Wandering along the old walls of Lucca this morning I kept passing through thin, vertical bands like curtains of a fresh, sweet scent. Without conscious effort, my brain was madly googling through old files, knowing that there were past references to be found there. I detected hints of citrus and traces of sweet, ripe, stone fruit but I couldn’t dredge up any other information or recognition from my memory files. My fear was that it was just the perfume of one of the locals, strolling the paths along these old fortifications, as they do on a Sunday morning.
But then we entered the garden of Villa Pfanner, and the volume on this delicious scent was suddenly turned right up. I was dashing around sniffing everything in sight, but being familiar with everything I tried, knew before each sniff that I hadn’t yet found the source. Then, from an unexpected direction came the question that solved the mystery. ‘What’s that orange thing over there with the fabulous scent?’.
There it was, in full view the whole time – Osmanthus fragrans aurantiacus. Carlos, our local guide, said he knew it as Olea fragrans – which is a near perfect translation of the ‘common name’ by which it’s only uncommonly known – sweet olive. He said that it is, for him, the very smell of September in Lucca.