Golden Groves Of Bergamot
DESTINATION: REGGIO DEI CALABRIA, ITALY
Capturing and creating scents has been a source of fascination for perfumers since early antiquity—from the first recorded perfume maker in Mesopotamia in the second millennium BCE to tenth-century Arabian chemists and on through Napoleon’s well-known obsession with extract of jasmine. One small area in the south of Italy has specialized in producing what has quickly become a key ingredient in many of the world’s most coveted scents: bergamot.
Reggio dei Calabria, known by ancient Greeks as the “City of Bergamot,” has become synonymous with the citrus bergamia fruit. Just outside of the city center’s bustling streets stretches picturesque acres of bergamot orchards that fill the air with their thick, intoxicating floral aroma when in full bloom during the month of April. About the size of an average orange, the bumpy golden citrus is grown on trees until ripe. Thereafter, cold-pressed essential oil is extracted from the peel—creating a fresh citrusy aroma with a subtle spicy undertone that is often used to tie together a number of seemingly dissonant scents and deliver a complex, yet harmonious fragrance. Cultivated in Italy as early as the 15th century, bergamot was first utilized as a perfume in 1714. Since that time, it has been used to great effect as a top note in some of the world’s most coveted designer fragrances.
Although its primary use is for perfume, bergamot also has a rich history of use in folk medicine. It’s been said that the citrus will decrease anxiety while also increasing mental alertness when used in aromatherapy. The scent is also believed by some to relieve tension, relax muscle spasms, and improve digestion. When traveling through the south of Italy, one can experience the full splendor of Calabria’s golden bergamot groves firsthand with a short stay at a local bed and breakfast in the area—one of many ways to enjoy the rustic scenery and abundant orchards dotting the landscape.