Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Acqua Viva by Profumum Roma: The Scent of Lemons and Sunlight

Acqua Viva eau de parfum by Profumum Roma is available from, $250 for 100 ml.  I got my bottle from Cow Parfymeri in Stockholm, Sweden. 

Image, top of page, is from the 1992, Mike Newell-directed film,  Enchanted April, based on the novel of the same name.

Bottle image is from

July 2, 2010:

Since I came home from Sweden, I’ve been mostly wearing Profumum Roma’s solar and lemony Acqua Viva. Its joyful properties make me feel like I’m still on vacation, and because Sweden is where I purchased it, I think I will always associate Acqua Viva with the idea of a European holiday. The association is so strong that every time I mist myself (and this fragrance begs you to refresh it throughout the day, if only to re-experience its glorious top note of Amalfi lemon again and again), I feel like I have stepped into one of those art-house, period films in which a group of polite English ladies decides to go on holiday to Italy, where the high-sailing sun and the warm Mediterranean breezes make them step outside of themselves a bit.  I’m a sucker for those kinds of films, even though nothing much happens in them; it’s not like the ladies become impressively brazen when their pasty faces are suddenly exposed to the warm strokings of the Italian climate.  What does ensue is an atmospheric shift, a captivating air of gentle hijinks and merriment that reminds me of real-life getaways.  There is a sense of lushness unfolding—and of course the key is always the landscape, so central to these types of films that it almost becomes a character in itself, altering the inner landscapes of the human characters.

Acqua Viva is very much like the coastal Italian landscape: bright and sunny as all get-out, in the most natural way possible.  Often compared to the Annick Goutal fragrance Eau d’Hadrien, it’s an uncomplicated scent that has the purest, most uplifting lemon note I’ve ever encountered in a perfume. In addition to Amalfi lemon, Acqua Viva’s other notes include Sicilian broom flower (which I’ve never smelled and can find little information on in terms of its scent), cypress and cedar, all of which lend an outdoors feeling to the fragrance.  Except that this olfactory landscape focuses more on a certain slant of light—on the clear-streaming atmosphere—than it does on actual land or trees.  In other words, the woody notes in Acqua Viva are soft and subtle; they support the lemon by lending warmth, thus ensuring that the citrus scent stays cheerful and never strays into astringent territory.

If you’re wondering about the staying power of this fragrance—since citrus notes are highly volatile and burn off quickly—I would have to say that the lemon note here is quite concentrated for such a natural-smelling citrus.  On initial application, the lemon smells very juicy—fabulously so—and while that kind of beauty does soon give way, in Acqua Viva it gives way to the smell of lemon zest: something a little drier and a tad more bitter (not that this is a bitter fragrance at all, I’m just speaking in terms of comparison here) and which lasts on my skin for a good four hours.  In terms of sillage, it’s quite ebullient for the first twenty minutes, but then quiets down into a soft skin-hugging scent.  When I want to wear Acqua Viva from morning into evening, I definitely have to reapply it a couple of times in between—and while I’m the type who grumbles about having to reapply fragrance, in the case of Acqua Viva, I don’t mind: it’s the most refreshing of afternoon pick-me-ups!

I once wrote a post that said, in so many words, that I didn’t really desire perfumes that beautifully mimicked nature, explaining that I preferred those that had a more complex and imaginative composition.  Well, Acqua Viva proves to be an exception to my rule (much in the way Serge Lutens Un Lys is): it is simple, yes, but simple in the extraordinarily direct way that most of the things we label as ‘true joys’ often are.  It’s a change of scenery, in terms of my usual perfume tastes, as well as a souvenir-reminder to me that a change of scenery can do a body a profound bit of good.

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