I adore the fragrance, while the candle accompanies my nights spent at home delighting in my moments of reflection with the sound of its flame and scent of its inebriating fragrance.
Do you think that the scent of flowers and of your candles have the ability to change one’s mood? I’m studying botany currently and I’m so interested in the alchemy and healing aspects of plants.
It is scientifically proven that perfumes have the power of influencing our brain’s limbic system, and by doing so it affects our mood and increases our attention as it happens for instance with citrus fragrances such as lemon or bergamot, or rather help us relax and meditate. I always have lit candles in my house, in my office, and in my laboratory: I let myself be inspired by the flames and their evolutions; living on candlelight makes the world a better place and fragrances become the olfactory design of the space we are surrounded by.
I personally call it “Air Design” and I love bringing it to life in different ways. During my career as a perfumer, I have designed many celebrities’ houses as well as prestigious Hotels.
How do you unwind each night?
I recognize I am a privileged and lucky person because in life I always fought to reach my happiness and to make my dreams as a man and artist come true. Life is my cure against depression, and I don’t need anything else to be grateful!
I am full of curiosity and eager to discover what is unknown to me, hence I don’t need anything else to hang on to rather than life itself, living and feeling the moment. I love living intensively every second I am gifted with without wasting any precious time, taking full pleasure from every single bit I am offered as if it was the last one and enjoying the intense taste that only life has.
When I leave work, I return home to spend quality time with my beloved family and unwind in sharing simple but precious moments with them. I often play my guitar as I used to do when I was a jazz guitarist, or rather listen to some of my favorite sounds which have also been source of inspiration in so many moments of my life: from Wes Montgomery to Joe Pass, from Miles Davis to Dizzy Gillespie with whom I have had the utmost honor to play live the year before he passed away. However, my one and only musical mentor for his genius and artistic recklessness are Chet Baker; his music has been the soundtrack of my love story with the woman who became my wife and mother of my children. It is often while I listen to his music, in the peaceful atmosphere of my home that I write in my diary; taking notes of creation I have in mind and want to bring to life like a new child for my collections.
And since we are talking about means to unwind; there is one passion that blows in my soul like no other: sailing. Whether alone in winter time or with my beloved family during warm summer days, sailing on my boat is my ultimate resolution. I am the captain of a beautiful boat and I sailed across all the seas of the world: from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific, from the Atlantic to the Caribbean while my favorite of all has always been the Mediterranean, rich in history and ancient beauty. What truly makes me happy and gives me energy is setting sail from the harbor of my small town overlooking the Adriatic Sea, aiming at far distances while sailing for nights and days, miles and miles away crossing the Mediterranean. Each journey is a source of inspiration to reconnect with nature and healthy life rhythms; because the sea is the greatest master who knows how to teach the true value of being in this world.
What is a favorite object or furniture piece in your home or design studio?
I am in awe of the beauty, and I love the harmony that bonds shapes. I adore objects that prove consistency in their components and that have a deep connection with natural elements such as leather and wood. I love sculptures carved from precious woods and root tables that filter the deep bond with nature. However, my favorite piece of furniture in my home is the chimney; I never turn it off because it is a key element for the atmosphere we like to keep. We use it for cooking or simply to warm us up during cold winter nights. I could spend hours staring at the fire crackles and breathing the unique scent of burning wood. This is the reason behind the name “Camino” for some of our candles in the Tiziana Terenzi Collection; because they are real bonfires that can transport the magic of burning flames anywhere.
For those unable to experience the beauty of where you create Tiziana Terenzi can you describe the setting and how this may influence your work?
Respecting man and the environment are the first steps towards realizing a “great” product. In fact, we cannot produce “well-being” without being aware of what surrounds us; the environment, the workplace, safety, and welfare. Our Candle Palace is built on strong emotional pillars: our family history, our soul drivers, our passions and dreams and most of all, the memories of our beloved father Evelino and Grandfather Guglielmo. Our working spaces are a blend of colors and scents that give life to wide spaces where creativity is motivated, and professionalism filters in every corner. Our Company philosophy is the basis of all our choices and part of it also gives great importance to practices with zero environmental impact.
What are you bringing to the world with your unique scents?
The memory of the experiences lived is what drives our creations, always developed to crystallize in the heart the beauty of the passing moments. Sensory evolution that surrounds us like a warm hug when we are hypnotized by the scent of our perfumes. A reminder that you can live like a traveling experience, simply by closing your eyes and leaving yourself drifting by the notes of these precious scents. These perfumes can be worn like a tailormade dress of your soul or in your house looking for the echo of magic and faraway place. For me, perfume is music and as such should sing. In fact, before you smell a scent, you should listen to it, in the same way as music must be seen to be understood! This is the true essence of the magic that is enclosed in a drop of the precious Tiziana Terenzi perfume. A spell that is renewed each time it is worn, like a well-tuned symphonic orchestra that leaves the mark of its splendor in the wind.
These perfumes embody the powerful Faustian desire to try to hold on to a beautiful moment, and the constant exploration of the “self and the non-self”. The perfume uses its full power to evoke the experience of being by the fire – a moment which represents a life lived to the fullest and intense, living in the moment – the sharing of an intimate moment with the rest of the cosmos. All the evocative essences of a beautiful memory are trapped inside the precious olfactory molecules, forever etched in our minds. Ours is not just perfuming, but an actual journey through personal emotions and memories. Because of their unique quality, these creations have started out as a series of notes jotted down in old notepads narrating a journey which has yet to end. As well, the formulation of the molecules does follow the rules of traditional haute perfumery; instead, it opens itself up to the freedom of exploring all possible alchemies, through “politically incorrect” actions. It manages to represent the true essence of life, including its imperfections, tensions, dissonances, all of which make the moment simply beautiful.
This is what we bring to the world: the purest journey through our true self.