Boudoir 36 : Sicilian Perfume Destination

Boudoir 36 is a perfume boutique based in Catania, Sicily. Catania, a city at the foot of Mount Etna, is a sensory roller coaster by itself, but Boudoir 36 was one of the highlights of my visit.  Boudoir 36 carries an impressive collection of perfume brands and boasts an excellent customer service. Antonio Alessandria, the creator of Boudoir 36, works as an engineer by day and operates his boutique in the evening five days a week. Talk about passion for perfume! This unique place is the subject of my article for The Financial Times Magazine, October 26th issue.

boudoir36-catania

“Spend a day in Catania, a baroque jewel on the east coast of Sicily, and you will understand why Boudoir 36, an artisanal perfume boutique, is such a great fit for this exuberant city. Every scent, taste and color seems more intense—jasmine draping the building facades, oranges piled into ziggurats on the sidewalks, and even the blue of the sky framing Mount Etna. The perfume selection at Boudoir 36 rivals the finest boutiques in Paris and London, but its flamboyance and opulence are uniquely Sicilian.”

The new magazine issue will be available at newsstands this weekend. Once the article is posted online, I will share the link here.

boudoir 36-cataniacatania1

Photography by Bois de Jasmin.  Of course, the FT Magazine will have much better photos taken by a professional photographer.

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69 Comments

  • Jillie: Can’t wait (my husband gets the FT on Saturdays to scan for his office)! How can any photo be better than yours???? The composition, colours and richness are just perfect. October 24, 2013 at 7:23am Reply

    • Victoria: Jillie, thank you so much for encouraging this student. I’m sure the professional photographer’s boutique photos are much more in focus and sharper. 🙂 As for Catania itself, it’s the most photogenic city. It mixes the opulent Sicilian baroque style, modern urban grit and lots of color. I need to find some photos of the blood orange pyramids, which were impressive. October 24, 2013 at 8:56am Reply

      • Victoria: I can’t find the oranges on this computer, but just to show how colorful Catania is, here is a photo of me against a wall of bougainvillea.
        October 24, 2013 at 10:44am Reply

        • Jillie: Oh, wow! That colour and the sheer profusion of flowers are wonderful! Does bougainvillea have a fragrance? October 24, 2013 at 12:29pm Reply

          • Victoria: I’ve seen bougainvillea in other places, but I’ve never encountered SO much of it. I didn’t notice much scent though. October 24, 2013 at 3:06pm Reply

        • Bela: So pretty!

          And the flowers aren’t bad either. 🙂 October 24, 2013 at 1:03pm Reply

          • Victoria: Thank you! I tried not to obstruct the view too much. 🙂 October 24, 2013 at 3:07pm Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: I’m so amazed by his passion! Does the number 36 mean something? Or is that going to be explained in your article? Do you always visit local perfume boutiques when you travel or did you go there especially to cover a story for the FT magazine?

    This is slightly off-topic. So far, I haven’t really explored Italian perfumes but after getting some samples of Aqua di Parma yesterday, I became interested in them. How would you describe the characteristics of Italian perfumery (I can imagine the perfumes being more cologne-like with lots of hesperidic notes) and which brands are worth exploring? October 24, 2013 at 7:35am Reply

    • rosarita: Hi! I was going to suggest the Parfums d’Italie line which has some gorgeous scents – I particularly enjoy Paestum Rose – but after searching all the usual suspects, I can’t find them for sale in the US anymore, even through Google. Anyone know how to get these? October 24, 2013 at 8:27am Reply

      • Victoria: I’m wearing their Jardin du Poete right now, which is such a delicious green mandarin. Aedes and Luckyscent (Scent Bar) have all of Eau d’Italie perfumes. Maybe, MiN New York does too, but I’m not sure. October 24, 2013 at 8:38am Reply

        • rosarita: Yes, D’oh! I just saw I misspelled it, but even under Eau d’Italie I don’t see the brand on anyone’s website. Maybe it’s only available at brick and mortar stores? or more likely, maybe I need more coffee! Look forward to your article, Victoria, and your pictures are always excellent 🙂 October 24, 2013 at 8:54am Reply

          • rosarita: Ack, never mind, found it at Luckyscent. I’ve apparently lost my ability to spell, I’m blaming it on menopause. Sorry! (insert eyeroll here) October 24, 2013 at 8:59am Reply

            • Anne of Green Gables: Hi rosarita, thanks for your suggestion. So far, I only tried Jardin du Poete from Eau d’Italie but I hope to try more perfumes from this brand.

              I also blundered today. I left work early to see my physiotherpist. When my physio saw me, he looked really puzzled and I was wondering why. Then he told me that my appointment is one hour later! Oh well… October 24, 2013 at 4:43pm Reply

          • Victoria: Beautyhabit and LafcoNY also carry it, according to a quick search I just did. For some reason Aedes doesn’t come up, but I remember that the website carried it too.

            This morning I signed off an email to a colleague with “Love” as I often do when I write to my husband. Now, that’s embarrassing! 🙂 October 24, 2013 at 9:20am Reply

            • Deborah Anne Oney (Annie): Victoria,
              Sign off everything with Love or Lovie, and gradually the world will be a better place! Ever since being in England, where strangers helping with directions call you “love” and “deary” etc, it seemed such a sensible way to walk on the earth, that I do it now just on principle.
              Love, Annie O! October 24, 2013 at 9:37am Reply

              • Victoria: Annie, I’m all for it. 🙂
                Love,
                Victoria October 24, 2013 at 10:00am Reply

                • Cornelia Blimber: Oh, my! Signing my email with “”loving your blog” I meant only your blog, Victoria! I thought Love was more common in English. October 24, 2013 at 10:19am Reply

                  • Victoria: That’s exactly how I read it. Even if someone signed off as “Love”, I wouldn’t think twice of it, especially on a friendly email. In fact, I welcome it!
                    Just I wouldn’t sign off with “Love” to that particular colleague, but oh well… October 24, 2013 at 10:32am Reply

              • nikki: You are so right! Such a nice gesture to call people Love! I watched Prime Suspect yesterday and even the officer with a warrant calls the woman he is about to imprison: Open the door, Love!
                I do remember that the phone operators in Chicago used to be really nice and call me Honey all the time! October 24, 2013 at 11:16am Reply

    • Victoria: He leaves work in the afternoon and keeps the boutique open from 6 to 10pm. One definitely needs lots of passion for this kind of stamina. 36 is the street address at Via Filomena, and Boudoir–since it’s meant as a comfortable place where one can relax. I went to Sicily for another reason, but when I discovered the boutique, I thought that it would make an interesting story.

      The traditional Italian scents are based around citrus and herbs, but since Italian women love bold, lush scents (and white flowers), many Italian lines had these fun, flamboyant perfumes. Fendi, Krizia, Gucci (in their older days) were outstanding. I still love Fendi Theorema, Krazy Krizia and Gucci Accenti, but with the exception of Krizia, they are very difficult to find. Among the niche lines, rosarita mentioned Eau d’Italie, which is nicely crafted overall. October 24, 2013 at 8:51am Reply

      • Patricia: Ooh, lucky you in Italy. Even though I’m only Italian by marriage, I love all things Italian, especially perfume and food. Acqua di Parma, Fendi, Krizia, and Gucci are all favorites, and K de Krizia was my signature scent when I was first married.
        Hope you are enjoying your time away from home :). October 24, 2013 at 10:10am Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: And there is also Missoni, Armani, and I still miss the vintage Vivara by Pucci (certainly not citrus and herbs!) October 24, 2013 at 10:17am Reply

          • Victoria: I like the new Vivara too, but it’s much more tame by comparison. October 24, 2013 at 10:33am Reply

          • Anne of Green Gables: Thanks, Cornelia. I still instinctively think of Fendi, Gucci, Missoni and Armani as fashion houses rather than as perfume brands. October 24, 2013 at 4:30pm Reply

            • Cornelia Blimber: Yes, you are right, that’s what they are in the first place. But that applies also to many French brands (Chanel, YstL, Dior…).Oh, and I forgot Etro, Bottega Veneta, Prada….
              It seems that Pavarotti had also a perfume named Pavarotti. I never found it, but apparently it was not bad. October 24, 2013 at 5:22pm Reply

        • Victoria: Oh, Pat, I wish! This was already months ago, but you know how long it takes between a pitch and a story finally appearing in print.

          K de Krizia is another beauty from Krizia. I remember smelling Krazy Krizia and falling with love with it immediately. Now, I understand why I eventually fell for Shalimar, since they share the sparkling bergamot, lots of vanilla and balsamic, sweet notes. October 24, 2013 at 10:29am Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: He really must love what he’s doing! Thanks for your answers to multiple questions. 🙂 I forgot that I tried Jardin du Poete before (in fact, I’m wearing it now to remind myself what it smelled like). I like it very much and this is another perfume that I find salty and savoury. October 24, 2013 at 4:26pm Reply

        • Victoria: I also love their Paestum Rose and Sienne l’Hiver, although the latter is more of an interesting scent than a successful perfume. I’ve decided in the end that I would much rather enjoy it in a candle form. October 25, 2013 at 7:45am Reply

  • Debbie: Hello Victoria. I have been following, and enjoying your blog for a very longtime. I am relatively new to the world of scent so I’ve have been a bit shy about entering the discussions. I am leaving for Madrid and Barcelona tomorrow, and wondering if you can suggest a must try Spanish scent, or a perfumery worth visiting. All suggestions are welcome! October 24, 2013 at 9:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Debbie, welcome! How exciting. I’ve never been to Madrid, but I loved Barcelona and right now should be a very good season to visit. Carner Barcelona is worth exploring. They have several spots in the city where their perfumes are sold, and you can find them via their website.

      Another place is not a perfume shop, but it could be one! Casa Gispert at Carrer dels Sombrerers, 23. It’s a nut roasting store, and the aroma in and around it is heavenly. Their roasted almonds and hazelnuts are worth the trip. October 24, 2013 at 10:08am Reply

    • Annikky: Debbie, you didn’t ask me, but many people find Ramon Monegal an interesting and good-quality brand. I don’t know the line that well, but based on the two scents I’ve tried, I’d say it’s definitely worth sniffing. They have store in Barcelona – just google it, if you’re interested. October 24, 2013 at 10:50am Reply

      • Debbie: Thank you Annikky and Victoria! I will definitely seek out Carner Barcelona, Casa Gispert, and Ramon Monegal. October 24, 2013 at 12:00pm Reply

    • nozknoz: There is a Museu del Perfum in Barcelona that displays an amazing collection of antique perfume bottles. I’ve never been there, but the Grain de Musc blog has a post on it. October 24, 2013 at 2:53pm Reply

    • Ariane: Debbie,the perfumery Regia on Passeig de Gracia is the best one,and the small Ramon Monegal shop is central as well and sells small bottles for 27 Euros!In Madrid an absolute must is Le Secret du Marais with a huge niche collection,and perfumeria Nadia is good as well,has the Amouages and Frederic Malles!Enjoy your trip! October 25, 2013 at 5:11am Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: I wish I had know about Boudoir 36 when I was in Sicilia in 2008 and spent an afternoon in Catania…if I ever get back there, I will be sure to look it up and will remember the street as “Filomena” is my Italian name. Victoria, the photos are gorgeous! It looks like the shop carries other perfumes besides Italian one–at least I thought I could see a few in the photo. I have many Italian perfumes–even from small little shops in other towns–and they are all wonderful. Unfortunately, one cannot find them here or even on the internet as some are just local scents. I have visited Carthusia in Capri and also Santa Maria Novella in Firenze. I bought three wonder scents in a small Tuscan Town which are so wonderful but I use very sparingly because they could never be replaced. October 24, 2013 at 10:15am Reply

    • Victoria: He carries something like 40 different brands, including Italian ones like Tauleto and Acqua di Genoa. But the majority are French niche/artisanal lines. Just walking down the street in Catania, I noticed more different perfumes on people than I smell around Brussels or even NYC. It was a great trip, and I hope to return someday for the famous Festival of Sant’Agata, which takes place in February. Nobody does opulent and baroque like Sicilians!

      Oops, please correct it to Via Santa Filomena. Filomena is a beautiful name, by the way. October 24, 2013 at 10:39am Reply

      • nikki: Victoria, the background of your photo with the church could have been taken in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil. You want baroque and more gold than you have ever seen, go to the old Brazilian mining towns and check out their Agua di Cheiro company… October 24, 2013 at 11:19am Reply

        • Phyllis Iervello: Thank you Victoria! I hope to return to Sicily once again. I was there many years ago for just a few days, but spent a lot more time there in 2008. The two times I’ve been to Sicilia and every time I have been to mainland Italy, there are beautiful fragrances everywhere–from the perfumed people to the delicious food, the trees,plants and flowers and the wine!

          Filomena October 24, 2013 at 2:27pm Reply

          • Victoria: You’re making me miss Italy so much! The food in Sicily was delicious. Everything was prepared very simple (hardly more than 4-5 ingredients in most dishes we ate), but it was just so fresh, so flavorful. The best part was the daily encounters, because everyone was friendly, helpful and happy to chat. At one point, our GSP led us into the maze of a medieval town center, and the whole street assisted helping to turn the car around. 🙂 October 24, 2013 at 3:16pm Reply

        • Victoria: I googled Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, and you’re right, the baroque facade is reminiscent of the church in my photo. Catania was leveled by the earthquake in the 17th century, and it was rebuilt in the same style. There are whole streets of baroque buildings, and it all looks very impressive. October 24, 2013 at 2:52pm Reply

  • maja: Oh, Sicily! Lovely pics and such fantastic colors. 🙂
    I hope to visit Boudoir 36 soon.
    Speaking of Krizia, I have recently stumbled upon a discontinued Easy Krizia. What a fragrance! Italian, fresh but with a spicy, almost exotic twist, apparently Jacques Cavallier’s work. It behaves wonderfully in our prolonged summer on Italian islands. 🙂 October 24, 2013 at 10:34am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m envious of your Italian summer, Maja. 🙂
      I’ve never tried Easy Krizia, but it sounds like great. Many of Krizia’s perfumes were created by talented perfumers like Dominique Ropion (Krazy Krizia) and Maurice Roucel (K de Krizia). Teatro alla Scala with its amber and tobacco notes was another memorable fragrance from the house. October 24, 2013 at 10:53am Reply

      • nikki: Teatro alla Scala was my favorite for a long time. I found it similar to Ted Lapidus’ Vu. I find Mauboussin, the original by Nagel, a very “Italian” perfume with its dried fruit notes. October 24, 2013 at 11:21am Reply

        • Victoria: Mmm, the original Mauboussin is a gem. October 24, 2013 at 2:53pm Reply

      • Patricia: Love Teatro alla Scala! It’s a big gun, though. I remember overdoing it one evening before going to Symphony. 🙂 October 24, 2013 at 1:17pm Reply

        • Victoria: I noticed that people here have no qualms about overdoing perfumes for the theater. Stepping inside the foyer sometimes can be like walking into a perfume shop. It’s fun to guess what everyone is wearing. The last time we went to the theater, I noticed Coco Mademoiselle (of course), some classical chypre I didn’t recognize, Eau Sauvage, Mitsouko, Shalimar, and Cacharel Amor Amor. And there were a few others, but I didn’t recognize them. October 24, 2013 at 3:09pm Reply

      • maja: Oh, don’t be envious, I almost suffocated myself with Coco Chanel the other afternoon. I couldn’t resist puttng it on for some reason and then I went outside and realized that the temperature in my car was 33 degrees. 🙂 I am so looking forward to cooler days. October 25, 2013 at 7:04am Reply

        • Victoria: To tell you the truth, if we had a hot summer, our apartment would have been even more unbearable than it was when we had 30C for two weeks in a row. It gets as hot as an oven. Wishing you some cool days, then. October 25, 2013 at 7:52am Reply

  • Emma M: Looking forward to reading the full article, Victoria and I hope you have plans to share more of your Sicilian adventures with us here! October 24, 2013 at 12:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: I will do! Trying to collect my thoughts together on what to start with, since it was a trip full of discoveries. October 24, 2013 at 3:05pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Amazing! What prompted this wonderful trip of scent and sensuality to Sicily? No doubt you indulged in some good food, too. I look forward to your article about Catania — very Fellini-esque! Ciao, bella. October 24, 2013 at 3:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: The island is irresistible, and it makes me understand why everyone, from Moors to Normans, coveted it so much.

      Catania is very Fellini-esque, so true, although it was Zeffirelli who shot one of his films in Catania. October 24, 2013 at 3:50pm Reply

  • Mel: Did Antonio Allessandria know you and your work and your blog? Did he introduce you to anything new in the way of scent? October 24, 2013 at 3:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t know to what extent, but he heard of BdJ. Because I was in my reporter mode, I mostly asked questions about his work and observed him interacting with his clients. The boutique was very busy, and my time was limited. I noticed that he had a few brands that I haven’t tried before like Tauleto Wine Fragrance which is based on the scent of Sangiovese grapes.
      In the end, I left Sicily with a suitcase full of aromatics, but all of it was food, not perfume–pistachios, oregano, branches of bay leaves, orange blossom honey, sundried tomatoes, almond paste sweets, and 4kg of citron (they look like huge lemons but have edible rinds and very little flesh.) October 25, 2013 at 7:41am Reply

  • Austenfan: It looks and sounds delightful. Is it in anyway similar to Place Vendôme? October 24, 2013 at 4:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: The level of attention and knowledge is similar, but the decor is different. It’s much more baroque–plush curtains, red velvet, crimson wallpaper, antique bronzed or gilded decorations. Sort of like a cross between Marie Antoinette’s boudoir and an Indian palace! October 25, 2013 at 7:47am Reply

  • Safran: How beautiful! I just received a mail from a friend in Sicily today, he said the weather is spring-like at the moment. We’ll be there again next June and I will definetely visit Boudoir 36, thank you for bringing it to our attention!
    Cheers
    Safran October 24, 2013 at 4:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure! I admire people who are so passionate about their work, and the place is definitely worth visiting. Just when you visit, check the opening hours, since the owner runs the boutique after he finished with his day job. It was open 6-10pm, as far as I remember. October 25, 2013 at 7:49am Reply

  • LP: Victoria,
    I’m really looking forward to your article, but since I can’t wait does the owner make his own “Boudoir 36” Scent? It’s a great name. October 24, 2013 at 6:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: Not yet, as far as I know. The name is great and fits the boutique well. October 25, 2013 at 7:50am Reply

  • Alex: Catania is wonderful. I used to live in Italy and now i miss every bit of it. October 24, 2013 at 11:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: It was my first visit to Catania, and I immediately was put under its spell. October 25, 2013 at 7:50am Reply

  • Aisha: I love that display you photographed! It looks like the kind of shop in which I could easily spend hours. And the owner’s “day job” is working as an engineer? That’s so fascinating. I’m looking forward to reading your story. October 25, 2013 at 7:37am Reply

    • Victoria: It would be possible there, since the place is small, but every nook is filled with perfume bottles, soaps, candles and other scented delights. Makes it very easy to browse. October 25, 2013 at 7:53am Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Swoon. October 25, 2013 at 6:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: It fit Catania and its baroque style perfectly, but the place is also such an oasis of calm and serenity. October 26, 2013 at 12:10pm Reply

  • Tijana: Oooh, I want a little perfume shop as my night-time career! What a lovely article and beautiful photos! So inspiring! 🙂

    Thank you! October 28, 2013 at 8:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your nice words! The shop is fantastic, and I was very glad to highlight it. I wish I had this kind of place in my neighborhood, where I could just stop by whenever I wanted for a chat and something pleasant smelling. October 29, 2013 at 9:58am Reply

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