Take Shalimar, with its bergamot, vanilla, and civet base; add a big dose of amber, a smidgen of black currant and the scent from DoubleMint gum's powdery foil — and you have the sparkling, warm, sweet-spicy Floriental perfume Roma by Italian fashion designer Laura Biagiotti.
Top notes: bergamot, pink grapefruit, black currant, mint
Heart notes: Jasmine, rose, lily of the valley
Base notes: Sandalwood, vanilla, amber, musk, patchouli, oakmoss, civet (from Haarman & Reimer. For slightly different notes, try Fragrantica.)
Like some perfumes in the oriental category, Roma gets a lift from hesperidic top notes. They seem to linger throughout Roma's development, lightening the perfume's mood so that we don't take it too seriously.
The uplift from bergamot and pink grapefruit plus that quirky touch of powdery mint keeps Roma's character from falling into the brooding or overly decadent. It seems fresh and carefree for a perfume in this category. (Notice that the frosted bottle is fluted to resemble a Roman column.)
Mint is said to be a difficult note to use in fragrance without evoking Scope mouthwash or toothpaste, so it's surprising it works so well in a Floriental with such prominent vanilla and amber. You'd think it would clash or seem unappetizing, like the galbanum in Must de Cartier that invoked Luca Turin's scorn. (Incidentally, I love the contrast. Somehow the clash works, for me, in both scents.)
With a fresh, sparkling opening with extra zip from mint; a floral heart that gives it a soft femininity; and a vanillic/ambery/civet base with creamy/spicy sandalwood for depth and warmth, Roma is an approachable beauty like its fellow Italian, the unpretentious beauty Isabella Rossellini. (OK, maybe this was just an excuse to post a picture of the person I think is the most beautiful woman in the world!)
Note: Roma still seems to be in production, but I can't speak to the current formulation. I have the vintage, and as you know, vintage almost always smells better!