Sunday, June 12, 2016

Our Fine Fragrant Friend

In the days before I left for Italy, I spent a decent amount of time in Bath & Body Works, stocking up on body spray with which to douse myself - and thank goodness, because there's no shortage of sweat on these long backpacking weekends. While browsing the B&B, I couldn't help but get excited when I saw that their line of summer candles included several Italy-themed scents. I immediately ripped the lid off of the candle with "Venice" emblazoned on the front and took in a lungful of very peach-scented air. I grew up with six peach trees in my yard and I'm telling y'all, this candle was even more potent than my front porch in springtime. Confused, I read the fancy marketing description on the label, where B&B defended that it was inspired by the "famous peach bellini of Venice". Interesting.

As someone who recently spent an entire weekend falling in love with Venice, I'm here to tell you that unless you plunge your nose directly into your bellini glass, the air is not perfumed with the sweet smell of peaches. Instead, the powerful potency of another flowering southern plant greets your nose at every corner. 

Trachelospermum jasminoides, or Confederate jasmine, is the star of the olfactory show in Italy - although pizza and coffee put up a good fight. As a traditionally southern plant, it is no surprise that the heat and drought tolerant vine can be found clinging to fences, flowing over arches, and generally dominating the garden landscape in Italy. It is not actually a true jasmine, but is in the Apocynaceae family, along with another famously fragrant flower: plumeria. In fact, the world is so fond of its smell that its extract is incorporated in many high-end perfumes and even incense in countries such as China, Vietnam, and Thailand. Confederate jasmine is native to eastern Asia but can be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10, which includes the southeastern United States - thus the common name Confederate jasmine. 

I have immensely enjoyed the sight and smell of this beautiful ornamental plant here in Italy. It has been a highlight of the experience so far and although not native to the country, fits in seamlessly with the Mediterranean landscape. Maybe I'll plant some of it in my backyard, so that on the days when I'm missing Italy I can close my eyes, take a whiff, and be instantly transported back. 


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