Orto Parisi: Stercus

“I’d rather smell of nothing than sweet.” Marcus Valerius Martial –

As a child I went to Rome with my parents every summer. Apart from the heat and the buildings, I didn’t really remember much, except for one thing that had a lasting influence on me and created a deep feeling of joy. Because after every walk through the city we stop at our favourite restaurant La Campana, it is only a stone’s throw away from the Piazza Tribunal and was always the highlight for me, on the one hand because the Spaghetti Bolognese were incredibly tasty, on the other hand because the restaurant was gladly visited by priests of the nearby Vatican.

The church servants have always exerted a morbid attraction on me. The way they spoke, moved and dressed fascinated me immensely as a child. I remember one of the priests in particular. He must have been around 60, had a long white beard, kind eyes and laughed a lot. He also took great pleasure in smoking a pipe. I watched him often, and from time to time he joked with me. He grimaced or gave me an ice cream.

What I actually remembered for a long time was less his nature than his smell. This perfectly matched his appearance. His skin was slightly tanned from the sun, he was masculin, yet he seemed soft and warm.Kind and at the same time dominant.

The smell of the tobacco of his pipe mixed with that of the leather of his shoulder bag. Also the smell of the wood of the walking stick could be taken clearly. He had a small espresso in front of him that smelled of caramel and coffee. None of the scents was stronger than the other, they were all present. A real firework of scents!

30 years later I passed a gentleman in a shopping street. There it was again, this smell that suddenly catapulted me to Rome. Warm, soft, masculine, full of wood, leather and tobacco. When asked what kind of scent it was, the gentleman replied. Stercus by Orto Parisi.

I suddenly laughed out loud, because Stercus was the nickname the priest from the restaurant had given me at that time. It means dirty sparrow.

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