Florence, Perfume Capital Between Charm and Business

Long before the #perfumetok trends, there was Officina Profumo Santa Maria Novella, that has much to tell us about future fragrance managers


By Anabella Pacheco and Giulia Piceni. Cover image: Gian Luca Perris.

Perhaps few people know this, but the magical Florence was also known as the “perfume capital” in the past. The art of Florentine perfumery has roots in the customs of the Renaissance court and nobility. Since then, the city has always been a trendsetter in the olfactory niche, with an increasing focus on research and experimentation. 
Today, thanks to this refined soul that leaves a symbolic trail of scent, the city looks to the future of the fragrance world from a new perspective. It is not just about the ability to create delightful fragrances but also the art of making fragrances a business. Though the market is in high demand, only a few specialised professionals are trained for it. 
Istituto Marangoni Florence has entered a partnership with Officina Profumo Santa Maria Novella, one of the oldest perfumeries in the world, to develop new academic paths in the fragrance business. During a recent talk, students had the opportunity to learn a lot from the fragrance institution’s CEO, Gian Luca Perris. It was an occasion to encourage Gen Z to get passionate about this niche while making them fall in love with Florence’s perfume history.
The school students and staff joined a fascinating conversation with this personality from the artistic fragrance industry. Coming from a family of perfumers, Perris has become a leader in his own right and has great charisma.
After some insights into his experience in the cosmetic and perfume industry, the talk focused on the freshly signed partnership with Istituto Marangoni Firenze: two new exciting programmes await perfume lovers!


History combines with the seductive allure of fragrances for a unique and intriguing experience.
Based in Florence, the capital of the European Renaissance and a destination for tourists and perfume enthusiasts alike, Officina Profumeria Santa Maria Novella is a historical perfumery with over 800 years of history. It is a truly fascinating place on 16 Via della Scala and a must-see for those who happen to be in town. 
Its origins can be traced back to 1221 when the Dominican friars established the Santa Maria Novella convent in Florence and began cultivating a magnificent garden that still exists today. By growing plants in the garden, they acquired the necessary knowledge in pharmacopoeia and natural preparations that would have eventually expanded into the world of cosmetics.

The perfumery’s history is so rich and entwined with Florentine history that one of their most iconic fragrances, Acqua della Regina, was originally created as a tribute to Caterina de’ Medici for her wedding to Henry II of Valois, the future King of France. The perfume, with a legendary Italian citrus bouquet, was created in 1533, making it its oldest fragrance.

According to the popular tale, when Caterina de Medici had to travel to France for her wedding, she commissioned a Dominican monk to create a memorable scent that she would take as a special gift to her soon-to-be husband. A veritable trendsetter with an attitude ahead of her time, Caterina de’ Medici acted as a sort of Renaissance influencer, making France notably fall in love with the art of perfumery. 


After sharing some insights about the history of perfumery, the experienced Perris talked about the current needs of this niche, which is becoming increasingly attractive for the creative industry.
The focus was on the importance of involving creatives in making olfactory products to enhance customers’ experience of the product they sell. For example, a hotel could create a signature fragrance to make guests’ stay unforgettable, combining essences that truly represent its ethos. 

Perris has observed that perfumery has failed to include the view of creatives in its processes over time, thus failing to consider a critical perspective. During the talk, the head of Officina Profumeria Santa Maria Novella expressed that the new partnership with Istituto Marangoni Firenze will hopefully train more professionals to bring their creative talent to the industry.

Istituto Marangoni Firenze recently launched an Intensive Undergraduate programme, Product Management for Fragrances and Cosmetics, to support this goal. During this unique course, learners will discover the best strategies for producing, marketing and distributing luxury perfumes and beauty brands, studying critical financial performance indicators.
The lessons will allow students to learn about the history of perfume and cosmetics as well as everything a future product manager or brand manager needs to know about fragrance and cosmetic business and the critical aspects of launching new products.

The school is also introducing a postgraduate Master’s Programme – Olfactory Experience Management for the Luxury Industry – where participants can learn about the most innovative fragrance marketing techniques. They will learn about niche perfumery, planning and developing olfactory and sensory experiences, amenities management, economics and business for hotels and spas and much more. If we consider Perris’ words, this partnership and educational programmes represent a significant step forward in the perfume industry. 


The talk left a deep impression on the students, motivating and inspiring their creative minds to cultivate a new interest. Professions like Olfactory/Experience manager, Niche Fragrance entrepreneur, and Niche and Artistic perfume brand manager sound like a dream come true for young generations and the beauty market.
Florence appears to be the perfect place to study for learners seeking a career in the fragrance and cosmetic industry, as it provides a stimulating environment for creativity and inspiration with its beautiful art-filled surroundings.

Anabella C. Pacheco is an undergraduate student in Fashion Business and Digital Marketing at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.
Giulia Piceni is an Undergraduate Arts Curating Student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze. 

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