A trip to the Valdichiana Senese to learn about local craftsmanship and the golden hands of local artisans
From the love for nature, the artisanal creation of perfumes
“A perfume has a powerful olfactory memory, it remains imprinted in the mind. It happens to all of us to smell a perfume again after years and every time it happens to us it is like being catapulted back in time, to a precise moment, to an exact situation, joyful or painful. This is why I like creating perfumes, mixing the components and giving life to something unique by putting my heart, passion, creativity into it… and obviously, my nose.”
People who deeply love their work can be recognized from afar and when you have the opportunity to talk to them, they are able to convey a very particular energy. Here, Stefano Franceschini transmits all this energy. Together with his wife Tiziana Pantini he has been running the Ape Contadina herbalist shop in Chiusi for forty-three years. Both herbalists always looking for innovations and discoveries, Stefano and Tiziana take care of two distinct parts of the business: she specialized in applied herbalism, he took the path of cosmetics and perfumery, manually making emulsions and distillations, obtaining in his laboratory oily extracts and essences.
“My grandmother had a strong passion that she passed down to me, that of collecting herbs. Tiziana also had a grandfather who dealt with herbs and our life paths inevitably crossed. For me, herbalism was born from a secret dream, from childhood memories with my grandmother and from the desire to rediscover a world that was slowly lost, linked to nature, flowers, herbs and plants”.
Perfume is something magical because it has the power to make the mind, spirit and body travel: “I like to create a perfume from scratch, starting from water, because I like to manufacture sensations, to invent unique perfumes capable of transporting mind in another place. Today people are standardized and perfumes are marketing products without a soul.”
For the creation of artisanal botanical perfumes, Stefano sources his supplies from a unique and inimitable shop: nature, especially that in the surroundings of Mount Cetona, with which he has a strong bond. Here there is an exceptional microclimate that offers incredible products, a multitude of medicinal plants and essence plants that provide a pure and high quality raw material.
A process that Stefano therefore carries out completely manually, without the use of machinery: “The perfume I create is never weakened or worked mechanically, since it is artisanal, it therefore needs its time. When the product is ready, I insert it manually with the funnel into the bottle, because this is what I like to do, follow the creation of a perfume in all its phases, from start to finish.”
Top notes, heart notes and base notes, many different notes form a perfume that must be well balanced in every single aspect, because: “Perfume is like a garment – explains Stefano – It dresses a person and tells a lot about them. Above all, artisanal perfume, made specifically based on personality, activities and passions, is able to perfectly describe a person, something that a mass-produced perfume will never be able to do.”
The research and experimentation of essences to include in different perfumes is constant, a fascinating world that Stefano never stops investigating for the creation of new and original products.
Stefano is just one of the many craftsmen who create unique creations in the Valdichiana Senese. In the coming weeks we will tell the stories of the other expert masters of art and craftsmanship who open the doors of their shops every day to create ceramics, musical instruments, jewels and much more. Follow us to discover them all. And if you missed it, take a look at our video, where you can see the craftsmen at work.
If you are curious to get to know Stefano and the other artisans of the Valdichiana Senese live, book the Valdichiana Living Artisans Tour. For an all-round experience, we have also thought of a 3-day stay to get to know the Valdichiana Senese, explore the artisan shops and eat the typical products of the area. Check it out here.