What smelled good in Italy and France

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From Venice to Florence to Grasse to Versailles, perfume has always been a tool to ensure one never has to bathe. By drenching their clothes in scent, the aristocracy of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries chose to smell of as many odors as possible, including their own. Perfume became an expensive commodity displaying wealth and status even for the upper middle classes.


With a seafaring power that spanned continents, Venice was the birthplace of commercial perfumery in the West, serving as the terminus of the Eastern trade routes for aromatic gums and flavorful woods. When perfumers first set up shop in this city on the Adriatic during the twelfth century, their initial stock-in-trade was sweet waters. But with time, remarks a historian of Venice:
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