Coming Up Roses

Discover the intriguing story behind Rosa Moceniga, the intoxicating fragrance that greets your arrival at Belmond Hotel Cipriani.

IN THE MIDDLE AGES, Venice was the perfume capital of Europe. Merchants arrived at the port to trade, their ships laden with exotic ingredients from Africa and the East—nutmeg from India, amber and musk from the Black Sea, myrrh from Egypt, lavender from the Barbary Coast.

The story of how Venetian perfumers turned these into intoxicating scents is told at the Museum of Perfume, housed in a restored palazzo that transports you back to 18th-century Venice. Wander through a series of ornate rooms decorated with rich Rubelli wall fabrics, antique furniture, embroidery and lace, and precious artefacts including bottles that once held enticing elixirs. Then enter a laboratory where evocative new fragrances are blended for The Merchant of Venice line—most recently one with a particularly intriguing story.

The Mocenigo rose is a rare native Chinese bloom, which for over 200 years has thrived in a Venetian garden once owned by the Mocenigo dynasty. Some years ago, writer Andrea di Robilant, a descendant of the powerful Mocenigos, noticed the rose at his family’s former garden in Alvisopoli, outside Venice, and was enraptured.

“It was silvery pink, very light at the centre and darker on the outside,” he recorded. “The scent was strong and reminded me of peaches and raspberries.” Determined to delve into its history, he discovered that his great-great-great-great grandmother Lucia Mocenigo, with the help of her friend Josephine Bonaparte, had imported it into Venice, via Paris, in 1814.

His findings led to the publication of the 2014 book Chasing the Rose, and to the flower itself flourishing in his garden on Giudecca Island. But Andrea didn’t stop there. Keen to capture its fruity scent in wearable form, he went to the Museum of Perfume for help. They enlisted renowned nose Philippe Romano, who skillfully blended the rose with precious essences including blackcurrant, rose absolute, magnolia, musk and amber. A stunning Murano glass bottle was designed to contain the scent, which on its launch in 2017 became a coveted fragrance of discerning aficionados everywhere.

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