Fornasetti Otto


Villa Cipressi, Varenna.

Last time I blogged about the way houses and other spaces have their own scents – and thank you all for your comments! One of the comments pointed out that the Fornasetti Otto candle I was lusting over (and too cheap to buy) is available from Nordstrom as a room spray refill for only $75, which in perfume parlance is free, basically. So I skipped over to Nordstrom and placed my order. A few minutes later, Nordstrom was showing it as “unavailable” so I was having doubts whether the thing would actually show up, instead of the order being cancelled.

Anyhoo. The canister DID show up. Fornasetti’s design standard is pretty high; even their “crummy” refill canister is nice and comes in a fancy box, which I appreciate even if I didn’t (and still don’t) care what it looks like, because I’m only interested in the smell.

Notes for Otto: top: thyme, lavender; middle: orris, cedarwood; base: tolu balsam, incense, birch, labdanum. The scent was created by Olivier Polge; snippets of the blurb via LuckyScent: “Otto is a sophisticated and unique scent that transcends time, season, gender and borders. Olivier made use of ingredients that are of personal significance to Barnaba {Fornasetti’s director, and son of the founder} — Mediterranean herbs that were found in and around the family home, woods often utilised in interiors designs or pieces of furniture created by Fornasetti. Other more ethereal ingredients, such as incense– conjure a latent spirituality or sense of dreamscape that is often present in Fornasetti graphic poetry.”


Gardens, Villa Cipressi.

Having only smelled the scent in candle form, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the spray. It’s fantastic. It is powerfully strong. The first time I used it I sprayed three short bursts, which was two more than necessary unless your room’s a lot bigger than mine. Otto comes on as one wave and stays that way. I have no issue using ambient sprays on my person, but there’s nothing about this that I’d want to wear, it’s just too much. The scent takes you on a little journey, starting off in a sunswept room in an old Italian villa; you’re enjoying the smell of the sun hitting polished wood and leather, the dusty curtains, the cool, slightly musty air. You step to the doorway and breathe in the scents and heat wafting from the herb garden – lavender, rosemary, thyme – but you haven’t left the cloistered shade of the doorway. You’re outside and inside, all at once.

And then it hit me: this is the exact smell of my first day in Italy, years ago.


Villa Cipressi.

I’d booked a room at the Villa Cipressi in Varenna. The villa is hundreds of years old, piled up on steep cliffs above Lake Como, with spectacular gardens. I’d arrived on the sloooow train late in the afternoon, after my overnight flight from the states. I was traveling alone; I speak no Italian; the Milan train station’s a wonderfully confusing mess; I was exhausted and jittery. I dumped my bag (the room wasn’t ready) and wandered around the public areas, not yet grasping the fortune I’d stumbled into. I walked from room to room, indoors to outdoors, around corners, up and down stairs, through tucked-away ornamental gardens… that villa remains one of the most magical places I have ever been to. It was a glimpse of everything I would come to love about Italy. That evening there was a wedding on the terrace, and as I watched them from a bench tucked away in a dark corner of the garden, I thought, you may be celebrating, but there is no one here who is happier than me.

Fornasetti Otto is available in pricy candles and less-pricy room spray; the refills only seem to be sold out back-ordered at Nordstrom but are available in the US from ZGO in San Francisco ($78, free ship), and at Selfridges and – I assume – other places in the EU since it’s made in the UK.

  • Amateur Dilettante says:

    Thank you for sharing this. there’s something about looking at the photos while imagining the smell that makes me able to imagine being there, much more than photos alone.
    I just got a sample of L’air de Rien and it smells exactly like an apartment my brother had when he was in his early 20’s. it really took me back.

  • Tiffanie Dyer says:

    Your scent memory is fabulous and makes me want to visit the Villa Cipressi. I am fascinated by the connections we make between a smell and a place and a moment in time. Amazing. And I’m with Ann in hoping Nordstrom has a head-scratching moment when they notice a run on Fornasetti products. Too funny.

  • Nemo says:

    I’d say not only is the room spray “free,” but it more than pays for itself if it reminds you of such wonderful memories 🙂 I have never been to Italy, but $75 sounds mighty tempting AND way cheaper than most airplane tickets!

  • Ann says:

    Yes, yes, you guys above captured it perfectly! Great post, March, and so glad you got your refill from Nordstrom. I also saw that Nordstrom has it on back order now. Wonder how many of those they tend to stock? (They probably scratched their heads wondering why all of a sudden they got a bunch of orders for it at once, yes?) And love, love that villa. Think it’s been featured in a movie, but not sure. I’ve been to Milan once before, in the ’80s when I was a fashion-writing college student, but have always wanted to visit the Lake Como area. It’s on my bucket list, so thanks for the beautiful reminder. Hugs to you all …

  • Tiarali says:

    Totally agree with Mals!

  • Mals86 says:

    Thank you for the lovely travel diary, March. This kind of writing has always been the best of the Posse – the kind that takes the reader into another world. “Come see. Come smell; let’s do it together.”